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‘Innocent Blood’

By Richard Harrington
Washington Post Staff Writer
September 28, 1992


Lohn Landis
Anne Parillaud;
Robert Loggia;
Anthony LaPaglia;
Don Rickles
explicit language, gore and nudity

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In "Innocent Blood," director John Landis aims for the jocular, trying to do for vampires what he did for their colleagues in "An American Werewolf in London." To the previous mix of gore and comedy, Landis adds sex, apparently to take advantage of French star Anne Parillaud's lack of embarrassment at having to play the film's opening scene totally nude, though there's absolutely no reason for it.

Parillaud, the steely assassin of "La Femme Nikita," plays Marie, a vampire stuck in Pittsburgh. When local newspapers report on a Mafia gang war, she sees a perfect cover for her dining habits, or, as she puts it, "What about Italian?" Marie, looking to personally take a bite out of crime, apparently favors tough meat because she passes over Joe Generro (Anthony LaPaglia), an undercover cop whose decent nature keeps him from being the first entree. "Never play with the food," Marie sighs before necking with mob boss Sal "The Shark" Macelli (Robert Loggia, here having the overacting time of his life). In their first encounter, Sal proves to be a Don with a lot of Juan about him, but he's no match for this vamp. Unfortunately, Marie doesn't quite finish her meal and Sal comes back, dead but hungry and mad. Gradually he envisions a new Addams-like Family consisting of bloodless brothers -- call them DeadFellas. Only Marie and Joe, an unlikely but likable alliance, can stop this from turning into a series.

That Landis seems to be descending steadily into hackdom is evident throughout "Innocent Blood." But there are occasional touches, including a running bit in which fleets of careening cars manage to stop just inches from impact, counter to every such car chase scene ever filmed.

Landis being Landis, there are lots of visual gross-outs -- no tidy puncture wounds here, folks. Early in the film, a medical examiner looking at a semi-drained victim says, "A decent amount of splatter, but not what you'd expect." He probably didn't realize Landis was directing.

In her first English-language film, Parillaud seems almost as dazed as she was in "Nikita." Her needs are described as blood and sex, but there's precious little context for how she pursues either, despite a slightly kinky mating scene with LaPaglia, who plays his role as straight as it can be. Loggia seems to be having the most fun with bloody rampages fueled by both his mob habits and his new evil nature. At one point, Sal even twists a cliche, squeezing the last drop of blood out of his lawyer (Don Rickles).

But too much of "Innocent Blood" is scattershot, both in its humor and in its frights. In what has become an almost de rigueur (mortis) staple, there are numerous classic genre clips showing on assorted TVs (apparently Pittsburgh got the Sci-Fi Channel a long time ago), but they only show up Landis's own limited imagination. There are also genre-director cameos (by Sam Raimi, Dario Argento and Tom Savini, among others), but you just end up wishing they were in the director's chair. Like one of the victims, "Innocent Blood" feels about five quarts low.

"Innocent Blood" is rated R for explicit language, gore and nudity.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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