MTV has invited various horror luminaries to wax poetic on their experiences with and love for the bloodiest of all genres. The following is the first in this ongoing series, written by David S. Goyer, the screenwriter of the "Blade" trilogy and "Batman Begins." His latest directorial effort, the thriller "The Invisible," opens April 27.
Most of the films I've been involved in have been R-rated. Because of this, the mayhem I'd injected into my scripts didn't necessarily present a ratings problem — we were shooting for an R. But my new film, "The Invisible," is rated PG-13. To make matters more delicate, the film involves teenagers, a fair amount of teen-on-teen violence and a variety of other touchy subjects. Ultimately, even the color of the fake blood we used was called into question. But I will return to that point at the end of this column.
Because of my involvement in the "Blade" films, I've had a fair amount of experience with fake blood. I'll relate three little stage-blood anecdotes.
When asked to cite their favorite scene in the first "Blade" film, most fans reference the "blood club" scene, in which an unknowing human boy-toy is brought into an underground club populated exclusively by vampires. At a pivotal moment in the scene, previously glimpsed fire sprinklers in the club's ceiling start showering human blood upon all the writhing vampires. The titular character is introduced, and high jinks ensue. That scene probably best exemplifies the way I tried to distance "Blade" from all the vampire films that had preceded it.
OK, so the scene was cool. But the filming of it was a nightmare. There was fake blood everywhere, and the crew had to wear protective clothing in order to shield themselves. Even the cameras had to be clad in "blood condoms." The floor of the set was so sticky after various takes that it became difficult to walk on.
For "Blade II," I decided it'd be cool to immerse Blade himself in a vat of swirling blood and have him emerge from it in glorious slow motion at the climax of the film. The only problem was that Wesley Snipes didn't like getting wet. Director Guillermo del Toro was convinced we'd never be able to talk Wesley into doing the scene. I thought we could do it if I modified the description in the script to include a direct reference to that famous scene in "Apocalypse Now" where Willard (played by Martin Sheen) surfaces from under water. I actually described Blade emerging from the blood as "looking like Martin Sheen surfacing from under water at the end of 'Apocalypse Now.' " (It never hurts to invoke cinematic greatness when trying to twist your star's arm.)
My stage-blood anecdote for "Blade: Trinity" involves Patton Oswalt, a genius comedian (and friend of mine) who I managed to rope into playing a bit part. In the film, Patton's character is killed by Drake, the proverbial king of the vampires. There's a scene where a blind girl stumbles around these two blood-soaked corpses, not realizing how much death and destruction is literally inches away from her. We filmed the scene on a bitterly cold night on an unheated barge, which floated on similarly arctic water. Poor Patton had to lie on the floor for hours, unmoving, awash in puddles of fake blood. He had to be dead, see? Oh yeah, and it was Thanksgiving too. That's how Patton and I were celebrating. By the time we'd finished filming, the fake blood had actually frozen and adhered Patton to the floor. He had to be chipped and thawed to freedom.
Cut to "The Invisible." Although the film deals with various dark themes, I tried my best to keep the intensity and violence at a distance. Whenever possible, I tried to have an act implied, rather than depicted overtly. Because "The Invisible" isn't nearly as cartoonish as something like "Blade," I felt that this approach would be more provocative. I also kept the use of fake blood to a minimum.
Despite my best efforts, it looked like the film was destined for an R-rating. When you're making a movie about teenagers for teenagers, this can be a pretty compelling worry. But at the end of the process, one of the things still keeping my film from getting a PG-13 was the color of the fake blood we'd used. It was red, see? Thanks to modern technology, we can fix something like that these days. During a process known as the digital intermediate (where color, contrast and various other parameters can be tweaked by computer), we isolated the particular red hue we'd used and replaced it with a dark brown color. The end result was that the blood sort of looked like motor oil. And even though the audience obviously perceived it as blood, the shots in question didn't seem quite so bloody.
Now I've got one last blood-related comment to share. A few years ago, I was driving home late one night and came upon a police car parked across the street from my house. There was a body on the sidewalk beside the police car. As it turned out, a man had just been murdered. Shot to death! If I had pulled up a few minutes earlier, I might have actually witnessed the event. The next morning, I was out walking my dogs. I couldn't help it. I crossed the street and inspected the crime scene. The body was gone, but the blood was still there. Dry. In patches and drips on the sidewalk. And it wasn't red. It was dark brown. Like motor-oil stains. Go figure.
Check out everything we've got on "The Invisible."
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