'Innocent Blood' is guilty of bad acting, bad taste

September 26, 1992|By Stephen Hunter | Stephen Hunter,Film Critic

I was out of the room when you people voted this Anthony LaPaglia in as a movie star, so it's not my fault. It's yours.

And I must not have been paying any attention at all when you made the same decision about Robert Loggia, because if I had been, I would have made a real stink. So again, it's your fault.

OK, I'll answer for Anne Parillaud. I decided, on the basis of "La Femme Nikita," that this slim, young French woman could be a movie star. I may still be right, too. I'm not backing down from that one.

But on the whole, "Innocent Blood," in which these three star, is a bad mistake disguised as a movie. It's one of those campy vampire things with a lot of neck biting, a lot of tinted Caro syrup standing in for blood, too much tired ethnic stereotyping and enough bad acting to give you a headache.

The auteur of this mess is John Landis, evidently attempting to locate the similar tonal discordances of mayhem, grossness and low-brow fraternity humor he brought off in "An American Werewolf in London."

Parillaud plays a French vampire hanging out in Pittsburgh, for God's sake, in the middle of a Mafia war. Since the streets are litered with corpses, she decides to help herself to what &L amounts to an all-you-can-eat Italian buffet. But, see, she's a good vampire, which means she can only eat bad people. Which is why she can't eat LaPaglia, who's really an undercover cop.

I should mention that I use the word "eat" rather than the word "bite" because that's the mechanism. We're not talking delicate, erotic punctures near the jugular, no, we're talking attacking the neck like a drumstick and leaving a wound cavity the size of a pie.

The plot, which is really just a platform to maneuver various human drumsticks into incisor range, follows from Parillaud's mistake in leaving gangster Sal Macelli (Loggia) with an intact brain stem; thus he recovers, now a vampire himself, and sets out to convert his legions to gangster vampires. Parillaud, with LaPaglia's feckless help, must track him down and destroy his brain.

Played as horror, this would be much funnier than it is here, where it's played as comedy. It's actually a much scarier movie than its crude makers may have intended, because Loggia, never the most restrained of performers, bays and trills and growls so enthusiastically that I was afraid he might eat the camera and the screen and break out into the audience.

As for LaPaglia, he's even more of a hangdog presence than he was in the equally ludicrous "Whispers in the Dark" a few months ago. Gravity seems to affect his flesh more conspicuously than the rest of us; every line in his face and physique seems to be drawn downward toward the center of the earth.

And finally, whose brilliant idea was it to have Parillaud, who barely speaks English, narrate the film? Her sing-songy voice is bad enough, but when the words are lost in a blur of French accents, the effect becomes extremely irritating.

'Innocent Blood'

L Starring Anne Parillaud, Anthony LaPaglia and Robert Loggia.

Directed by John Landis.

Released by Warner Bros.

Rated R.


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