Aug 26, 1998 at 12:00 am

Wesley Snipes, have a talk with your agent, please. We know how much you love your action movies, but you deserve better.

To be fair, this flick isn't half bad, even though the premise involves vampires, an invitation to all sorts of dreadful romantic melodrama and gothic nonsense. Happily, The Crow and Anne Rice are nowhere to be found.

Having been born a half-man, half-vampire after his pregnant mother was attacked by a vampire, Blade (Snipes) undertakes a revenge quest to slay bloodsuckers. Because of his fateful origin, he must constantly suck back blood serum that keeps him just this side of human. But our man is on the job and his longtime mentor and fellow vampire eradicator, Abraham Whistler (Kris Kristofferson looking like an undead cross between Ben Franklin and a grunge rocker), provides him with all the tools he needs to lay waste to the hateful foe.

There are the "purebloods" of the House of Erebus (dignified "born vampires"), Masters of the Universe if you will. There are also the "turned vampires," ravers with a taste for blood and goth. Their honcho Deacon Frost (Stephen Dorff) is a nasty piece of business who plans to usurp the oldtimers by resurrecting a long-dead "blood god" called La Magra. This doesn't go down at all well with Dragonetti (Udo Keir), patriarch of Erebus, who thinks that Frost and his crew's excessively high profile is putting Blade on their trail.

So while Blade is trying to find his Mommy, Frost is trying to kill Daddy. Why is it that comic books are preoccupied with such matters? Could it be because they are for children worried about where they come from?

Director Stephen Norrington certainly tries to make the film more adult with a lot of fast cutting hocus-pocus and over-the-top carnage reminiscent of that stinker of stinkers, From Dusk to Dawn. The script, while mercifully short on clichés (such as "everlasting love"), doesn't exactly bristle with invention either. For his part, Snipes narrows his eyes and talks tough when he's not in action which, sad to say, is not too often.

The octane is all wrong; the film needs more Terminator and less Buffy, The Vampire Slayer. A middling affair, right down the bloodline.

Timothy Dugdale writes about books and visual culture for the Metro Times. E-mail him at [email protected].