Never underestimate the allure of vampire fetishism. Ever since British hottie Kate Beckinsale first slipped into her tight black leather form-fitting bodyglove and assumed the role of sexy ninja-assassin, I mean, the badass vampire “Death Dealer” Selene back in 2003, the ‘Underworld’ franchise has survived many a stake through the heart by the many critics who mercilessly panned it and went on to earn a cult following that’s hard to fathom. I should know, since I’m one of those diehards who, despite telling myself that I won’t be seeing another ‘Underworld’ sequel, keep going back when a new installment comes out. I have the same weakness for ‘Resident Evil.’ Hopeless.
‘Underworld: Blood Wars’ is the fifth film in the long-in-the-tooth Vampire-versus-Werewolf series started by director Len Wiseman seemingly so long ago. Picking up where 2012's ‘Underworld: Awakening’ left off, the outcast Selene is once again paired with the dreamy hunk of a vampire David (that's me! JK, it's Theo James from 'Divergent'), who find themselves caught in the middle of yet another conflict between the vampire and lycan (werewolf) clans. The vampires are headed this time by the ambitious and scheming Countess Semira of the Eastern Coven, who seeks to enlist Selene's help to train a new crop of young and inexperienced Death Dealers in preparation for an anticipated all-out assault on their fortress mansion by a strong horde of lycans led by the charismatic and powerful vampire-lycan hybrid Marius. 'Game of Thrones' style court intrigue, forbidden vampire-lycan romance and backstabbing betrayal are the order of the day leading up to the climactic battle royale with lots and lots of bullets flying. Hey, vampires and werewolves play with guns too.
While this latest chapter tried to give us something new, all these films have a sameness to them, be it the dark brooding atmosphere and cinematography drained of color or the pseudo-Gothic style of the characters and costumes. No matter, because ‘Blood Wars’ delivered what the fans wanted. There’s a built-in audience for über-violent and gory R-rated vampire/werewolf action-romances (I’m not speaking of ‘Twilight’) packed with beautiful people fit for a Calvin Klein commercial outfitted in outlandish 19th century costumes. 'Underworld' is a period piece, soap opera, "shoot 'em up" bullet ballet and Gothic horror all rolled into one. It's not particularly deep even if we consider its vampire-versus-werewolf theme as a metaphor for class struggle, with vampires representing snotty elitist high nobility and the lycans being the poor lowly masses. But I'm a sucker for gothic vampire B-movies and Beckinsale holds it all together, who at 43 still looks as good today as she did 14 years ago when she first squeezed into those sleek black vampire tights.