Directed by Guillermo del Toro starring Wesley Snipes, Kris Kristofferson, Luke Goss, and Ron Perlman.

Wesley Snipes helped breathe new life into comic book adaptations when he starred and produced the 1998 movie 'Blade'. Teaming up with former special effects man turned director Stephen Norrington, the duo took the fearless vampire killer from the Marvel comic, updated him for the big screen and created a high-kicking, stake-ramming treat of a movie.

'Blade' was fast, funny and, above all, had the utmost respect for the horror genre and its fans. The sequel's been a long time coming, but it's been worth the wait - and how. Re-uniting Snipes with co-star Kris Kristofferson and adding Mexican director Guillermo del Toro to the mix, 'Blade II' is the best white-knuckle movie in many a dark night.

Shifting the action from L.A. to Prague, Blade (Snipes) and his back from the dead mentor Whistler (Kristofferson) enter a pact with their bloodsucking prey to defeat a new mutant breed of vampires: The Reapers. Led by Nomak (Goss - yes, Luke 'Bros' Goss), The Reapers want to wipe out the entire vampire notion before turning their fangs on the human race. That's the plot, cue murder, mayhem and abattoir-tastic amounts of the red stuff.

Guillermo del Toro knows horror. Also a former special effects expert, he's handled vampires down Mexico way in 'Cronos', monsters under New York in 'Mimic' and ghosts in a Spanish orphanage in 'The Devil's Backbone'. Now he's proved that he can shoulder the weight of expectation, and deliver a big-budget sequel which trades blow for blow and bite for bite with its predecessor.

With Snipes looking once again like his entire career was leading to this role, del Toro piles on the swordfights, shootouts and cranks the claret factor up to jump-out-of-your-seat levels. Like Norrington before him, del Toro knows that the idea should drive the technology and not the other way around and there isn't one dud effect in 'Blade II''.

The make-up is genius and grisly all at once, the stunts look terrific and most importantly, the CGI is at peace with the action. Which bring us to The Reapers. Twisting the notion of vampires to where Nosferatu meets Alien and asks for second helpings, del Toro and his team have come up with some of the best bad guys in ages - scurrying up walls, roughing-up the competition and performing a party piece which is quite literally, jaw-dropping. If you're not imagining Snipes' martial arts moves in your head all the way to the bus-stop, then you'll probably be scurrying past every dark alley after two hours with these boys.

Those considering making a horror or action film in the next couple of years should go see this movie. With a confidence that would verge on the arrogant if they hadn't got the smarts to back it up, del Toro and Snipes have shamed the competition with their flair, set pieces and badass wit and set the standard for anyone that tries to follow them.

You'll have to be a fan to go see 'Blade II', but if you are you'll get more than your (blood) money's worth. Part III just can't come quick enough.

Harry Guerin