A Review by Noah Antwiler
Dr. Uwe Boll has been classified by most as the reincarnated soul of Ed Wood, master of shlock in days of movie yore. I think this is the closest description possible of how incompetent Boll is, and yet I find it inadequate and somewhat incorrect. First of all, I think you're supposed to be reincarnated into a higher being instead of a retarded German. And deep down, I have to think that Ed Wood knew that some the movies he was making weren't all that good, even as he threw Bela Lugosi and Tor Johnson into film after film. Not so with Uwe Boll. Look at every interview and DVD commentary he's ever made and he truly, firmly believes that every movie he's ever made is fantastic. You can't fake this level of insanity, folks. Uwe Boll is here to stay, every film carving out his own little corner of cinema immortality by continuing to prove that, no matter how crappy you think a movie can be, he can make a worse one. Many are the hours I long for the day I could hold his head under the water of a bus station toilet, relishing his feeble thrashing attempts to resist as the life oozes from his body and he falls finally, limp against the floor. And that's just what I'd do for House of the Dead.
Bloodrayne is Dr. Boll's third (but certainly not his last) video-game adaptation based on the popular(?) franchise of the same name. The named heroine is a leather-clad vampire skank with unlikely and gimmicky forearm swords. Hollywood's obsession with hot chicks kicking ass in tight black leather (Aeon Flux, Underworld, The Matrix, Elektra) is getting out of hand, moving ahead of "Putting Paul Walker in movies" on my List of Movie Trends that Must Stop. I don't know why Uwe seems obsessed with videogame franchises, and his fixation with bad game franchises is even more puzzling. Videogames rarely have compelling plots ("The president has been kidnapped by ninjas. Are you a bad enough dude to rescue him?"), but Bloodrayne? A game whose only real selling point is watching a hot vampire dry-hump other women and moan? Actually that sounds pretty good...You'd think a premise as simple as "Vampire chick kills Nazis and grinds against lesbians" would be hard to screw up. But you don't know Uwe.
Indeed, he makes a plot that should be insultingly easy to follow even for a videogame (level up, get magic items, kill head vampire) into a frustrating, incredibly hard to follow movie. It's as if Uwe arranged the scenes using those little magnetic poetry strips and threw them against his fridge. Boll immediately screws up by forsaking the storyline established in the games (which could have been entertaining) and making a prequel. It's set in Romania, but you'd never guess that from the hilarious butcherings of Olde Englishe accents exhibited by about half the characters. Some actors like Michael Madsen don't even bother trying, much like Kevin Costner and Christian Slater in their Robin Hood movie. But there's nothing, and I mean nothing more hilarious than watching Michelle Rodriguez scowl and attempt a British accent. It's like watching your mother try to open a can of pickles.
Rayne is a dhampir, a half-vampire born as the result of vampire rape. Her father is Kagan, played by the Oscar-winning Sexy Beast himself, Ben "What the Hell Have I Been Doing Since Thunderbirds" Kingsley, lord of all vampires. Kingsley spends most of his time sitting on a throne leering evilly and playing dress-up in cheap costumes. He's worth watching simply to witness some of the worst wig-blending in movie history, and at one point you can see that Kingsley forgot the wig altogether. Kagan returns to his baby-mama and demands to know where she's keeping Rayne. Defiant, she refuses, so Kagan kills her while Rayne watches from a hiding place. "I will find her one day," Kagan vows. Great idea, champ! Only he never even bothers searching the house!! Anyway, Rayne sorta vows revenge against Kagan and immediately gets imprisoned by carnies.
She spends years in a carnival as a sideshow freak (where Uwe Boll should be), sucking on goats and demonstrating her regenerative powers. I don't know why she's considered such a mystery, because the existence of vampires seems commonplace and well-known. One fateful night she frenzies and sucks the entire carnival dry, fleeing to a city where a horrendously badly-acted fortune teller explains the entirety of the movie to her. "You're the chosen one...blah blah blah...Kagan wants the magic widgets...blah blah...you're a dhampir with a killer rack, blah blah." All this exposition does is show how stupid Rayne is. If she's lived her entire childhood drinking nothing but blood and developing fourth-degree burns at the merest touch of water and not realized she's a dhampir, she's truly brain-damaged beyond aid.
Soon she's intercepted by the vampire-slaying Brimstone Society led by Vladimir, played by perhaps the most unlikely action hero possible, Michael Madsen. More than any other actor, Madsen seems like he needs a fifth of scotch just to get in front of the camera and drone out his lines like a fifth grader trying to read Shakespeare. Combined with cardboard weaponry and a wig that looks like someone dropped a roadkilled woodchuck on his head, he truly is a sad sight to behold. Rodriguez plays Katarin, an angry-faced tough-as-nails bitch who kills stuff. Wow. That's new. And there's also some other good-looking guy who follows them around and nails Rayne about halfway through the movie. I sort of blacked out when I realized that I could have been watching Cheaper by the Dozen 2 and felt like it would have been a better time.
The whole affair is organized more amateurishly than George Bush's political appointments. The script pathetically attempts to deliver authentic dialogue by eliminating contractions and regurgitating Sun Tzu with labored lines like "If it is a fight they want, then a fight they will get," or "Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer." Yawn. The sets are cheap polystyrene and would have been laughed off the grounds of a Renaissance Festival, and continuity between shots simply doesn't exist. Hawk the Slayer had better production values. By far. Elementary things like "Should a vampire really be riding around on a horse in broad daylight" or "could a dhampir be knocked out for eight hours from one punch delivered by a wispy white guy" aren't considered here, and at some point we finally realize that the script is just jerking us around when Vladimir and his companion assault the front gates of a castle like Monty Python's King Arthur (only with fewer people) and are quickly captured. Their escape plan involves the line "Thrall, come quickly. My companion seems to have disappeared. I do not know what could have happened to him." Yes, I'm serious. And the guard falls for it.
Speaking of the villains, Kagan's chief henchman is a cross-eyed weirdo named Domastir. Drawing perhaps the most unintended laughs from the audience than any other character, Domastir's wonky eyes alone set him alongside "Blue Lips" Damodar from Dungeons & Dragons as the most laugh-out-loud villains ever. Physically unimposing, completely without powers of any kind, and given a completely ridiculous V-shaped buzz-cut, he tries his best but hardly inspires menace as he stands on the prow of a chintzy rowboat like George Washington crossing the Delaware in RenFest drag. I like to imagine that he was trying his Captain Morgan "Leg-Up" impression during one particular scene. The final battle with Kagan is a particularly funny sword battle that seems like it was edited by a scissors-wielding monkey on crystal meth. Give up trying to make any sense of the fights, just watch random shots of Kirstanna Loken whirling about and Ben Kingsley adopting an odd one-handed fruity dueling posture. Vampire or not, he still fights like a girl. Unlike Loken, who fights like a spaz.
I think I have two favorite parts of this movie. The first is a confusing and ultimately discarded plot thread involving Billy Zane, acting happily in a Mobius strip of a narrative that comes from nowhere and leads nowhere. He's a better actor than this; why does he debase himself by appearing in drek like Vlad and Invincible? (Oh just give those a rental, I double-dog dare you.) The second and best scene involves a vampiric Meat Loaf surrounded by topless Hungarian prostitutes. I don't just mean actresses playing prostitutes, I mean actual Hungarian hookers that Boll drafted into the movie. He felt they added gravitas and verisimilitude to their characters. I wish I was kidding. To be fair, however, I bet they cost less to hire than paying scale to someone with a SAG card. Mr. Loaf and Mr. Zane seem to be the only people having a good time with their roles, and why not? When you're in a movie this bad, is there anything else you can do but grin and collect your paycheck?
Despite all of this, I think Bloodrayne is a leading contender for the funniest film of 2006. Sure, it's funny in the way that you'd laugh at your house burning down, but Bloodrayne is perhaps Uwe Boll's most watchable film precisely because it's a perfect turd. It's a perfect storm of bad ideas, British accents, vampires, Oscar winners exploiting themselves, and gratuitous nudity. Alone in the Dark remains the worst, crossing the event horizon of crap by moving beyond "so bad it's funny" to "so bad it hurts to live." But Bloodrayne? Mystery Science Theater gold. Of course, that would mean you'd be paying to see a Uwe Boll movie and by the time you read this, the movie probably didn't spend much longer than a week in theaters. Honestly though, I think you should see it. Then listen to the director's commentary. I promise you sincerely that you will have some of the greatest laughs you've ever had.
Here's what's really going to bother you. Uwe Boll will plague "gamer movies" for years to come. He's got his fingers in almost every game-oriented film for the next few years, and the franchises he's pillaging are only getting worse. He's making TWO-- count 'em, TWO-- Dungeon Siege movies because the epic story he wants to tell about a cheesy Diablo clone cannot be contained within one picture. Don't forget Far Cry and Hunter: The Reckoning, a movie based on a videogame based on an RPG almost universally despised even by stout World of Darkness fans. Then there's Postal, a game about nothing more than sodomizing kittens with a shotgun and hitting people with shovels, and Fear Effect, an ancient game memorable only because it had implied lesbian subtext. Pray, oh pray, gentle reader that someone puts an end to this insanity! It's already gone too far! Can't you see that he'll never stop? Come on!!
I'm sorry, I get upset when I think of him ruining my precious Solid Snake. Can you imagine? A movie full of naked Raiden running around while guards scream "I FEEL ASLEEP!" and Snake leaps into a truck, declaring "UH OH! THE TRUCK HAVE STARTED TO MOVE!" Imagine the poster: Matthew Lillard IS...Solid Snake! Now if you'll excuse me, I need to return to the safe place in my head: holding Uwe's head under the rancid toilet water until he swallows as much sewage as he's unleashed upon the world. But uh, if you're reading this and you need someone to play Tommy Vercetti in your Grand Theft Auto movie, call me! I'm all about the benjamins!
All images blatantly stolen from a terrific Rotten Tomatoes Photoshop contest. Unfortunately I don't have the creators' names, so if you'd like to take credit for your work, e-mail me and I'll make sure your work is recognized.