Director: Uwe Boll
Films based on video games have a pre-established reputation as very rarely reaching above mediocrity, with the vast majority of them being uncompromisingly bad. Not helping the stereotype is German director Uwe Boll. A "filmmaker" in the loosest sense of the word, Boll has gained some form of infamy for his involvement with two of the most reviled films of the last decade, House of the Dead and Alone in the Dark. Both were adaptations of video games, both crashed and burned at the box office, both were atrociously bad. I mean, they were so bad that they make those crappy Sci-Fi Channel original movies look good by comparison. But I assume that poor box office income and horrendous critical reactions don't matter much to Boll, who ventured into the world of video games a third time with his acculturation of BloodRayne. Based on the horror game franchise developed by Terminal Reality and released by Majestic Games, the movie is nothing short of a great big suckburger with a side of suck fries.
The story opens in Romania sometime in the eighteenth century, where we are introduced to a trio of vampire hunters that are part of a secret society dubbed the Brimstone Society. The three Vladimir (Michael Madsen), Sebastian (Matt Davis), and Katarin (Michelle Rodriguez) stroll into a pub looking for information on a certain someone they believe to be in the area. And apparently, the killing of vampires is quite commonplace, as nobody bothers to even look up when Sebastian stakes a vampire at the bar. Perhaps this particular town is a medieval version of Sunnydale from the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series. So anyway, there's these three vampire hunters looking for somebody, and they find her location.
Their quarry is the main attraction of the local carnival's freak show, a grossly mistreated young woman named Rayne (Kristanna Loken). Dragged into the freak show by chains, her right arm is sliced up pretty bad, while her left arm is dunked in a barrel of water that badly burns her. One of the carnies kills a goat and pours its blood into a cup, and upon giving Rayne a sip of the red stuff, her injuries immediately heal. She's led back to her cage after the show and locked up tightly.
That evening, she's approached by a fellow carny named Amanda (Madalina Constantin), who tells Rayne that she's formulated a brilliant plan to get them away from their horrible lives with the carnival. And I mean, this plan is absolutely ingenious. It's the most brilliant plan ever concieved by anyone. Not even the A-Team could come up with a plan this amazing and with this much potential for success. Not even The Great Escape had an escape plan this impressive. And because not even a simple summary could do it justice, I must quote the dialogue verbatim:
"My uncle, he's a sailor. And he once told me of a place where people play all day, and the trees grow fruits in every color of the rainbow. And the sunsets set the whole sky on fire. Doesn't that sound wonderful, Rayne? He'll send for us soon, I know it."
Wasn't that the greatest plan you've ever heard? It wasn't? Yeah, okay, it does suck hard. Why don't we point out all the things that are wrong with that plan? What really gets me is that "play all day" thing. Why not just add that after they get done playing all day, they're going to ride unicorns over lollipop rainbows and sleep on bubblegum clouds? I'm going to assume that the character was written for either a six-year-old or someone who was mildly retarded, and Madalina Constantin, an adult of average intelligence, was all they could get. If they wanted to keep the line like that, couldn't they have just brought in Dakota Fanning or Cameron Bright for a couple of hours to shoot this one scene? Because it would have made more sense coming out of a child. And another thing: Is that even really a plan at all? It doesn't look like a plan. It looks more like some major wishful thinking. Because if that IS a plan, then it's pretty darn flimsy. So anyway, Amanda gets that out, then tosses Rayne a crucifix necklace for good luck before bidding her adieu for the evening.
Even later that night, the carnival's strongman (T.J. Storm) lets himself into her cage and tries to get himself a little lovin' by force. She's in no mood to be raped, so she shatters a bottle over his noggin and cuts him up good. Some of his blood drips onto her face, and as she tastes it, she goes absolutely insane. Rayne starts running around, biting the necks of anybody that gets in her way, and she even bites Amanda before she can realize who she is. And once she does notice who she just bit, what does Rayne do? She just takes the fancy swords Amanda was carrying and runs away. Some friend she is.
Vladimir, Sebastian, and Katarin stumble upon what's left of the carnival the following morning. Knowing what they have to do, they start decapitating and burning every lifeless body they come across, while Amanda manages to explain what happened before they're forced to put her down too. Night falls, and Rayne stops and kills two vampires she catches attacking a caravan, even going as far as to drink their blood. The caravan gives her a ride to the nearest city, which appears to have a rather sizeable vampire population. Rayne pulls a vampire hooker aside and sucks her blood for God and everybody to see, and the only people that care are these two thieves that pick the dead vampire's pockets, and a nearby fortune teller (Geraldine Chapman) that watches what happens intently.
The fortune teller captures Rayne's attention, telling Rayne her purpose and future through her deck of tarot cards. Y'see, Rayne is a dhampir, the result of her human mother (Daniela Nane) being raped and impregnated by Kagan (Ben Kingsley), the most powerful vampire on Earth. Due to her mixed heritage, she retains all of their strengths and their unfavorable reaction to water of any kind, while possessing none of their other weaknesses. So that explains why the crucifix around her neck doesn't bug her. The fortune teller knows of Rayne's quest to avenge her mother's murder at the hands of Kagan (which the five-year-old Rayne witnessed), and tells her of a magical eye that, if she can possess it, will gain her an audience with Kagan so she may fulfill her quest. The entire conversation is overheard by a vampire, who relays the message to Kagan. So what does Kagan do? He sends his chief lieutenant Domastir (Will Sanderson) to lead an army after the eye as well.
Rayne leaves, eventually arriving at a monastery seeking food and shelter. The monks gladly let her in, and not too long afterwards, she sneaks into the monastery's basement to retrieve the eye. How she knew where in the monastery it was, I have no idea. But regardless, getting the eye is not going to be a cakewalk for Rayne. Once she gets down into the basement, she discovers a sleeping ogre holding the key to the chamber the eye is in. She dispatches the ogre in a relatively easy fight, but there's one more step in her way: the large whirring blades that pop out of the chamber's floor on a regular interval. But it's not so bad; a simple cartwheel across the room gets Rayne past them. She goes for the box containing the eye, at which point a torrent of water starts flooding the room. And since Rayne would rather not be burned, she jumps and hangs from one of her swords that she had previously embedded in the ceiling. The box opens and the eye starts to fall out, but when Rayne catches it with a free hand, she gets a really good look at it and somehow absorbs it. She loses her grip on the sword and falls into the ankle-deep pool of water beneath her, and when a few drops of water splash onto her arm... nothing happens. I guess they really weren't kidding about it being a magical eye after all.
Just as she realizes that the water hasn't affected her, some priests bust in and start reading her the riot act. Okay, that's probably an exaggeration, since the main priest (Udo Kier) doesn't seem too angry or upset that Rayne just killed their ogre and stole the eye. I mean, good ogre guards and disembodied magical eyes are pretty hard to come by. Believe me, I've tried to track some down, and I haven't had any luck yet. The priest's main concern seems to be if Rayne is in the employment of Kagan. She assures him that she's not working for him, as the priest explains just why that eye is so special. Turns out there was this ancient vampire named Beliar that had figured out a way to overcome the three main vampire weaknesses. When he was finally defeated, three body parts one of his eyes, one of his ribs, and his heart were separated and divided among three remote locations to prevent other vampires from using them for their own gain. So the priest doesn't trust even a half-vampire with the eye, so he's kinda gonna need it back just to be on the safe side. But as always, things just aren't that easy.
Domastir and his crew arrive at the monastery, the Brimstone Society hot on their heels. A bloody battle ensues between Domastir's guys, the Society, and the monks, and in the chaos, Domastir knocks out Rayne and leaves with her. Vladimir and Sebastian trail him, catching up to him that morning at a castle called home by hedonistic vampire Leonid (Meat Loaf). Domastir is just looking for a place to crash for the afternoon, but his host is more interested in making Rayne part of his harem. Leonid is so into Rayne that he just has Domastir thrown out when he tries to warn him of Rayne's toughness. Before he can start putting the moves on the unconscious dhampir, Vladimir and Sebastian bust in and slay Leonid. They take Rayne back to their hidden lair, where they train her in proper vamp-killing methods before Domastir and a bunch more goons find them and start raising some hell. And I know I said it was a hidden lair, but it doesn't really stay hidden if a certain someone would have kept her mouth shut. Turns out the newly-vampired Katarin sold them out with the intention of giving the three vampire parts to her father (Billy Zane), who seeks to overthrow Kagan (who has already obtained the rib through unseen, untold means). Rayne takes out Katarin and obtains the heart, and with Vladimir and Sebastian in tow, she heads for Kagan's castle to obtain her revenge.
I'm not going to lie: I really don't want to write this review. The quicker I can wipe my hands of BloodRayne, the better. It's so awful, I think it gave me cancer. And as you can probably guess, the movie was a financial disaster. It played in only 985 American theaters, pulling in a paltry 2.4 million dollars during a remarkably short seventeen-day theatrical run. So if the movie was meant to be a flop, it certainly succeeded. But even if BloodRayne played in every single theater in the United States for six months, it still would have been a bomb. And why is that? Because everything about it is horrendously bad. The direction, the script, the acting, the music, the effects, the set design, the props, everything. And I'm going to come right out and say that everyone involved with this cinematic bowel movement should be ashamed of themselves for participating in this crime against humanity.
First up, the screenplay penned by Guinevere Turner. How she went from writing the brilliant movie adaptation of American Psycho to writing this, I have no idea. Turner's screenplay could not make less sense. It's so convoluted, so confusing, so absurd that it took me three days to figure out how to properly write that synopsis up there. It's like they stuck a bunch of chimpanzees in a room with a typewriter for six hours, then slapped Turner's name on what the monkeys churned out. But let's get to some specific complaints. There's that silly "play all day" bit, along with all the other hackneyed dialogue. There's also the out-of-place Billy Zane subplot that accomplishes nothing and ultimately goes nowhere. If it had been properly written and fleshed out, then it could have made for something interesting. But no, we can't let a Uwe Boll movie be any good, so this subplot only leads to a twist that offends the intelligence of everyone who sees it.
I also wonder about that whole pointless thing with the eye, rib, and heart. To my understanding, it was inspired by the first BloodRayne game, but it had a logical conclusion there. And as we all know, we can't have logic or even common sense in a Uwe Boll movie. Couldn't they have just made it a simple quest for revenge, as opposed to a quest for these silly little things that ends up weighing the whole movie down? And going back to the topic of insulting the intelligence of the viewers, why is just plain ol' everyday water such a big deal with vampires? Holy water, I would believe. But vampires not exactly enjoying regular water is absurd. The legion of the undead could be wiped out by a freak rainstorm or blizzard, or even a thick fog. And last I checked, blood is at least ninety percent water, so why isn't that a drawback? If this is another one of those things that are drawn from the games, then it just makes the games look stupid too.
And then there's the lame effects. Yes, I know that geysers of blood shoot out of every victim in the BloodRayne games, but it looks corny and derivative in the BloodRayne movie. Besides, the effects look awfully cheap too. Rayne's vampire teeth look like oversized plastic dentures at times, and you could probably see better blood and gore effects in a middle-school production of Sweeney Todd. The music composed by Henning Lohner is also disappointing, as I got the feeling that it was attempting to make up for the complete and total lack of emotion in the acting and the direction. Lohner's score wouldn't have been so bad had it not been trying so hard, but due to that, it suffers.
While we're at it, how about that cast? I pity every person forced to be in front of the camera, even the cheap Romanian prostitutes in Meat Loaf's scene. It appears that Michael Madsen, Ben Kingsley, Billy Zane, Udo Kier, and Meat Loaf all realized how awful the movie is. I say this because Madsen's performance alternates between exhibiting boredom and exhibiting total apathy toward the entire production, while the others completely ham it up and do what they can to make the horrible material look worthwhile. I've read that Madsen may or may not have been drunk during nearly all of his scenes, and I can't really say as I blame him. I don't drink, but I'd have to start hitting the bottle on a regular basis if I had the unfortunate luck of starring in a Uwe Boll movie. And if I were Madsen, I would have myself surgically attached to Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez, just so to avoid doing any more horrible movies like this one.
The rest of the cast, though, appear to be taking the whole thing seriously. And to that, I ask why. If the entire cast had treated the whole thing like it was an episode of the old Batman TV show from the '60s, then BloodRayne might have treaded into "so bad, it's good" territory. Matt Davis doesn't really do anything worthwhile in the movie, so I'm just going to forget about him. Meanwhile, the performances of Kristanna Loken and Michelle Rodriguez might not have been so bad had the material been better and if there had been a talented director to motivate them. But the fact that they treat this stuff like it were Shakespeare really makes them look bad. I should also note that I like Rodriguez, I really do, but she doesn't exactly strike me as being the right person for the role. Her character is supposed to be Zane's daughter, but it's odd when you consider that Zane's only twelve years older than her. Add to the fact that they look absolutely nothing alike, and having them play father and daughter doesn't make a whole lot of sense. But nothing about the plot makes any sense, so why should the casting make any sense either?
And last but most certainly least is the captain of this sinking ship, the one and only Uwe Boll. No matter how bad any director may be, he or she can at least take comfort in the knowledge that they're not Uwe Boll. He obviously cannot get decent performances out of his cast, no matter what kind of talent they may have, and anything decent about BloodRayne's look could only be attributed to decent camerawork from cinematographer Mathias Neumann. Boll's dramatic scenes are laughable, his humorous scenes are lame, his action scenes look really bad, and the sex scene is awkward and out of place. If Boll is anything, he's the king of the badly-done sex scene. Loken and Davis have no romantic chemistry whatsoever; they didn't even seem like there's any sort of feelings between them at all. But then, out of nowhere, she's got him pinned up against a jail cell door screwing his brains out. The scene lacks any kind of passion, and since we don't care about the characters, we don't care about the scene. I have two theories about this, actually. One is that all of the "budding romance" scenes were left on the cutting room floor. The other is that Boll simply wanted a reason to see Loken topless. As a red-blooded heterosexual male, I can't say I fault him for that one if that's true. Either way, Boll's managed to craft one of the least-sexy sex scenes ever, and how he did it is beyond me.
Boll's action scenes are also pretty bad. The swords look like cheap plastic at times, and like cardboard covered in tinfoil at other times. The scenes are poorly edited as well, and the choreography could have been a LOT better. The majority of the fights had the appearance of either being improvised on the spot, or that the participants had simply been told to just walk around and swing at one another. And in one of the most bizarre mistakes with the movie, there's this completely pointless montage at the end of the movie. It's just a bunch of random shots thrown together for no good reason, and it causes the credits to roll three minutes later than they should have. It's like Boll said, "Okay, guys, we're going to cobble together a bunch of stuff that the viewers have already seen and hated the first time, but I'm sure they'll love it when they see it a second time." Screw that. And screw this entire movie too.
In my review of House of the Dead, I compared Boll's movies to those of Ed Wood. But in retrospect, I probably shouldn't insult Wood like that. He might not have made the best movies ever, but at least he was passionate about filmmaking. Wood's films are far more entertaining than they have any right to be, and you can tell simply by watching them that he loved making movies no matter what. And for that, I have the utmost respect for Wood and his body of work. Boll's work has no passion, no self-enthusiasm, and they just make him look like he's out to make a few bucks by exploiting a German tax shelter that rewards those who invest in poorly-performing movies. And the thing that gets me is that instead of admitting that these horrible films are his own fault, he blames everything on reviewers and audiences that are supposedly too stupid to understand that his movies are awe-inspiring classics along the lines of Casablanca and Gone With The Wind. It's that kind of bloated egotism that makes me long for the day that Uwe Boll and his horrible, offensively bad movies fall off the face of the earth forever and make the cinematic world a far better place.
Final Rating: *