From my journal the other day:-
No recent cinema visits and that's terrible. Though I do now possess a strong candidate for the Worst Film of All Time, since my trip to the US in September where I picked up one or two dvds. I hesitate to reveal this, er... okay, it's, um, Bloodrayne. You see I had a ghoulish fascination about it after reading some excoriating reviews. Could a film really be that bad?? Yes, it could. But - it's got Sir Ben Kingsley and Michael Madsen and that woman out of Terminator 3! ...quite. They put in efforts of varying sincerity and professionalism (curse you Michael Madsen, I used to think you were cool!). Most of the extras are Romanian. The sets and locations (yes, Romanian) are good-ish. The 'special effects' are bizarrely laughable. The much lampooned director, Uwe Boll, who apparently makes a speciality of video game adaptations, loves his gushing blood, and that's what we get, frequently. Never mind the real difficulties of cutting through muscle, sinew and bone, in the world of Bloodrayne it's extremely easy to lop off limbs, and then it's as if someone's turned on a garden hose. I thought this'd be a good film to watch on a Friday night with a pint or two, but frankly I don't drink enough to anaesthetise myself to this. I'd give it one concession, it's actually quite entertaining to watch with the director's commentary on, because I suspect they're under no real illusion about the film, and Mr Boll turns out to be surprisingly droll, and what's more Ms Loken (that Terminator woman) has an appealing seen-it-all persona and somewhat filthy smoke-addled tone of voice. Uh oh, I'm starting to sell the thing. No, I'd have to say, if anyone offers this to you and expects you to pay real money, stab them, slice off their arms and legs (in tribute to Mr Boll, you understand), and burn all the evidence. All of it.
And shall I go on? Lord help me, yes, I think I will make this more of a full review. In the face of all evidence that this is exactly the sort of film one shouldn't think about at all, that's what I've done.
Right:- Michael Madsen, actor.
Right. Since this isn't a well known film, I should try and explain the premise to some extent. Ah... Hmm. This presents a bit of a problem straight off, since it's going to sound stupid whatever I say. Possibly because it is stupid. Okay, here's another approach: the dvd comes packaged with a computer game, Bloodrayne 2. A note: some commentators have mentioned this as a great model for dvd packages of this sort - it seems so obvious, to package the game with the derived film. The snag is that by the time the film appears, the game will already be limited to machines of a certain generation. I have no interest in games of this sort, but even if I did, my machine couldn't run it. I'm told that the film is pretty faithful to the game's scenario. And when you watch the film, you do witness the heroine pursuing a series of tasks prior to the big climactic fight against the Big Boss. So, there's a sort of structure to it, but you'll appreciate that computer game story structures are very different from proper narrative structures, and the major difference is in character development. Computer games don't make a priority of this - well, they didn't use to - and neither do exploitation films.
Left:- Sir Ben Kingsley. He played Ghandi once.
Second attempt:- Rayne is half vampire, half human. She is a 'dhamphire'. I think. The world is a sort of medieval or 15th Century style Mittel European affair, familiar to anybody who's seen classic Hammer Horrors. However, to its credit, the producers' desire to save money in the location shooting area has led them to film in the perfect place, Romania, and to employ loads of underpaid locals as extras with exactly the right look. The castle is real and looks fabulous. As for mythology, I think I grasped the idea that as ever the world is on the verge of subordination to Sir Ben Kingsley (left, in a flashback scene) who is the top vampire, provided he can get hold of some handy magical things. Which Rayne sets about getting herself. Frankly, Sir Ben doesn't deserve any triumph, because the magic things were there all along, and he could have got them long ago himself if he'd had any wit about him.
Right:- Rayne doesn't feel the cold. Evidently.
It's true that the vampires aren't up against Rayne by herself. There's a bunch called the Brimstone Society, 'led' by Michael Madsen, dedicated to destroying vampires, and they're portrayed as a desperate heroic bunch, except that whenever we see them actually encounter vampires, it seems to be no contest. The vampires are completely useless and seem to offer no threat. In fact, more of a threat comes from the vampires' human followers, who of course can go out in daylight. It's hard to talk about 'the rules' since they're pretty vague. And it's not only this film, but I would say most vampire films, which are flawed by the dichotomy between their stated threat, and the myriad easy ways of destroying them.
Therefore the story is ridiculous. But that isn't a reason to condemn the film. Look at the cover; read the title; a purchaser can hardly plead any ignorance of the likely contents. On the other hand, said purchaser is entitled, distasteful though this will be for some people who aren't the intended market, to expect some of that exploitation. Vampire transformations? Yes, and reasonably well done, though unoriginal. Neck biting? Oh yes. Naked vampire women? Yes, some of those too. Charging around on horses? Yes, apparently the Romanian Army still has skills in this area. Extravagant and unnecessary swordplay? Lots, including the use of some highly impractical blades belonging to Rayne. She'd have been mincemeat if she'd tried to use them in reality. Blood and gore? Ah... Now here we get to an issue which will divide the 'fans'. Do you want extraordinary scything and amputation, accompanied by drenching arterial spray? You do? Then you'll be very happy with Bloodrayne. If however you want some believable butchery, sharp blades cutting into flesh in a realistic manner, and no suspicion of real limbs being strapped against the body, well you'll be looking in vain.
Left:- Just one of many examples of all this comedy horror swordplay. "No, my real right arm isn't really under my cloak, honest").
I don't have a problem with any of that. I'm not exactly impressed, but it can be sort of entertaining. It's genre, this is what it is. The massive big problem with the film is to do with an entirely different sort of making sense, and that is the rendering of the story with dialogue, plotting and editing. The dialogue is bad enough. You'll say, of course it is, but it's written with lack of care for the English tongue, and some contempt for the ears of the audience - and indeed delivered with some contempt by a few of the actors who as I suggested above, could have been a bit more professional. They might have remembered they were being paid well for doing this. All I can say to a certain ennobled thespian is, I don't want to see you ever attempting pantomime, you just won't get it.
Right:- Actors. Acting.
But as for the rest... I'm speechless. I wrote all this hoping I would find some way to explain what is so utterly wrong about the way this film has been put together, and it's still beyond me. Just thinking about this film fills my head with a miasma... characters dislocated from each other, and from the plot, and from any sense of purpose; scenes that lurch into each other with a weird sense of randomness - no, I know what it is - it's exactly like a video game, in which it hardly matters what you do in a scene, or what you say, you'll find yourself in the next scene anyway. The dialogue, anaemic as it is, is perfunctory and has little to do with motivation, nothing to do with plot progression. However, and I know I'm going to sound a hypocrite here, there are some phrases which linger in my head beyond any justification of artistic merit. The outstanding example being Meatloaf's (Yes! That Meatloaf!!) bizarrely baroque remark to the head thrall (who's just come by with an imprisoned Rayne):- What a dedicated peon!
And yet... This is all about the dvd, isn't it. And I've watched the 'Dinner With Uwe Boll' feature, and watched the film with the director's commentary, undertaken with Ms Loken and one or two other assistants and actors. And I have to say the guy is likeable and funny; quite self deprecating at times, and with plenty of ironic things to say about what he does. You know, if he said to me, let's go for a pint, I'd get my coat and join him. He'd be good company. Do the same and listen to the commentary yourself, before you throw the disk in the bin, and make sure you follow it right the way through to the end of the credits - cynicism or what?!? :) The thing is, Mr. Boll is a jobbing director; it's perfectly clear why he gets hired: he likes making films, sure, but he treats it as a business, and his first objective is to work the numbers. You may be appalled at his brand of cinema, but brace yourself, because the well sure ain't run dry yet. And who's to say I won't be drawn back into his universe, sickened at myself, but unable to resist the entertainment?
Left:- Bloodrayne... now this is a classy poster, don't you think?
Can I apologise? I mean, you've read all the way down here, when I'm sure you could have found more interesting things to do, like read some junk mail. I've used up some minutes of your life you'll never get back again. Which in an eerie fashion is the best way I can introduce you to the films of Uwe Boll. It's too late for me. What's the next one, Dungeon Siege or something like that? Can't wait! Is Meatloaf involved? Any theatrical knights?
30 November 2006
No! Nooo!! This ends here.