With just two major movies under his belt2003's "House of the Dead
" and 2005's "Alone in the Dark
"Uwe Boll has shot to fame, and not the good kind. A director so incompetent that the very job title of director seems too praiseworthy for what he does with a script, his actors and the camera, Boll has made two giganticand gigantically funnydramatic stinkers. He can safely raise that number to three with "BloodRayne," like his other films an adaptation of an obscure video game no one's ever heard of, and like his other films dreadfully mounted but worth a good (unintentional) chuckle here and there. It's a notch above "Alone in the Dark
" in that it isn't cataclysmically awful in its every solitary moment, but that just means it's more forgettable in its plain old mediocrity.
It's eighteenth century Romania (thank goodness for press notes), a time in which the conflict between leader vampire Kagan (Ben Kingsley) and the vampire-hunting Brimstone Society is about to break out. Enter Rayne (Kristanna Loken), the half-human, half-vampiric daughter of Kagan who has been sold to a carnival freakshow (water burns her skin and she heals from wounds instantly). When she finally escapes and teams up with Brimstone warriors Vladimir (Michael Madsen), Katarin (Michelle Rodriguez) and Sebastian (Matt Davis), their journey closer to Kagan's lair brings back memories for Rayne of him raping and murdering her mom when she was a child. To make matters worse, all involved are in search of three ancient talismen with the ability to transform the holder into an unstoppable evil that could spell the end of the world.
Nonsensically written by Guinevere Turner (she of 1994's cult indie "Go Fish" and 2000's "American Psycho"), unlucky viewers of "BloodRayne" will spend half their time trying to piece together the whys and hows of its poorly-conceived plot, the other half trying to figure out why half the actors opted to wear fake rugs on their heads, and all 94 minutes wondering how Uwe Boll is still allowed to make films without being sent to prison on the basis of amateurishness. As unintelligible, and as disposably trashy, as "BloodRayne" is, the picture isn't the non-stop laugh riot that "Alone in the Dark
" was, which may signal an upward bump in Boll's filmmaking prowess, but could just as easily be dumb luck.
The story is still a mess, even without the three-minute opening text crawl from "Alone in the Dark
" that only served to complicate things further. The cinematography gives off the same impression as looking into a used public toilet, with yellow and brown being the overwhelming hues of note. Use of slow motion, blurs, and other stylistic choices are sparser than in Boll's previous embarrassments, but seemingly arrive at random and are no less asinine. The fight scenes are so artless and deficient of coverage that one can rarely tell what's going on. The romance between Rayne and Sebastian is laughably abrupt in its conception and pointless in its outcome, with last-minute attempts at emotional drama sincerely inappropriate. Speaking of inappropriate, that is a word best used to describe their smarmy, out-of-left-field sex scene. They elicit so few sparks that they might as well have just masturbated and called it a day.
The actors, some Oscar winners and nominees, play their scenes as if they are the only one on screen; there is no apparent connection between any of them, and everyone looks like they don't want to be in front of the camera. Oddly, the two best performances come from the least expected places. Kristanna Loken, whose biggest claim to fame was 2001's "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
," is physically plausible as Rayne, and shows more than one emotion on her face. As a piggish vampire with an insatiable sexual appetite, Meat Loaf Aday (1999's "Fight Club
") is entertainingly over-the-top for his cameo. The rest of the performances are disgraceful. Michael Madsen (2004's "Kill Bill: Vol. II
") looks like he's half asleep in all his scenes. Michelle Rodriguez (2003's "S.W.A.T.
") moves in and out of a forced European accent. And Oscar winner Ben Kingsley (2005's "A Sound of Thunder
") is fast becoming the actor in Hollywood most willing to appear in anything for a buck. As uber-villain Kagan, Kingsley spends most of his scenes motionlessly sitting on a throne, silently asking himself what happened to his career after 2003's "House of Sand and Fog
"BloodRayne" is bad any way you look at it, and is sure to leave audiences (if there is an audience for this inferior "Xena"/"Hercules" knockoff) scratching their heads long before the end. Was the movie supposed to be scary, or exciting, or touching? It's none of the three, and hardly tries to be, so what genre would it fall into? Moreover, what was the point of any of it? Only "Dr. Boll" seems to know. On second thought, based on the evidence in front of the camera, maybe he doesn't.