Let's talk about Uwe Boll.
Uwe Boll is a director who would be almost unheard-of outside of his native Germany were it not for the fact he's made so many films based on videogames. Five or six years ago, hack journalists couldn't stop talking about his shitty films and the way he kept attracting Hollywood B-listers to star in them. That, and the famous incident in which he challenged his critics to a boxing match and beat most of them bloody.
His films - his videogame adaptations at least; I haven't seen any of his other works - are absolute garbage. When people talk about terrible films based on games, Uwe Boll is responsible for the main body of evidence. The thing that separates his shitty films from the rest of those shitty films is that they really do have much higher production values, and it shows. The scripts are terrible, and some of the directing decisions are ridiculous (I am thinking of Alone in the Dark's action scenes, in which muscular men in tight t-shirts spunk machine gun fire at shadowy black aliens in a pitch black room, creating the effect of a strobe light in a military-themed gay nightclub), but the sets are lavish and the special effects convincing and some of the acting is first-rate... when the actors can be bothered to work.
BloodRayne is a great example of this phenomenon. Sir Ben Kingsley - yes, the man who once won an Oscar for his portrayal of Gandhi - phones in the most incredible non-performance ever caught on camera. His take on arch-vampire Kagan is to spend the whole film staring straight forward and reading his lines with the kind of flat drawl that kids use when reciting The Lord's Prayer in school. He delivers a masterclass in how to get paid a huge amount of money while doing the bare minimum amount of work to avoid getting sacked - an inspiration for dole-dodging graduates everywhere.
Other prominent stars who can be seen quietly paying for new cars in this film include Michael Madsen, Billy Zane, Meatloaf, that angry lady cop from Lost, and - my personal favourite - Udo Kier. Come to think of it, it seeems a little strange that Rayne herself would be played by someone with as few major credits as Kristanna Loken, best known for being the shit Terminator in that shit Terminator film. Are you getting the picture? In terms of production values, Uwe Boll's films are a cut above the usual dross we review here. The big question that confounds so many people is "How does he do it?"
The answer lies in Germany's tax laws. The films that established Boll's reputation were made at a time when investors in German film production were entitled to write it off as a massive tax deduction. It's a situation not unlike the plot of The Producers - people were prepared to throw money at Boll to do whatever the hell he wants because the government would cut a big chunk off their tax bill, and only start to put it back on if the film makes a profit, so he can afford to pay whatever these big stars demand. In a sense, it was quite a nice little system! When you watch a film like BloodRayne, you can really appreciate the fine artistry that goes into creating a realistic severed limb, or the way all those topless actresses would still be working as waitresses if Boll hadn't leered his way into their lives.
Lest we forget, it's still a terrible film. Roughly following the plot of the game (which I feel obliged to admit I have never played), Rayne is a half-vampire who runs around that weird American vision of Medieval Europe, killing vampires and hooking up with some weird cult of vampire hunters while hunting down her father, who happens to be an evil vampire lord with plans of world domination. Along the way she does some stuff, and in an unusually authentic translation of standard videogame design picks up some magic artefacts along the way that bestow her with resistances to the usual vampiric weaknesses - water, sunlight, crucifixes, etc. Eventually there's a big fight and she kills everyone and wins.
Forget all that, though. The key to understanding this film is that it is a Boll KG Production, so you can expect an fascinating study of one overpaid man-child's obsession with sex and gore and celebrities, preferably all three at once. Uwe Boll describes himself as a man who really loves the culture and history of film-making - a Teutonic Tarantino who wants to create works of art that pay back the medium for all it has given him over the years. Watching his films, he comes across more like the Augustus Gloop of cinema.
[Come back next week when we'll be enduring BloodRayne II: Deliverance]