Robbed at the Oscars, I tells ya!
This review is dedicated to all the regulars over on Jabootu’s “Reader’s Review” Board. Long may y’all run.
As some of you know, as a guest reviewer here at Jabootu, my goal is to eventually hit every genre. This is going to count as my horror movie review. I don’t really get into horror that much as a watcher of bad movies. Bad horror movies just aren’t that much fun to me and recently they’ve been pretty disgusting. The best horror movies are those that build up the scares and sense of dread.
The worst—particularly nowadays—are those that wallow in gore, torture and screaming. I don’t watch garbage movies like Hostel 4 and Saw XXVII. Even Stephen King is on record as saying that the easiest and most base horror stories are those that go for the “gross out”—meaning that it’s essentially a cop-out. In my opinion, if a gory scene happens in a movie, and it’s necessary for the plot in an otherwise good film, then that’s fine. I’ve sat through the spooky (The Ring), the ooky (Dagon), and the goopy (Evil Dead 2) without flinching.
But there are people go to movies like Funny Games or Chaos or The Strangers just to see young women get trussed up and scream and to see people get slaughtered in various sadistic ways. You can probably guess what I think about that. And don’t think that I’m some babe-in-the-woods about tales with entrails. I watched Wolf Creek on a dare and thought it was pretty good. I’ve performed C-sections on horses. I’ve been draped in blood and tissue from the neck down. I wonder if Ely Roth has ever shot a wild hog and gutted it in a ranch’s slaughterhouse with a Gerber knife.
Bloodrayne was suggested to me over on the Reader Review Board. Then, quite by chance, the movie fell into my hands from my step-bro Dalton who brought it back with him from an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico. Apparently, the consensus after the boys watched it out on the Bullwinkle Platform (their name, not mine) was that Dalton either took it away with him when he went back to Louisiana or it went over the rail.
Therefore, my bad horror film is another dopey videogame movie that was billed as a horror flick. I didn’t really know about the game aspect until later in the selection process over at the Reader Board. Just so we go into this without any expectations, let me say that this movie isn’t scary at all. In fact, the movie was hailed by the European press as “a grinding bore.”
Bloodrayne the game is a popular horror-themed “third-person” action video game. In it, Rayne, as the heroine, is a half-vampire looking for her father, and has to fight various vampires that cross her path. She is working for the “Brimstone Society,” another of those fabled Templar or Opus Dio-type organizations which stand against the darkness. The game takes place in southern Louisiana, Argentina and Germany. The movie, however, takes place in Eastern Europe in, I’m guessing, sometime after the Reformation.
Uwe, meet Jabootu. Jabootu, Uwe. Uwe Boll is a classic journeyman hack without any vision but instilled with drive and energy. That makes him sound like Ed Wood, but that’s about where the comparison ends. Ed Wood, on one hand, has been described as a weird but endearingly optimistic person whose movies started as bad ideas that then went cataclysmically off the rails. (He was quoted as saying to new writers, “Just keep on writing. Your story may get worse, but you’ll get better.”) He was a transvestite who later in life wrote screenplays for “softcore” pornographic movies, but my step-bros want me to point out that Mr. Wood also served in World War II as a U.S. Marine.
Uwe, on the other hand, seems to be a loudmouthed jerk who knows how to work the system. Until now, I had never heard of him. (“Where ignorance is bliss, ’tis folly to be wise.”) Boll is best known for adapting video games into movies, having directed and produced a number of such adaptations, including House of the Dead, Alone in the Dark, In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale, and Postal. In 2007, he promised to donate 2.5% of his net profits from his then-current movie Seed to PETA, thus publicly promising People for the Ethical Treatment of Audiences a bill for a couple hundred grand.
And while Ed Wood seems like he had a good heart, Boll’s was installed with a screwdriver: In the DVD commentary of Alone in the Dark, Boll explains how he funds his films: “Maybe you know it but it’s not so easy to finance movies in total. And the reason I am able to do these kind of movies is I have a tax shelter fund in Germany, and if you invest in a movie in Germany you get basically fifty percent back from the Government.” He’s just one of those unfair things in life, like how all the gas stations with the cheapest gas are just too sleazy to use.
But, my heavens, just look at the cast Boll has assembled for this one! On the poster, front and slightly off center is Ben Kingsley. His canon is well known. Opposite him is Michael Madsen, the most memorable Reservoir Dog of them all. Kristianna Loken is the focus here, the bad Terminator in T3: Judgment Day. And Meatloaf is here! Yes!
Also making appearances are Michele Rodriquez of Lost and The Fast and the Furious fame and Matthew Davis, his hotness of Legally Blonde, Tigerland and Pearl Harbor. I’m saddened to report that I am related to someone who seems to crush a bit on him. Speaking of which, this movie also marked another first, being the first time that all the girlies of the old “Cute Life” (don’t ask) quartet watched a bad movie together.
One look at the DVD case and it’s clear that the supposed strength of the cast is the one and only selling point. No pictures on the back. No explanation as to why this is a “Director’s Cut.” There’s not even a single quote from even the most shameless movie reviewing quote-monger. Just the cast is lauded. This is like those pathetic attempts by the makers of awful food to highlight the one thing that’s not among the ingredients: Hostess Deep Fried Creme-pickled Bacon Lardwich Loaves! Now with no potassium cyanide!
OK, let’s go! I realize that slagging a movie akin to Bloodrayne is like hunting sloths with nerve gas. This movie is carved so low on the totem pole of expectations that grass is growing in its face. And I know everybody’s really getting bored with trashing this guy, but in every movie Boll comes up with a novel and ingenious way to make an ignominious ass of himself. Anyways, by this time, I should not have to preface a Boll movie with much more. Just be ready to laugh loud, long, and hard.
And now…Our Feature Presentation
We begin the descent with the credits rolling over a jumbled series of paintings, some being close-ups of a few of the macabre masters such as a portion of The Triumph of Death by Bruegel, a smidgen of The Garden of Earthly Delights by Bosch, some Goya or Dore, with others being originals drawn up for this movie. Over this is poured the standard horror film musical score of heavy-handed funereal strings accompanied by a spooky chorus.
As the names continue to roll by, we switch from the paintings to a soaring vista of mountains similar to the opening sequence of The Two Towers, except in this case filmed through red lenses. As we finish this sequence, and the pugnacious name of Uwe Boll pops up as the director, the panning slows to a stop at the foot of a massive cross on a mountaintop. I don’t think this is one of the similar real crosses that are found on the peaks of the Alps, Carpathians or Rockies, but the overall opening sequence, while not pegging high on the originally scale, is reasonably well done.
Post-credits, the first scene we spy is that of a nighttime street of a late Middle Ages town, well-cobbled and brightly lit by a bonfire and torches in sconces and indirect lighting from the stage lights. There is a throng of people going about their business, peasants warming their hands over a fire, a butcher making short work of a chicken, traders hawking their goods along the broad promenade.
“[In medieval Europe], the twisting streets of a town were as narrow as the breadth of a man’s shoulders, and pedestrians bore bruises from collisions with one another. There was no paving; shops opened directly onto the streets, which were filthy; excrement, urine, and offal were simply flung out windows. At night the town was scary…the streets abandoned. Heavy chains were stretched across street entrances to foil the flight of thieves.”
A World Lit Only By Fire—William Manchester
Hmm. What I’m witnessing here looks more like the Rue de Bourbon after LSU gives it to some hapless Sun Belt team or maybe a Renaissance Faire where fat guys in faux medieval armor bash each other with “swords” like a scene from Jaskass than Nuremberg of 1300 A.D. But, hey, what do I know? After all, Boll is a sophisticated European and I’m just a rube from West Virginia who clings to her religion and guns.
Three travelers on horseback make their way through the crowded street and enter an enormous, brightly lit tavern. The walls are adorned and plumb, the furniture sound and plentiful. All the patrons look clean, well fed and groomed, well stocked with teeth, and sufficiently garbed. Food, cookery and cutlery are all in abundance. Contrast this town and its populace with the slovenly, unkempt yokels in the mucky village of Bree as seen in The Fellowship of the Ring or, for the bookish bent, Manchester once more:
“Nights en route had to be spent in Europe’s wretched inns. These were unsanitary places, the beds wedged against one another, blankets crawling with roaches, rats and fleas. The years of hunger were terrible. The peasants might be forced to sell all they owned, including their pitifully inadequate clothing, and to be reduced to nudity in all seasons. Cannibalism was not unknown. Strangers and travelers were waylaid and killed to be eaten.”
A World Lit Only By Fire—William Manchester
Oof. Not quite what I’m seeing here. Anyway, the trio of riders eventually gets close enough for us to see they are Michael Madsen, Michelle Rodriguez, and Matthew Davis. Here they are. Rodriguez poured into something probably turned down by Lucrezia Borgia for being too tacky. Davis is in a duster even, apparently de rigueur for vampire hunters in every age. Seeing these people walk into a period piece—even one shot in this ersatz Walt Disney World Ye Olde Medieval Pub and Gift Shoppe—is like seeing Diamond David Lee Roth offer the Eucharist at Easter Mass at St. Peter’s with the band Tool as his alter boys. I mean really, the jokes just write themselves. A sampler of our own mirth at this point, giggled out with “threatening” Reservoir Dogs Madsen accent:
“I just like torturing audiences.”
“Are you going to chew scenery all day, little doggy, or are you going to take some acting lessons?”
OK, we’ll work on it. Thankfully though, for us bad-movie aficionados, all this is played quite seriously. Bellying up to the bar, Mr. Blonde…er, Michael Madsen…laconically rasps to the bartender: “What have you found for us?”This line is delivered robotically. Bad acting right from the start. Check out his mullet with nary a grey hair!
“Pip, you can say anything you want ’cause I’ve heard it all before. All you can do is pray for a quick death, which you ain’t gonna get.”
“I think I may have found something of interest!” quips the bartender, pulling out and plunking down before our trio of slumming actors a poster purportedly from a traveling carnival advertising the “She-Demon” that apparently is a main attraction. “Look at this. Some say she is an abomination of nature!”
The woman played by Rodriguez simpers over her shot glass. Matthew Davis’ character Sebastian smirks and chastises, “Carnival freaks? Julius, don’t waste our time.”
While this is going, up comes another patron who asks for a drink. Sebastian looks into the mirror behind a candle sconce between the two of them and notices that the newcomer is not reflected in the looking glass. In a sudden move, he plunges his dirk into the chest of the man, who, in turn, collapses and, on the floor, does the quick-decay routine vampires do when staked. The bartender laughs and says nonchalantly, “I like you Brimstone people. You never leave a mess.” The other patrons look up momentarily before turning back to their business, like people sorting clothes in a Laundromat when someone sneezes.
Uh. So vampires are running around to the point that when one gets staked, people respond like someone got BINGO down at the Indian casino? Contrast this with the tens of thousands of people that were killed and imprisoned in real life for witchcraft and vampirism and other silly stuff when it didn’t even exist. If such hysteria was caused by nothing but fundamentalist lunacy and misogynistic baloney, can you imagine if witches and vampires actually existed? The Inquisition would have been everywhere with a mirror in one hand, a dog-eared copy of Malleus Maleficarum in the other and blood in their eye. You could have stacked the bodies like cordwood from Lisbon to Minsk, both real vampires and regular people.
Back to the poster from the “Sherban circus.” Madsen taps the poster and asks,
“This woman. What have you heard?”
“What might only be the tall tales of drunks. This person has tricks that go beyond the things that a normal person can do…”
CUT! “Tall tales”? Dude, this crowd just saw a vampire get destroyed and do the quick-melt routine afterward! They met this spectacle with the Jughead shrug. Tales must be pretty tall around here if that sort of action makes the performance of some circus geek seem like a “tall tale”. And can we please issue a moratorium on expository dialogue in horror or fantasy movies that begin with any variation on the theme of “what might only be the tall tales of” drunks or sailors or so forth? Or “tales that were told by mothers to scare their children” or “it is known that the prophecies say that” or other such throat-clearing phrases that always come before what turns at to be (in the realm of the movie) copper-bottomed truth? Also—note the use of “person” and “people” in the script. Was this dross written by the Women’s’ Studies Department at Harrad College?
Anyhow, this nattering bleeds into a cut to the aforementioned circus. A barker has us step right up into a tent wherein we spy what I guess is an opening act. It’s “the Amazing Amanda” with her special twin swords. These are the weapons with which Bloodrayne will rive her challengers later in the movie and with which she is armed on the cover of the movie case. They’re sort of these short sword blades with pointy opposite ends back by the elbow of the wielder instead of the usual pommel. The grip is replaced with a handle off to one side. I don’t know anything about swords, but I have a pretty good understanding of physics. They look like they would work OK for stabbing but wouldn’t have the heft for delivering a good, deep slash.
A little research vindicates this—longswords and scimitars are swung like baseball bats and rely on their weight, moment of inertia and a sharp edge to do damage. With the handle about halfway down, the end on these circus weapons doesn’t achieve the high swing speed you would holding the end of a regular sword. So, in a sense, it’s like bunting instead of swinging in a baseball game.
Dalton Interjection: He says they wouldn’t be all that good for stabbing either. Not as good as something you would grip the actual shaft of as you plunged it into someone’s vitals, like a “K-bar” knife or a spear.
But, in the movie’s defense, who cares. They apparently look cool to the video game players who made the game a hit, so don’t argue with success. Anyway, the Great Amanda dices and slices a couple of candles into pieces while the crowd of yokels goggles and claps. The barker comes back and announces the imminent arrival of the “freak of all freaks” while an extra carries in a smallish sheep.
Then comes our heroine, introduced by the barker as “Rayne”—being dragged in by a burly guy while the crowd pelts her with stuff. Kristanna is a tall drink of water, taller than the dudes manhandling her. Rayne is apparently a “creature so sensitive” that the very touch of water burns her skin. Wow!
This is demonstrated by having Rayne’s arm shoved into a tub of water. Sure enough, it comes up all sizzle-fried. The crowd brays its approval. Then the barker grabs her other arm and slices into it with a knife twice. There is a couple of camera cuts to show the “Great Amanda” watching in the crowd with a concerned look so she can make her necessary “Sympathetic Character” creds without any real character development.
The barker yells “Watch this!” as a goon flashes a knife and proceeds to cut the throat of the sheep. Blood is drained into a cup and thrust before Rayne. Partaking of it—and smearing it on her face in her apparent zeal to drink it—her wounds are healed. All this is done in about twenty-five seconds of screen time. Afterward, Rayne is shown being dragged out and shoved into a carriage with bars on the windows and doors.
She’s allergic to water? This must make mornings fun. Seabreeze all over? Maybe she doesn’t bathe at all. If so, she’d probably have a Florida State sweatshirt on instead of this Ren Faire-meets-Metallica groupie-kewpie outfit that consists of black-and-red leather pants and push-up sleeveless vest set. (She wears this outfit the WHOLE movie, by the way.)And these powers were the root of the “tall tales” blathered about before? With all the vampires running around, did anyone have any doubt what Rayne’s source of these powers and allergies were?
We cut back to the tavern for a second. Julian’s tale over, Madsen throws down a small bag of coins before the bartender. “Your fee. How long do you think it will take us to get there?” he asks with a disinterested flatness that suggests he wants directions to the closest Pottery Barn or something.
Then, in the movie’s curiously ponderous “watching-a-military-parade-in-Pyongyang” way, we cut back to Rayne’s caged carriage at the circus. Up comes Amanda to the bars. She emotively burbles out some laughably “hang in there” motivational piffle that’s so over-the-top that Loken has this embarrassed look on her face while listening to it. Get a load of this Immortal Dialogue; read it outloud to yourself with relish and see if you can reach the end without giggling:
Repeat this to yourself. Savor it. Let it marinate in the silence afterward. One thing about a Boll movie: you don’t get dialogue that’s been focus-grouped into submission. You get 100% lean prime cuts of schlocky badness just like papaw used to charbroil. At the end of her litany, Amanda hands Rayne what is apparently an heirloom—a crucifix on a silver chain. Then she hikes her skirts and steals away. (Future Eva: This is last we’ll hear about Uncle Popeye.) Ah, well, at least the actress playing Amanda looks Roma and actually tries to act a little. With this lacuna of falderal in our wake, let’s examine what our Vampire/Half-Vampire Rules are for this movie thus far:
(1)Water burns them—not just Holy Water.
(2) They do not reflect in mirrors
(3)They rot away immediately upon getting staked
(4)They bleed when cut but heal when they drink blood.
(5)Any kind of blood will do.
(6)Touching a crucifix doesn’t hurt a dhamphir—but does hurt vampires.
It’s not clear at this point if Rayne is a vampire or a daywalker. (Yes, I’ve seen the stupid “Ginger Kids” episode on South Park. Thanks for asking.) Therefore, whether this is canon for all vampires or not is still a little unclear.
And now, the moment we’ve all been waiting for…the introduction of one Mr. Sir Ben Kingsley! His grand entrance into this travesty is heralded by the camera whizzing through the night and then around a gigantic CGI castle made of CGI basalt with scary CGI gargoyles crouching over CGI bay windows. The camera whizzes into the mouth of one of the gargoyles and emerges to show an ornate throne chamber bedecked in flickering torchlight. Ominous rolls over this scene as we focus in on Ben Kingsley sitting motionless upon the throne, his hands resting on the armrests. He looks like something out of a wax museum. Yikes Ben! Regrets? I hope so. Next to him stands some doofy majordomo with a funny miter perched on his head. In walks a flunky with a Mohawk.
“Good evening Master Kagan.”
“Dormastir. How does the night find you?” (Kingsley’s one and only semi-cool line.)
“I have some disconcerting news.”
“Out with it.”
“There was an incident of bloodrage at the Sherban Carnival. A dhamphir. A young woman.”
Kagan says something about how the “little one” who slipped through his fingers has been found. He orders Dormastir—played by Will Sanderson—to send out his best spies. Interspersed through this flatlined dialogue are confusing backflashes of Kingsley’s assaulting some unknown woman and asking her where the little girl is, then pushing himself on top of her and baring his fangs before closing in and apparently having a Dracula-snackula upon her jugula. I must resort to the phonetic: kuh-reepy—and not in the way Boll hoped.
So, something we don’t know about yet is being described, this “dhamphir”? Nice pacing, Uwe. And it has already reached Kagan’s ears? What? Does this guy have like a vampire CIA? Do you have any idea how long it took news to travel back then? News that we kicked British butt at New Orleans didn’t reach Washington for two weeks. The Catholics in besieged in Prague did not know of the Peace of Westphalia for nine days. Sounds as if the best spies are already afoot. If the junior squad of spies has delivered this info this quickly, I’d like to see what the varsity squad can do!
Judging from the flashback and by rubbing my two brain cells together, I could tell immediately what the basic plot outline of this movie was going to be. Kagan is Rayne’s father, the woman we see him slapping around is the mother—apparently a human—and Rayne is therefore a “dhamphir” or a half-vampire. If you’re wondering how I figured all this out, get back on the turnip truck.
The next scene explains what the messenger was informing Kagan about. Rayne is seen running through the moonlight in a mountain meadow. She’s in pretty rough shape. Her hair is a little messed up, in other words. Wailing and disoriented, she collapses, rasping for breath. Maybe she escaped a theatre showing this film?
No, we now observe a flashback. Stupid story short: one of her guards snuck into her cage looking to assault her sexually and she hit him over the head with a bottle. The (candy) bottle apparently opens a lesion in the assailant’s scalp, causing blood to drip down on Rayne. Some enters her mouth. She transforms into a fang-tooth whirlwind, killing the potential rapist. Then she tears the camp apart. She comes across Amanda and bites her, but pulls up when she realizes through her “blood rage” who it is she’s biting. After killing a couple of goons and the jerky barker, she leaves with Amanda’s twin swords.
The bloodletting here is absolutely comical: upon being impaled and slashed, people literally erupt in faux arterial blood—you’d have to have a systemic circulation like a firehose for blood to gout like this.We are left with another movie vampire rule to add to the list:
7. Blood is to vampires in this movie what spinach is to Popeye.
Then the flashback is over and we are back hovering over a sprawled Rayne, sopping in blood, writhing in some foliage, apparently winding down from the previously described “blood rage” or whatever came over her.
Cut to a fairly cool shot of a sunrise over some clouds in the mountains. The vampire hunter trio gallops across a lovely meadow wrapped on either side with delicious deciduous popular poplars. (I’ve always wanted to type that. Read it out loud; it’s fun!) But nothing is as wooden as the dialogue:
Sebastian (Matt Davis): “Kagan is building an army of thralls and we are on our way to a carnival. Am I the only one who thinks this is madness? Katerin?”
Vladimir(Madsen): “Then how do you expect us to deal with this army, Sebastian? Brimstone is a shadow of its former self.”
Katerin (Michelle Rodriquez) “I have yet to see the point of finding this carnival.”
Vlad the Script Impaler: “Listen you two, when has a vampire ever been held in captivity, let alone by a circus troupe?”
Katerin: “Haven’t we wasted enough time with fairy tales?”
And so on they go, reading the script like they’re reciting the phone book, Madsen riding his poor blazed chestnut with all the grace of a student driver fluffing a gear change, before arriving in the circle of wagons that constitutes the carnival. The bodies lie where they fell the night before with the circus freaks wandering around them. Crime scene expert Sebastian suggests that this looks like the work of a young vampire who is out of control.
“Or a young dhamphir,” suggests Vladimir as they cut the heads off of two of the bodies. (I guess this is a preventative measure.) It’s really funny to see Michael Madsen with a sword; he carries like a test tube filled with someone else’s urine sample. Wandering further, Katerin comes across Amanda—she of the twin swords and breathlessly stupid dialogue quoted back yonder—just now apparently regaining consciousness on the ground. (What a nice gaggle of carnies, just letting her lie there in the dirt for hours.) We see Amanda has vampire track marks on her neck. Katerin calls over the other two morons. Sebastian tells Amanda to sit still and looks over the bite marks.
“Did you see who bit you?” he asks. Then we’re treated to a flashback of Rayne running into Amanda, being startled and biting her, then taking Amanda’s swords and running off as Amanda falls to the ground. (Vampires love the circus; they always go for the juggler. Alright, that joke bit.)
Despite the flashback, Amanda first claims not to remember anything. But, the stakes being high, the guys are out for blood, and so prepare to take her head for being a pain in the neck. Amanda then blurts out that Rayne didn’t mean to bite her and isn’t a vampire because she could wear the crucifix that Amanda gave her without ill effects. Kharismatic Katerin is quite cross, however, and runs her through with a sword. Coffin up some blood, Amanda sucks in her last breath before she bites it. Then they burn the bodies and Katerin requests the permission of Vlad to go off and investigate a nearby village. Said permission wheezed out, she rides off without batting an eye and…
Editor Ken: Stop or the review gets cut off.
OK OK! I’ll be good. Pinkie swear. That’s just how I droll.
Alright, change of scene, change of character. First we get an establishing shot of one of Mad Ludwig’s castles. They we go to an ornate indoor set and see…yes!…Billy Zane of Titanic dressed up like Teddy Boy Blackadder with an equally girly wig and acting just as smarmy. I could whittle a manlier guy out of a hunk of quiche-flavored diet tofu.He dictates a letter to his daughter, who is supposed to be Katerin, asking her to ditch the Brimstone crew (she’s apparently a spy) and get for him the Three Sacred Artifacts of Some Name I Didn’t Catch. This is played for dry comedy and sorta works.
Billy Zane is supposed to be Michelle “Katerin” Rodriguez’s father?
Here comes the Rayne again. We observe a wagon making its nocturnal way through Stage Light Forest. Out from the foliage on the side of the road step a man in a puffy shirt. He puts his hand up like a hesitant traffic light cop. The wagon—which looks anachronistically like a Sooner Schooner—obligingly halts. Eek! He’s holding up his hand! Better stop the wagon, Pa!
A woman vampire rushes in from the side and pulls a man off the front board and heaves him to the ground before jumping on top of him and biting his neck. He lays there like a boned fish, weakly waving his arms over his head, as she plays like she’s sucking his blood. Yeah, I’m sure he’d just lay their like Mariah working a record contract. The vampire guy with the puffy shirt strikes someone in the wagon before Rayne comes up from behind (not the direction she was watching this attack from before) and makes short work of the two of them. She bites the female vampire on her neck for a blood smoothie fix. A child watches this, pantomiming paralyzing fear badly. Once Rayne is done, she turns toward the little girl.
A woman leaps out of the back of the wagon and stands with the child. She pulls out a blade not much bigger than a potato peeler and tells Rayne to say away. Yeah, that little Swiss army knife will work. Try the corkscrew while you’re at it. This is the most ersatz “action scene” I’ve seen inâ€¦well, about ten minutes, actually. They almost certainly did this in one shot. It’s like watching a reenactment of a Reader’s Digest “Drama in Real Life” or one of those simply horrendous Bible live-action things on the Protestant channel.
And, just for yucks, let’s check in with Mr. Manchester as he describes what travel was really like back in these days:
“Between towns travelers were on there own. Except for a few places like Castile, no policemen were stationed in the open country. Therefore, honest travelers carried well-honed daggers, knowing that they very well might have to kill and hoping that they would have the stomach for it. Wayfarers from different lands usually banded together, seeking collective security…”
A World Lit Only By Fire—William Manchester
Makes you wonder what these weaklings were doing out here alone, especially since there seems to be, as Hawthorne might say, a vampire behind every tree. In addition, I’m not really quite sure what this scene with the Inepterson family was supposed to prove.Was it to show that Rayne had a righteous side and make us like her?
Rayne drops her sword and says, with all the verbal nuance of a phone recording trying to sell you life insurance, “I will not harm you. My only wish is to kill vampires.” This droned out with blood around her mouth after she sucked the blood out of…another vampire. (How does that work?) They trust her immediately. *Eva eye roll* This movie is the hottest part of hell.
Well, Rayne’s aid is good enough for the family apparently, as next we see her riding in the wagon with the family. There’s some artificial chatter before we cut to Rayne jumping off the back of the wagon in another of these medieval towns with broad, straight streets that are well lit and crowded after nightfall. And here’s Rayne, garbed in a Halloween store sports bra and pants, standing out in the rabble like a Klansman at a .50 Cent concert.
As she’s walking around, we see some dude walk by in a puffy shirt snarl at her and his face cheesily turn vulpine for just a second. Further on, we see a saucy strumpet hanging onto some potential John who also gives her the vulpine twist. Apparently these vampires look normal when they want to, but let down the visage should they choose. Do they know she’s a half-vampire? Do they just go around revealing themselves to everybody? My guess is that this is something that only a half vampire can see.
Upon seeing the female vampire, they exchange looks and Rayne motions for the vampress to join her in a not-so-dark corner. After giving a comical “come hither” look, female vampire comes over and they embrace. But just before they lock lips, Rayne slips passed the pucker and plants her fangs instead into Vamp-extra’s neck. After the vampire does a little herky-jerky thing and they Foley in a lovely crunching sound more appropriate for biting into a fresh stalk of celery instead of human tissue, the vampire falls to the ground.
At this point, a voiceover effect is used to simulate a voice in Rayne’s head, calling her ‘Dhamphir.” She turns her fangy face away from her meal to see who or what it could be. Looking down the street, Rayne spots a wizened woman clad in some Gypsy Fortune Teller Clothes straight from wardrobe, looking up her way. The fortune teller’s apparent “telepathic voice” calls to Rayne to follow. Rayne does, entering the fortune teller’s shop. The fortune teller is played by Geraldine Chaplin, the daughter of Charlie Chaplin!
“I see a journey in your future,” Chaplin says, then (sadly) adds, “A journey…perhaps to within?” (Ugh!) She sits down and whips out a deck of Tarot-like cards. Fortune tellers are to swords-and-sandals movies what road maps are to road trips. These fountainheads of expository dialogue have been dishing out overwrought plot explanations for the Plot-O-Matic 3000© longing than there’s been fishes in the ocean. Cards have replaced crystal balls, but the schlocky mumbo jumbo goes on and on.
“I was expecting you. There’s a reason you’re here.” (Yeah, a scriptmonster chased her in here!)
“What did you call me?” Rayne asks.
“Most believe that your kind are merely legends.” (Enough with the legends and tall tales please!)
They go on awhile. Some cards are flipped and the pictures on them do little CGI-whirls. A couple of unpleasant flashbacks. Too much disjointed Yoda-esque patois there is. Still, Credit Where It’s Due: Chaplin does a good job with the lousy material she’s working with here, managing to exude both a little aura of mystery and understanding. (A judgment call I feel is vindicated because in her next movie, The Orphanage, she would pull down an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress. That fact also makes her bones as an official Jabootu Embarrassed Actor should we ever make a list.) Loken is not so good here. Her play at being a tough gal comes off a little like she’s still playing the T-1000 in Rise of the Machines.
Anyway, stupid story short, Chaplin explains where Kagan is and that if Rayne can get some magic eye, she will get to see him. Rayne is impressed and asks, “Why do you tell me his?” She replies, “Because it is my purpose.”
Cut! Folks, I think we’ve just witnessed a miracle! The Plot-O-Matic 3000© has just addressed us directly! Could it be the first instance of genuine artificial intelligence? Wowsers! Feel honored? I sure do. Anyhow, to finish, Chaplin the Plot Device explains that the magic eye of whatever can be found in the monastery of blahbitty blah off to the south. Rayne thunders off, watched from behind a corner by one of the scowling vampires we saw earlier.
Back to Kagan’s Kastle, established with the same outside shot as before. In walks Dormastir, the guy with the Mohawk. It’s a pretty elaborate set he walks through to get to Kagan’s audience hall. Kingsley is sitting on the throne with his hands motionless upon the armrests—he looks like a mechanical Santa in a poor rural mall.
Behind him is his glowering familiar. Dormastir gives his report—basically what the spy saw. Somehow he knows about the monastery to the south that Rayne is off to findâ€¦oh, and he also knows about the sacred Eye or whatever that lies within. (They didn’t know about the Eye or the monastery until now?) Kagan orders him to go off, follow Rayne and then kill her and get the Eye. All this dialogue is recited like a public service announcement about genital warts and, like every scene with Kingsley; everybody gives a vacantly stilted performance that has the feeling of something filmed at gunpoint.
Now comes about two solid minutes of helicopter shots showing Rayne galloping alone clad with a heavy robe to block the sun. These are interspersed with shots of Dormastir the Flunky and a host of “thralls” galloping in a line, spied upon by Vlad the Madsen and Sebastian. I differ from Brad in that these scenes work for me. Now, I’m biased, but you must admit that they are a welcome break from the hackneyed nattering that falls between them.
OK, breaks over and on we go. Here comes a series of scenes displaying stunning idiocy. Rayne rides up to the monastery. Still dressed in the Halloween store sportbra and hipriders, she knocks on the door. A monk opens the door without any hesitation—no opening an eye slot, no yelling for identification from a rampart, nothing. All I can guess is they were watching her approach.
Rayne robotically incants that she’s a “traveler that has been separated from her family” and has been riding for two days without rest or food. (One look at Loken’s steed from anybody savvy of horses would prove this “I’ve been riding for two days” stuff a big whopper.) The monk immediately invites her in with a mechanical card read of his own, offering her food and shelter.
So…an attractive woman in provocative dress comes out of the gloaming with a vague story of trouble and you let her right in? Either she’s being chased with the bad guys right on her heels or she’s a Trojan horse shill sent to open the door for said brigands later.
The bad movie that I was filming in my head while watching this was so much more sensible. Consider having the fortune teller know the monastery people and somehow sending word ahead so that the monks were expecting her? Have her barely make it through the gates with the thralls on her heels, taking advantage of the sweeping helicopter shots to film it? How about having the monks do some magical stuff to see if she’s a bad guy?Boneheads.
Rayne wakes up to the sounds of “spooky” whispered voices. She gets up and, seeming to know exactly where to go, creeps out into the courtyard and makes for a door. Behind her on a balcony watching is one of the old monks. She goes inside and enters a long chamber. At the end sits an enormously big and fat guy on a chair, asleep. The guy has an ugly rubber mask on. Approaching, Rayne notices that he wears an ornate crucifix around his neck. Somehow knowing this is the thing to take, she tries to slip it off him.(Why not just run him through when he’s asleep? That’s what I would do.)
The stealthy approach is for naught as the Ugly Dude wakes and grabs this laughably enormous wooden mallet for a weapon. I mean, this thing is huge. Huge as in every time he takes a swipe at our heroine, the arc of the swing is telegraphed to the point that the ghost of Samuel Morse was stringing cable through my living room every time Big N’ Ugly lashed out. Picture this: it’s as if I attacked you with a surfboard. Rayne hops around and quickly gets the best of him, mashing his head like a cantaloupe with a big spiky thing. The mashing is shown twice from different angles for gore hounds to get a good look. Now THAT’S entertainment! How considerate of Uwe.
She pulls the crucifix from around his neck and quickly places it a handy crucifix-shaped hollow in the wall—somehow knowing this is what to do—and Lo! a secret door opens! Rayne looks into the octagon-shaped room on the other side of the door and, across the floor and upon a dais, she sees an ornate little chest, apparently holding one of the magical things she needs.
Great. Another obviously trapped room. Am I cursed to review scenes like these? Did I do a bad thing in a past life like sell Delilah some shears or not push John Wilkes Booth down the stairs or something? I thought this was a horror movie, not another Indiana Jones rip-off. Oh, alright. The floor to this room is crisscrossed with slots.
Rayne triggers the trap by nosing her boot into room. Suddenly, to absolutely no one’s surprise, the room is filled with these comically huge CGI whirling blades that whiz around for a moment. It’s another one of these trap rooms that are mysteriously maintained to protect an artifact. The CGI is so over-the-top, however, that I can only assume that we are supposed to swallow that this is some kind of magic trap.
I’m bored. Time for a digression. Have you guys ever wondered what effect magic and the supernatural would have on technological progress? I think it would stunt it, assuming that the ability to master a modicum of magic would be easier than the notoriously high amount of blood, sweat and fears that are usually in abundance for the researcher before her research pays off—if it ever does. Why invent a light bulb—and go through what Edison did in doing so—when someone can just cast a spell to make light?
In fact, I think magic would be entirely dominant and science would be at best a philosophical pursuit for distant intellectuals. (i.e. Those who feel that science is “right” because it offers truths while magic is a conglomeration of theories that can be at best summarized as “reality is contextual” and at worst as “anything goes!”) This in contrast to 99.9% of everybody else who would go for the quick fix instead of enduring the process of orderly thinking over a long period of time with no certainty of reward—a total bummer most people avoid even in our mundane world.
Take your pick: hard work that may pay off later…or shortcutting that definitely pays off right now? And imagine the uncertainty: sages who studied science in a magical universe would constantly be questioning themselves and other’s studies. (e.g. Do prisms split light based on refraction? Or is it due to some yet-unknown property in the magical firmament? Hey! I think Dr. Smarty at Third-Rate State cheated with magic when she ran the experiment I said wouldn’t work and thus swiped all the glory and grant money!)
I think science and technology would disappear in direct proportion to the triumph of magic power. In addition, I think civilization, as least as we understand it, would collapse in proportion to the introduction of people with magical powers or, as in this movie, supernatural powers based on vampirism.
Think of what would happen if just one person in each city could turn invisible or into a bat or something, sneak into a bank, and steal bags of money. And privacy? Smooch it sayonara. For example, Matthew Davis would never have another private phone conversation without a certain someone I know mooning in on every word. (Then certain numbers would disappear from his contacts list. Soon the phone would only call one number.)
Oh gosh, is the movie still playing. I guess so. Well, anyway, Rayne first throws one of her swords so that it sticks in the ceiling (?), then throws the other and gets it to stick in the joint between two slabs of stone in the opposite wall. Next, she beats the trap through some very poorly done special effects that would have us believe that she tumbles through the blades over to the other side close to the treasure box. That nobody could do this given the velocity of the blades is obvious, but they try to cover it up with the speed-o-cam.
Lifting up the box on the other side, she triggers another trap where the entrance closes and water starts to pour in through holes in the wall. (Remember? She’s allergic to water.) Oh Indy! Whadda we going to do? As she paces around trying to think of something, there’s a particularly moronic bit where the heel of her boot gets wet and begins to sizzle. Uwe apparently felt so clever about taping an Alka-Seltzer to her heel that he forget that her clothes aren’t allergic to water—she is.
Finally seizing on a stopgap plan, she climbs from the sword in the wall up to hang upside down from the one in the ceiling. In doing so, the eyeball (eeew!) in the box almost falls into the water, but she catches it. Gazing into it, we see that one of her eyes has changed color and is now green (like both of mine!) in contrast to the other blue one. We are thus leadenly lead to believe that she absorbed it.
And just it time as the sword comes out from the ceiling. Hitting the water, she’s happily surprised to find that it no longer burns her. Or her clothes, for that matter. The door opens and one of the monks comes in and suggests that she follow him. He leads her to the boss monk. He asks if she is one of Kagan’s goons.
She explains that while she means them no harm, she must leave. He stops her, saying that it appears that she has absorbed the eye and that their order has been guarding it for centuries. (Holy cow! Talk about a boring civil service job. Makes Ranger Gord in the Red Green Show look like 007.) Firing up the Pabulumatic Nugacitator 3000®, he explains that further that there are three sacred artifacts, parts of an ancient vampire lord who was dismembered when he was destroyed. An eye. A rib. His heart. If they are reunited, Bad Things will happen. (One of them not being that this movie will end.)
This is yet another swords and spleens movie where the action before the climax is the tale of going over the river and through the woods to get…not one…not two…but three, count ’em three magical/cursed/just-plain-nifty thingamabobbers. Groan. This could on forever.
And since Uwe Boll is involved—that talentless but relentless steamroller of suck—we know that if this review makes it to the end—a finish line that feels about as far off right now as the Nevada state line is from the eastern side of the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah—it’ll have all the twists, turns and surprises that I-70 does in that intervening distance (i.e. none). Any bumps in this road at all? How about an Ancient Cheerleader burial ground? Nope. 1-800 collect call of CTH-ULHU? Negative. Ten Little Indians-esque failing comes back to do its ironic Cha-cha-cha on somebody’s face? No.
Rayne says she doesn’t care, but only wants to kill Kagan. The boss monk prattles on a bit more while scenes of Kagan’s brigands attacking the castle outside begin to play. It’s obvious the monks are caught completely unprepared, even leaving the main door unlocked—this despite the fact that the conditions of their interminable vigil have just undergone a dramatic change. Finally, boss monk and Rayne are warned and the battle is joined. Honcho monk warns her to protect the eye. Thanks for the advice, gramps, seeing as it is now part of the most nerve-laden portion of my body.
The “thralls” of Kagan pour into the inner donjon and go at it with the monks. At the head of the bad guys is Dormastir. In behind the thralls come Vlad and Sebastian. In behind them comes Katerin, reappearing just in case you needed to be reminded what the antonym was for “sultry vixen.” The melee that follows is barely adequate, interspersed with laughable attempts at staged ‘gore’ like swords going through faces and whatnot.
During the rout of the monks, Dormastir first orders Rayne killed but then klonks Rayne on the head and knocks her out, riding off with her. (You simply can’t get through one of these without the beautiful heroine being captured. Union rules and all that.) Miraculously, the vampire hunters are the only three left alive when the thralls leave. (How convenient that.) Vlad explains that they have to go back and warm the Brimstone Society. Lingering behind a moment, Katerin takes two scrolls and Brimstone medallion from one of the dead monks.
Back again to Kagan’s castle. Two hirelings drag in a young lady. Kingsley is hunched over in his chair like he’s got an upset tummy or something. I guess this is to make him look like he’s weak and needs to feed, but instead it makes him look like he’s digesting a baseball glove or he just watched this movie or something. After being coaxed into helping him rise, the girl stands before him as he woodenly paws her hair then her chest a bit. Nice. After this fun, Kingsley’s face does the CGI morph into a vulpine chomper and he starts sucking her blood. Just revolting.
Now a few more helicopter shots of horses and riders galloping over the high taiga of Romania. Dormastir riding alone. (Without his escort, curiously). Vlad and Sebastian are apparently following him. Credit Where It’s Due: I like these scenes. And not just for the horses. The scenery is splendorous, the geology great.
In addition, shots like these give the movie world a little more depth. Depth and distance that The Lord of the Rings had and Dungeons and Dragons did not. Finally, these scenes don’t suck as bad as the rest of the movie. Dormastir is riding Western (?) and has an unconscious Rayne draped before him over the poor horse. She must have been really clobbered to still be unconscious. I’m thinking brain swelling from the hematoma leading to death would be the fate of Rayne were this movie even tenuously tethered to reality.
He rides up to what looks like an Eastern Orthodox church in the woods. Outside are a couple of sentries. The “body” of Rayne is pretty obviously a dummy under a blanket. He carries ‘her’ inside. Vlad and Sebastian lurk outside in the woods overlooking the monastery. Vlad teleprompts out some poppycock about how this is the lair of one certain “Leonid” and about how, since Rayne has the Eye, they must get her back and take her back to the Brimstone people. Then they easily take out the stoopid bad guy lookouts with bows and arrows. One arrow each, all lethal shots. Right.
We go inside and here he is! Meatloaf! Morgan Freeman has nothing on Meatloaf—he lends any movie he’s in the solemn gravitas and tasteful veneer of a late-night Mexican variety show. Jabba the Loaf lounges back while a half dozen naked women writhe and paw on him. Then there’s a lovely scene where bodies of people with various lacerations are shown chained to walls and a man with a pitcher comes and drains into it some blood. We get a wonderful scene where a man with a slit throat gurgles some blood into the urn. (Brad over on the Reader Board heard that the bloodletting “victims” here were actually sponsors of the movie. And the irony of that comes crashing in like a wreaking ball through a greenhouse.) We’re in the dark caverns of badness now, where not even the fungus grows, and Jabootu’s reptilian eyes shine at you from the darkness.
Run, everybody! It’s a hampire!
Back to Meatloaf. This bloated, wrinkled creature dips his finger in a chalice of blood then takes the blood and rubs it on one of the areoles of one of the squirming trulls, then licks it off his finger. That’s disgusting! I didn’t need to see that! Boy, this is a horror movie:
Kiss hope goodbye Pip
It’s the worst movie ever
No one hears your screams
That’s get detached and clinical here. The naked women in the scene with are actually real Romanian prostitutes, according who said at the Stockholm International Film Festival that it was cheaper to hire real hookers than actresses. Assuming this is true, which I think we can if we apply the evidence rule that statements against interest can be admitted despite being hearsay, and after peeling back my initial rush of distaste, this is actually sorta interesting. I think Michael Jackson did the same thing with his oldie “Beat It” video, but with gang members.
I note that the ladies display not a second’s hesitation or I’m-doing-this-for-the-money emotional distance or dial-tone expressions in their roles as naked concubines fawning on Meatloaf. Stronger women then me. (I’d need an airsickness bag and more drugs than Carrie Fisher had coursing through her veins during the filming of the Star Wars Christmas Special. Oh, and stack the Benjamins high where I can see ‘um, Uwe.)
And to think we re-enacted his Bat out of Hell album at school dances in the ’90s. What were we thinking? It’s one of those embarrassing things you wince about when you look back on it, like explaining to St. Peter why you got crushed to death in a stampede for Hannah Montana or Madonna tickets. (Or, as Dalton might say, like having your pick-up truck break down in a pornographic drive-in movie theatre in Odessa, Texas, which he hotly denies ever happened to him.)
In any event, while Vlad and Sebastian “sneak” in (i.e. pretty much just walk in) Dormastir and Leonid argue over the fate of Rayne. Dormastir says that she belongs to Kagan and that they just need shelter until nightfall. Leonid has other ideas and has his guards jump him and haul him out. Then there’s a couple more shots of debauchery: people eating greasy hunks of meat amidst hanging and lacerated bodies. People drinking blood and heaving Romanian bosoms and someone playing something purposefully dreadful on the piano. Maim that tune.
Sebastian and Vlad wander around before someone actually takes notice of them and attacks. There’s some desultory workmanlike swordplay (whistle while you kill) and then we cut back to Leonid, who’s about to lock lips with Rayne as he huskily slobbers for the Eye.
Rayne bites him on the ear and draws some blood. This apparently has a some sort of wakening effect on her. Sebastian and Vlad enter the room and a general brawl begins. Sebastian gets thrown around by a vampire henchman. Dormastir breaks free of his captors and runs and Leonid and Vlad square off. It’s about to get even stupiderâ€¦in order to stop Leonid, Vlad breaks a couple of windows with this wrist-mounted repeating crossbow, allowing more and more light in until Leonid is destroyed.
Cut! Wait a minute—there was just some little cheesy stained glass windows between Leonid and the sunrays that were supposed to be able to kill him on contact?!? If sunlight could kill you, would you rely on the drapes to keep you from instant, painful death? Good grief. As the Queen of Saturn’s Rings and Defender of the Wraith, I declare this movie to be a Retina-thrashing Suckfest.
Sebastian surprises and finishes off his convenient antagonist and everybody else just sorts of parts way as Vlad drapes Rayne in a blanket and the three run away, mount up and ski-daddle on the wings of some more horseback footage. We next espy them on an open-topped Viking boat crossing a misty lake. Vlad and Sebastian debate Rayne’s fate.
Sebastian is nervous about her. Vlad says to ditch the pulchritude attitude, dude. He should just give on this acting thing and feed me some grapes.Vlad recites how she’s OK as a normal vampire would be killed by crossing water and about how she’s wearing a crucifix and so on. Normally, this groan-inducing string of nothingspeak would just be a drag, but listening to Madsen deliver these lines is just pitiful. I’ve seen less stilted acting on al-Qaeda hostage videos. Katerin is not around; I guess she just comes and goes as she pleases.
Oh, and another rule:
9: Vampires can’t cross water.
(I never understood this rule. Headless Horsemen, Nazguls, and now vampires can’t cross water? Was that part of Washington Irving’s 1820 Legend of Sleepy Hollow the first IITS moment?)
Meanwhile, Kagan has Dormastir on the carpet for letting Rayne fall through his fingers like water. Dormastir explains to him that she has the Eye. Kagan realizes that it was “assimilated” and orders her taken alive.
Back to the boat as it pulls up at Brimstone’s Headquarters, which apparently is a secret castle on an island. Katerin appears to have gotten there before them. Inside, she explains that the Rome headquarters of Brimstone have fallen and that the Rib artifact is in Kagan’s hand.
This is shown to be so as Kagan is presented the McRib in a little box by his miter-headed major domo. Kagan is pouring through a big book with a look on his face like he just found the small print that locked him into appearing in this movie. This development is actually sort of welcome as it spares us having to watch our heroes chase after another artifact, and with the Holy Eye of This-n-that safely ensconced in the empty skull of Loken, leaving only the Sacred Heart of So-and-so to be explained.
What have I become?
Switching back to the Brimstone building, it appears they have Rayne in a jail cell. Sebastian doesn’t trust her and doesn’t want to let her out. Rayne counters that she can feed on animals.
Rule 10: Dhamphirs (and vampires) can feed on
any kind of blood, like in Return to Salem’s Lot.
(Do different blood types taste different? How about insects? Inquiring veterinarians want to know!)
Worse still, Rayne goes on to explain why she hates Kagan—he raped her mother when she was a small girl while Rayne watched from a hiding place. Thanks for cheering us down. A flashback begins, whereby Rayne’s human mother hides her when her unexplained vampire-is-approaching radar goes off. No rape is shown (thankfully) but rather Kagan jumps her, asking where she has hidden little Rayne.
The mother doesn’t answer. Kagan throws her on the bed, climbs on top of her, sucks her blood after his face does the vulpine CGI switcheroo, and then stabs her right through the sternum. This flashback goes on much longer then the one before; I think I bit through my tongue at one point. Wow. This movie is why they invented cookies-and-creme flavored shotgun barrels. I guess this is supposed to generate sympathy for Rayne, and in normal movies—ones with good actors and a believable script—it would. Here…not so much.
In this emphatically acted moment of high drama, Kingsley’s Kagan auditions for the nickel.
Back at Brimstone Manor, the other characters react to Rayne’s story like she was reading an airline magazine article outloud during a two hour runway sit on a Dallas tarmac in July—”Ten Fun Things to do in Midland” or “Manilow Magic at the Excalibur” maybe. Then we go outside while Vlad (I swear Madsen is loaded) and Katerin exchange some stupendously awful dialogue about Katerin’s doubts over Rayne’s presence at the Brimstone Bungalow. Were the exchanges in this movie any more stilted, they’d be tottering around the Big Top at the Shiner’s Circus looking down on the clowns.
Following on the heels of this is a boring series of silly training sequences where Rayne and the Brimstone Bunch practice with swords. Rayne breaks one of her twin swords. Later, Sebastian brings her a parcel within which he announces are “clothes more to her liking.” (We never see her in another outfit throughout the entire movie, however. Stupid Uwe.) He also explains that Kagan’s men murdered his parents and that Vlad saved him. Well Sebastian, everybody’s got problems. (My problem: morons.) Despite his Precious Moments blue eyes, Matthew Davis couldn’t act his way out of a late fee at Ken’s library. Bet he gives a good foot rub, though.
Speaking of new outfits however, we soon see Rayne without any raiment in one of the most ludicrous sex scenes the Plot-O-Matic 3000 has ever machine-stamped together. Rayne comes out of her room/cell to the common area wherein Sebastian working on a letter or something. She grabs him and throws him against the wall, looks like she’s going for the neck, but then plants her kiss instead on his lips. Then they have stand-up sex with her hanging on the bars as they copulate.
Is this what watching pornography is like? Human intercourse with all the passion of horse-breeding? This didn’t go over too well as we watched during the initial screening. There were shouts of outrage and “Oh, come on!” Their ardor burns with all the carnal obsession of watching C-3PO get busy with the Vicki-bot from Small Wonder.
Maybe I’m just not the target for this kind of thing. I asked Dalton what he thought about the “sex” scene and Loken as an actress to which he responded sagely, “Finest turdcutter in all the land!” Still putting the D in :-D, eh Dalton? As for me, I ended up seeing this a couple of times writing this recap and all I can say is if God hears prayers, I shall not go on living much longer.
More time is brutally killed in the next scene as we see our three heroes in the dining hall engorging themselves on some white or rye crusts. Apparently they’re running out of food or something. Apparently, Uwe was running out of money with all these painfully boring Brimstone headquarters scenes. Next there’s some hot letter-writing action as we watch Katerin pen a note to her father (Billy Zane, remember?) wherein she admits that she now thinks Brimstone is lost. She sends a messenger off in a boat with it. Then it’s back to Kagan’s mammoth monolith of a castle for a moment. He sends out his “thralls” with the admonishment that the last stronghold of Brimstone is to fall. Off they go as a rush of…wait for it…horsemen filmed with sweeping dramatic shots.
Rayne and Sebastian training with swords. Katerin comes and breaks up their witty reposting repartee by telling Sebastian that Vlad wants to see him. Katerin and Rayne then go at it, circling each other warily with practice swords, partaking in dreadful stilted banter in which Katerin explains that her father was once a human but became a vampire. That’s about all I got out of this exchange except for laughter, otherwise its blather, wince, repeat. This goes on and on with no real point like an Ellen Goodman column; I’d transcribe it for you but that would be sort of like scaling K2 in nothing but flip-flops and a Speedo—don’t forget the granola bars and expect a bad outcome.
Note to Boll: movies are more realistic when you keep the stunt-double out of the shot.
Remember Katerin’s father, Billy Zane’s character Elrich? Well, we go back to him, pictured reading a book. A clearly paper-mache head is thrown on the table before him, supposedly the noggin of the messenger Katerin sent earlier with the letter.
It’s Dormastir come knocking to give him the head’s up, and he tries to shake the location of Brimstone out of Elrich with threats. I’m not really sure what Elrich’s role is in all this except to have a name that reminds me of a certain Michael Moorcock character. I guess he was a vampire-hunter who became a vampire. Is he under Kagan’s thumb or does he have some measure of independence? Dunno. All this is unexplored. As an aside, Sanderson and Zane are the best actors in the movie, but that’s like being the best football team in Delaware.
Future Eva: That’s the last we see of Elrich. His entire role in this movie thus goes nowhere and was totally pointless. Why can’t Uwe Boll just die? Why can’t the finger of God touch his heart and stop it this very moment? Maybe it’s just me. Born to be riled.
Anyone still awake? O.K. One more scene of Katerin expressing her doubts about Rayne to Vladimir and then we see Rayne, Vlad and Sebastian going back across Lake Eerie to a town. They go into a butcher shop manned by a guy with hockey hair wig and a fake mustache. He’s apparently to cahoots with the Brimstoners and shows them through a secret door down to his secret workshop.
Interspersed here is cut of Katerin looking out over the lake. It seems that Dormastir is leading a fleet of boats across the lake to attack. She turns to her companion and says, “Dormastir! We must move quickly!” Gosh, I’m for that, seeing as they’re about to attack in a couple of minutes. Can I help by hitting fast-forward here on my remote?
Back at the secret workshop, hockey-guy presents Rayne with new twin sword thingies. He also gives Vlad a little barrel of explosive black powder. The trio leaves. Outside, a wounded man in a small boat stumbles ashore. He wheezes out some dialogue to Rayne that Katerin has betrayed the Brimstoners. There’s a couple of budget-easing flashbacks to flesh out the big attack that they couldn’t afford to film.
The guy dies. Vlad says, “If it is a fight they want, then it is a fight they shall have!” Huzzah! Later that night, Rayne tries to sneak away, but Sebastian stops her while Vlad slumbers. She explains that she is going for the Sacred Heart because with the Eye and the Heart, she can trump Kagan, who only has the Rib. All they need is a Brain and this movie might actually go somewhere. Before they part, he gives her a Brimstone necklace and she gives him the crucifix Amanda gave her in the beginning of this interminable Ring Cycle of boredom.
Rayne goes back to the Brimstone castle, walks among the bodies, dodges Dormastir and his men as they leave, and finds a cave. Inside, she hides behind some ludicrously big cave formations and eavesdrops on Katerin and some followers who are looking for the Heart in an underground pool of water.
Katerin swims underwater and miraculously manages to find the Heart in a little box in mere seconds under a covering of sand. Rayne swims up and they fight. Katerin stabs her in the stomach. Rayne breaks her neck and then bites her. (You know, breaking someone’s neck would halt the pulmonary drive of circulation and make bloodsucking hard. Just saying.) Rayne grabs the box holding the Heart. What happened to Katerin’s four or so followers? They apparently disappeared at the start of the fight instead of helping Katerin, driven off by a Scriptmonster.
Hey, guess what it’s time for! More horses and helicopter shots! Shots of Rayne and of the Vlad/Sebastian duo are shuffled together over some pretty cool landscapes. Now we see Vlad and Sebastian watching in the weeds outside Kagan’s Kastle as Rayne rides up the causeway as announces to the throng of flunkies that she has brought Kagan the Sacred Heart.
They lead her into the joint and right down to the dungeon. Vlad turns to Sebastian and says there’s only one way in or something. Then they
(Yes, this really happens) (Yes, this does too)
Rayne helps dispatch Vlad’s attackers just in time and
fan me with palm fronds
T I wanted to slap her.
Turn it off. Leave it off. I’m going to go staple my head to my desk now.
And there’s a thunderhead on the horizon, now twenty-two pages into the stratosphere. It comes roiling spaceward. It is veined in green lightning and thunder rolls before it. Its anvil backlit red in the failing sun and its rain is blood…and…it’s…and…uh…hmm…”
Oops. I sort of forgot where I was going with that. Been reading a little too much William Manchester, I guess. Sorry. Anyhoo, time for a little post-stinkbomb venting.
Who among us has not gazed through tear-stained eyes at the opening credits of an Uwe Boll movie and wished you were instead tumbling around his deathbed in a burn unit while a mariachi band played Will Young’s “Leave Right Now”? He’s a repellant flaming nosecrusty whose protoplasm would be better served contributing to the body mass of dung beetles to biodegrade lost orangutan spoor than quaffing oxygen that could be used by me. I don’t know how this guy continues to make publicity (fool’s) gold from garbage. He’s the proverbial blunderbuss in the Smithsonian: you just can’t fire him. Oh well. Hate springs eternal.
One goes into a Boll movie not expecting anything, but in living down to these expectations, Boll proves himself anyone’s equal. I’d tell him to try harder but then he just might. Remember his publicity stunt about boxing any movie reviewer who slammed him? While that may seem about as ill-advised a marketing campaign as I can imagine outside of an attorney general running for office promising to be soft on crime, one of the many enduring tragedies of his existence is that he could get his head shoved into a toilet and come up with a ham sandwich.
Talk about a shameless opportunist. He must be pretty nimble verbally to continue to get these things bankrolled and to draw such stars. He must be pretty nimble in general to have dodged that bent coathanger before he first blinked at the world in cursed Germany. As far as I’m concerned, he can chug seawater and then pee on an electric eel. I don’t even like his name; Uwe is too close to Eva in a mutant, kooky way. If I was ever cursed with an evil twin, her name would probably be Uwe.
Boll’s ability to make people look like shameless idiots is by no means limited to himself. Let’s start with Kingsley, shall we? He can be an exceptional actor but I take great exception to his choice in starring in this. A part of me died watching him do this. It’s like having Margo Timmins from the Cowboy Junkies sing at your wedding. Consider this career trajectory: Gandhi (1982) Schindler’s List (1993) Sexy Beast (2001) Bloodrayne (2005). Twin peaks of grandeur, then a free-fall through the uneven Purgatory of Sexy Beast into the Inferno wherein the overblown soundtrack of Bloodrayne plays on Judas Iscariot’s iPod player.
The best movies mean a lot to me. Gandhi and Schlindler’s List—even with their mild flaws of one-sidedness and Hollywoodization, respectively—are things I’ll never forget and which have added to my life. And then you see sixty-year old Kingsley rolling around on top of some young extra and playing a vampire in this awful movie and it just makes you feel sad and slightly queasy, like you just called the Suicide Hotline and got Eeyore. Boll spent twenty-five million dollars on this! That’s roughly the same amount that Mel Gibson spent on another period piece movie that, even more than Gandhi, tickled my ivories—The Passion of the Christ.
Loken goes through the movie with this bewildered, uncomprehending look, like someone who went out to get the mail and while she was out there, saw her house explode because of a gas leak. After the movie came out, there was some conveniently fashionable Hollywood scuttlebutt about her and Michele Rodriguez having a fling. She even appeared on the series The L Word. Sometimes I wonder if that small-but-loudmouthed subset of homosexual people that take secret pleasure in being self-important and thin-skinned has any awareness of how little time most of us boring old red-state people actually spend thinking about them.
Madsen might be the most monochromatic actor in history. Clint Eastwood? Too dynamic. Paris Hilton? Not a long enough track record. And yet I keep hearing about how great Madsen is, mainly from manchildren who still are gaga about Reservoir Dogs over fifteen years on. After that came Wyatt Earp (a dull and depressing snore ’em up that Tombstone easily took out to Boot Hill and deep-sixed) and a deluge of crap too long to mention here. This is another simply awful movie, which appears, to this outsider, to make up 95% of this revered actor’s catalogue. (Hel-LOOOO? Where are they hiding all the good films? Hello, Michael Madsen fans! The emperor’s going commando without a kilt here!) He couldn’t act his way onto the Captivate Network.
Michele Rodriguez is a cuddly little cactus throughout the movie. She goes through the movie with a sour expression that suggests she moonlights as something that gargles rainwater on the roof of Notre Dame Cathedral. As evidenced by her recent stint in Lost, she’s gone on to better things since. (Of course, so has anybody this side of the toilet seat in Lucifer’s outhouse.)
And then there’s Meatloaf. Thanks for peeing on some fond high school memories, fat boy.
All these stars and the result still is a flaccid little wimp of a flick that threatens much, delivers little and feels cheap, forlorn and empty throughout. Not so much a crush of celebrities like they advertised on the box but more like a Who concert of losers. Bloodrayne is meaningless and embarrassing in equal measure and I found it amazingly—monumentally—lackluster and generic, assuming it’s proper to describe neutral words thusly. At the end of the day, it’s a perfect storm of weary clichÃ©
Video games make more money than movies these days. With the huge legion of video game players out there, the studio probably thought that they’d get a large influx of first-weekend fanboys of the Bloodrayne game, similar to what Mortal Kombat I & II pulled in. These kind of slavering fans are like money printing presses—no matter how bad the product, the dough typically rolls in. Studios put out pap like Bloodrayne because, hey, the kids are stupid.
However, I bet the studio didn’t expect opening weekend theatres that were emptier than the women’s restrooms at a Rush concert. The film opened in 985 theaters across the US. It was originally to have played at up to 2,500 theaters, but that number dropped to 1,600 and ended up lower due to prints being shipped to theaters that had not licensed the film. In its opening, the film only made $1,550,000. The film ended up grossing $3,591,980—about $21,500,000 less than it cost to make.
Bloodrayne is, as of this writing, ensconced firmly in the IMDb Bottom 100. True, lots of films make the IMDb Bottom 100 that aren’t true spawn of Jabootu. However, Bloodrayne made the IMDb Bottom 100 list before it even opened. Rotten Tomatoes compiled an appalling 4% approval rating from the critics for Bloodrayne. Metacritic.com, another reviewer compilation site, gave it an 18 “Extreme Dislike and Disgust” rating. It was nominated for six 2006 Golden Raspberry Awards (winning none) including: Worst Picture, Worst Actress (Kristanna Loken), Worst Supporting Actor (Ben Kingsley), Worst Supporting Actress (Michelle Rodriguez), Worst Director, Worst Screenplay, Worst movie that could make Lazarus curse Jesus for being a showoff. (OK, I made that last one up.)
I think that video game movies can be good when they are (1) based on a game that isn’t just a one dimensional shoot-em-up and (2) isn’t afraid to take sensible liberties where remaining true to the game would violate some fundamental rule of plotting or leave ridiculous plot holes. I’m not a computery/internetty gamer, having only played a little EverQuest, but I can recognize that there are certain worlds in gaming that would be fairly neat to explore. Elves and dwarves and such are pretty much played out, as are the thin gruel of taking 2-D first-person-shooter games and turning them into movies in worlds that are supposed to exist in the round. Gimmicky things like the hoary trapped-inside-a-video-game or is-life-just-a-video-game? are also threadbare.
However, as games advance in features and depth, it’s only a matter of time before some of these gaming worlds command the attention of good directors and the money and resources of big studios. Silent Hill, before eventually succumbing to the three torpedoes of (a) high school drama club dialogue, (b) spooky little girl copycattiness and (c) ruining the mood by showing the silly-looking monster while an overbearing soundtrack wails its majestic lullaby, almost made it to the promised land in the first half of its run.
The universe of Silent Hill is interesting. Christopher Gans, the director, took the video game genre forward one step by successfully bringing the setting to the screen with actual texture and intricacy—then he hucked it down the stairs in the second half, but anyway… (Hopefully for the sequel, they’ll lose the actors who are supposed to be native West Virginians but who have East Coast accents. Same goes, to some extent, for The Descent and The Mothman Prophecies. What is it with my home state and spooky movies? Must be the remoteness and insularity.)
Finally, I’ll leave you with this: in April 2008, the British liberal fishwrap The Guardian ran an article claiming Boll had promised to retire if an verifiable online petition asking him to do so received a million signatures. If that’s true, then he’s more or less admitted that he can’t make a good movie—sort of like Stevie Wonder having a press conference to announce he’ll never be an optometrist.
In any event, as of November 6th, 2008 there were 314,580 signatures. Forget that, I say! Let’s do this the Eva Way: Decide for yourself whether Uwe Boll should be allowed to continue to make movies. After you’ve thought it over for five nanoseconds, let’s all call him and scream into the phone for him to stop. Don’t stop screaming until you are out of breath or he’s hung up on you — and then redial and scream again. I don’t know about you but *I* can scream abuse into a cell for a long, long time. This may sound like a waste of time, but seeing as you’ve read this all the way through, whatever you’re doing now probably isn’t working either. Together, we can make a difference.
The Critics Rave!
“Uwe Boll. The German hack, the one-man Blitzkrieg of Bad, is the worst filmmaker in the movies today.”
-Roger Moore, Orlando Sentinel
“When on-line petitions beg directors to stop making films, is that the beginning of the end.”
-Linda Cook, Quad City Times
“‘You don’t know the meaning of pain!’ Kristanna Loken hisses at one point. Oh, honey, believe us, we do.”
-Stephen Whitty, Newark Star-Ledger
“Attention, Ben Kingsley (I mean, Sir Ben Kingsley): It’s officially time to turn in your Oscar.”
–Frank Schenk, The Hollywood Reporter
“Michael Madsen? Michelle Rodriguez? Meatloaf?! ‘I’ll take “Actors Who Should Never Appear in Period Pieces” for $500, Alex.'”
-Rob Vaux, Flipside Movie Emporium