Oh, boy. I’d better be careful with this one. Because, you see, I’m an online critic who is about to discuss the work of Uwe Boll. And, as I discuss on Monday’s edition of The Highlight Reel, Uwe doesn’t exactly look kindly upon that sort of thing. This is the guy who once famously challenged his five harshest critics to a series of boxing matches, which is a feat about as insane and admirable as his career spent plugging away despite a sea of criticism (including a 350,000-plus strong petition to get him to stop making movies altogether).
I spent much of that feature talking about the practiced eccentricity of a man who is almost certainly much, much more intelligent than he lets anyone believe. I’m fairly certain he’s aware of his reputation, and spins his public image in order to attain maximum notoriety. If you can’t be the best director, might as well make a living off being the worst. It might not be artistically better, but I’m sure financially it’s much better for you than being a bog standard director who’s simply alright at his job. Think of an average film. Go on. The most sort-of-ok-ish film you can think of. Can you name the director? Probably not, and that’s a fate worse than (creative) death in showbiz. His career is sort of like when you get stuck on Grand Theft Auto, so you just decide to blow all your money on rocket launchers and go on a rampage just for the hell of it. It’s not really the point of the exercise, but it’s certainly a hell of a ride.
Might as well start near the beginning, and what better starting point that 2003’s House of the Dead. Now, I’m sure you’re well aware of the House of the Dead video game series. It’s one of those lightgun games that you’ve probably seen gathering dust in the corner of your local multiplex, and, as you might expect from a game that has you furiously mashing the trigger on a lump of bright pink plastic, it doesn’t have much in the way of a story. Of course, Uwe never let that stop him from hurling it onto the screen like a kid throwing soggy toilet roll onto the bathroom ceiling. This movie is probably one of the finest examples of Bollism, because, as a sort of genesis for his terrible video game adaptations, it gives birth to all the archetypes that make his movies so entertaining. Gratuitous, unnecessary slow-mo? Check. Bewilderingly stupid characters? Check. Inane dialogue (“You created it all to be immortal! Why?” one character asks of a mad scientist. “So I could live forever!” is the snappy response)? Check, check, checkity-check. Laughably directed action scenes, sudden random sex scenes, hamfisted melodrama, constant ripping off of The Matrix like every crappy action film in the early 2000s and deliriously outdated European house/crap metal soundtrack? All checks.
Basically, you need to see this movie. Need to. It’s like an episode of Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, only somehow less competent than the fictional show that was specifically made to look terrible. The plot is something of a puzzle. It’s practically non-existent – a bunch of teenagers go to party on some deserted island, but shock horror, it’s actually not deserted and inhabited by zombies who eat them all – but at the same time has nothing to do with the original games. Why even bother to come up with your own crappy non-story when the non-story of the games would have been quicker and easier? Why even call it House of the Dead at all? It’s kind of like dividing by zero. Take a game with no plot, and tack the name onto a film which also has no plot, but is somehow about something completely different and… wait, why is my nose bleeding?
There’s really nothing more to say about that film, but it’s probably the finest example of absolutely nothing you’re ever likely to see and is an absolute riot. As with most Boll movies, the appeal lies in his unnatural ability to execute the most mundane of cinematic tropes with such staggering incompetence that it’s actually sort of admirable. Never was that more apparent in 2006’s staggeringly derivative In The Name of the King, which managed to turn an average swords and sorcery ‘epic’ into something quite different with some inspired casting. Sorry, did I say inspired? I meant shit. Jason Statham as a downtrodden farmer (called Farmer, obviously)… okay, I can just about buy that. Burt Reynolds as King? Hmm, well, now you’re pushing it. Hey, that’s not really that bad at all, it’s not like he cast Ray Liotta as a sorcerer, is it…? Oh. Oh no.
The whole thing is basically some pitiable attempt to cash in on Return of the King, and once again makes zero attempt to tie into the game it was based on, Dungeon Siege. In the movie, The Stath is out to avenge his dead son and abducted wife from the army of TOTALLY NOT ORCS FROM LORD OF THE RINGS known as Krugs, and in the end he gets made king for some reason. Oh yeah, spoilers. This one is much less entertaining than House of the Dead, as it at least has something resembling production values, and while Uwe still has no idea how to construct a story he appeared to have graduated from the complete clownshoes direction of his earlier work, into merely a really, really bad director. However, the real reason to watch this movie is for the morbid appeal of the mass career suicide that takes place. Statham, Liotta, and Reynolds are all joined by the like of Ron Perlman, John Rhys-Davies and Terence Kelly in the pantheon of good actors who spend the movie pottering around, silently comforting themselves that at least the money is good. As with all the Boll canon, though, the real star of this movie is the DVD commentary, during which time Boll rambles like a madman, takes phone calls, and, in a truly inspiring touch, gets bored and leaves 15 minutes before the end of the film. That alone is worth the price of admission, even if the film isn’t one of his best. I mean worst. Whatever.
For the sake of my own sanity, I can only stomach one more film. But which one to choose? So many of them have so many delights, but, since I talked a little about Alone In The Dark on The Highlight Reel, I’ll refrain from doing that one (though it’s probably my personal favourite Boll movie, purely because Tara Reid is cast as a scientist). No, the third and final vintage Boll movie that we’ll be looking at is one of his sequels, and one which, surprisingly, has something to do with the game on which it is based. That might give the game away somewhat: I’m referring of course to Bloodrayne: The Third Reich, the third in the Bloodrayne ‘saga’ (you have to airquote the word ‘saga’ when using it in the context of an Uwe Boll movie under the trade descriptions act), and the only one in the series which sees the titular vampire fighting Nazis, just as she does in the (terrible) video game series of the same name.
This film is very much a return to form after several mind-numbingly average efforts, such as Stoic and Rampage, which, while bad, were just plain bad and not the special Uwe Boll brand of bad that we’ve come to know and love over the years. Now, this film is, I’m assuming, the result of years of pent-up frustration – as he explicitly and frequently reveals in most of his commentaries – with actresses who refuse to constantly get topless in his movies. Rayne certainly makes up for lost time in this one. The plot is pretty much secondary to everything else that goes on, there’s something about a mad scientist, played by Boll stalwart Clint Howard, trying to use vampire blood to create SuperHitler or something, but it never amounts to much and the hilarious way that it resolves itself shows it was never intended to (let’s just say the phrase ‘ass-kicking’ is taken much more literally than it was ever intended). Rayne gets horizontal A LOT in the movie. Like, literally every 15 minutes or so. It’s so gratuitous and so frequent that it’s pretty much the only thing you can talk about with this film, as very little else of note actually happens. When it does, it’s the traditional Boll fare of horrible dialogue (“fucking Nazis”, Rayne groans nonchalantly), laughably constructed action scenes with no impact whatsoever (something he actually started to improve on prior to this film), and ridiculous plot contrivances, most notably that Rayne’s hideout is literally across the street from the Nazi base. It’s deliriously stupid the whole way through, but thankfully rarely boring, and in a lot of ways reminds me of the 70s exploitation cinema, right down to the use of highly camp mad science and the fact that nobody in the movie so much as attempts a German accent.
And there you have it. Your perfect introduction into the quite literally insane world of Uwe Boll. I highly recommend you give his work a try, particularly the ones listed here. I’m not going to guarantee you anything, except for one thing; you will not be bored. And really, that’s actually more than you can say for 90% of filmmakers these days. That’s sort of brilliant, isn’t it?