Dir: Uwe Boll. US. 2006. 94mins.
If there is an Ed Wood working in Hollywood todaythen surely it is film-maker Uwe Boll, who over thepast few years has made several critically panned videogame film adaptationsthat have floundered at the box office but done little to dent his career.
His latestfeature, the avenging vampire flick BloodRayne, features a high-profile cast (including Oscarwinner Ben Kingsley) and ranks as possibly Boll's most technically proficientfilm yet. But compared to the rest of his output this can only be a dubious honour.
Boll's careerbegan with 2002's Blackwoods,which played five US cinemas for one week and rang up$1,500. The following year's House Of The Dead pulled in $13m worldwide (it incorporatedvideogame footage in its zombie action scenes and was derided as one of theyear's worst movies). Last January, AloneIn The Dark similarly had a bad critical receptionin the US, taking around $6m worldwide ($1m internationally).
Accordingly, boxoffice prospects for BloodRayne- which allegedly cost around $25m to make - are hardly good. Opening wide inNorth America on Jan 6, it grossed an estimated $1.2m from around 985 screens.
With nodistinguishing characteristics, international returns should be no better:genre audiences can but help compare it to the similarly themed but morepolished Underworld: Evolution, whichstars Kate Beckinsale and opens from Jan 20 onwards.Best hopes lie on ancillary and DVD.
BloodRayne's story centres around Rayne (Kristanna Loken, Terminator 3: Rise Of TheMachines), a half-human, half-vampire carnival attraction who escapes herlife of indentured servitude in a burst of gore.
She then embarkson a quest to avenge the rape and murder of her mother at the hands of Kagan (Ben Kingsley), a vampire monarch seeking toconsolidate his power by collecting the scattered and buried organs of apowerful, long-deceased vampire warrior.
As Kagan's illicit offspring, Rayne finds herself first atodds with Domastir (Will Sanderson), Kagan's henchman. Also opposing Kagan- but tracking her - is an order of Brimstone Society vampire hunters, led byVladimir (Michael Madsen) and including Sebastian (Matthew Davis) and Katarin (Michelle Rodriguez).
As written byGuinevere Turner (Go Fish and TV's The L Word), BloodRayne does not possess thesame sort of howlingly bad dialogue that made Alone In The Dark a sort of small-scalecamp delight. The myriad faults are no less starkly revealed, though, perhapsbest typified by an early sequence in which extras glance about distractedly.
On this evidence Bollshows no particular codifying directorial vision, here stringing togetherexpansive reams of second-unit footage with awkwardly choreographed action setpieces that feel cliched and choppy.
Within scenes,camerawork can oscillate between handheld, Steadicam and,on occasion, heavily stylised shock cuts. Mastershots, meanwhile, frequently include players facing away or walking away fromcamera.
Another frequenttechnique is to flash back to something integral to the narrative flow byskipping past an important story point and then have another character discoveror realise it in conversation or revelation. It's a trickof sorts - perhaps to stretch production resources - but it only emotionallymutes still further any stake that the audience might have in the story.
The spatialstructure between characters and places is also too loose. Locations within thestory must, on the whole, be intuitively deducted, and the action frequentlycuts against the sensibly established parameters of angles and distancesbetween characters.
All manner ofother things make little or no sense, including a sequence in which Sebastiangives Rayne a new costume ("Our seamstress made this for you'") only so thather old one may be ripped off in a love scene. When the new costume then turnsout to be a dustier and significantly more ill-fitting version of thefirst, one's mind wanders to some parallel narrative in which said seamstressis being beaten and flogged for her ineptitude.
Performances are alldreadful, though no one equals the seething disdain of Stephen Dorff in Alone In The Dark.
On the positiveside, the digital effects - mostly vampire facial transformations - are amarked improvement over Boll's previous work, both in terms of quality andtheir overall integration into the movie. But it hardly matters, though, in somethingso riddled with lapses in basic storytelling sense.
Fantastic Films International