I saw almost 400 movies in 2007. It was my job. And a lot of those movies were bad. But even worse? They were also forgettable. And I don’t say the word “forgettable” as some kind of synonym for “mediocre” the way lots of other film critics will. I mean that I literally forgot what I watched to the point of not recognizing some of the titles on the list I kept.
Which brings me to the films of Uwe Boll. He’s made quite a few in his still-young career, a handful during the 1990s in his native Germany and, in this decade, the ones that have brought him the most notoriety: a string of features based on video games. There was 2003’s “House of the Dead,” 2005’s “Alone in the Dark,” 2006’s “Bloodrayne” and opening this week, “In The Name of The King: A Dungeon Siege Tale.”
Critics hate these movies.
I don’t know how to emphasize that enough. The word “hate” might not even contain enough venom. Reading the reviews that accompany each film’s release is like watching that scene in “Carrie” where they pour pig’s blood on Sissy Spacek. Everyone wants to pull that rope. More to the point, they want to punch Boll in the face. And some of them did when the director challenged all critics who wrote negative reviews of his movies to boxing matches, as many as would say yes to a bout. (The good news: he won more than he lost).
But the complaints usually follow along predictable lines: Boll’s movies are poorly written; based on video games; cheaply produced; full of well-known, sometimes Oscar-winning actors slumming to get a check paid out in Euros; make little narrative sense; and feature plots that include zombie massacres at raves on remote islands, scientific experiments performed on orphans, breast-implanted archeologists, floating eyeballs, Sapphic vampires and blood orgies.
I don’t know what kind of movies you like, but they had me at “zombie massacre.”
Bring on the madnessOther film critics can say what they want, but in my world there is no “good” and “bad,” there’s only “yawn” and “wow!” As I look over my 2007 list, the one with the nearly 400 films on it, I see titles like “Pride” (the one where Terence Howard coaches a swim team) and “Catch and Release” (the one where Jennifer Garner falls in love with some guy) and “Shrek the Third” (the one where Shrek does… I don’t even know what) and I actually struggle to recall a single scene.
But I will never forget the moment in “House of The Dead” when one character finally explains to another one what exactly they’re all dealing with in the aftermath of the zombie massacre at the rave: “They’re zombies! Pure and simple!” I won’t forget the way Boll inserts actual video game footage into the film, or the guy who gets skinned alive, or the zombie that’s decapitated and then defies zombie law by not dying. This zombie keeps on choking his victim (which makes a kind of sense, since it no longer has a zombie mouth with which to eat brains) until someone crushes the removed head.
My memory is still fresh with the vividly CGI-realized mucus-coated monster dogs that appear out of nowhere in “Alone in The Dark,” as well the seemingly psychic military forces that come along to battle those creatures. I recall the inclusion of plot-non-specific portals to alternate dimensions, the chasing of someone by someone else (OK, I do forget that part but it was a chase, I’m sure of it), the mad scientist who experiments on all the orphans, and all the shooting of guns.
Mostly though, I retain huge affection for the “love” scene between Tara Reid, as the bespectacled archeologist whose bra stays on at all times, and Christian Slater, as the paranormal investigator, which occurs when Tara just sort of wanders into Slater’s apartment unannounced. I think this must happen in real life sometimes for Tara Reid, right? And if it doesn’t, it should — she did have her own show called “Taradise,” after all, in case you needed reminding.
Enter ‘Bloodrayne’ — if you dareAnd then there’s “Bloodrayne.” I will gladly pay money for the lengthily titled “In The Name of The King: A Dungeon Siege Tale,” Boll’s fourth venture into the video-game-splatters-itself-all-over-the-big-screen genre. But I do harbor the teensiest worry that it won’t be as incredible as “Bloodrayne.”
It’s asking for a lot to top a film where Sir Ben Kingsley (Academy Award for best actor in “Gandhi,” 1982) is the bad guy who wants to remove the Eyeball of Power that Kristanna Loken, a lady-vampire with no need for human blood, has somehow managed to absorb directly into her lady-vampire skull. And that’s just one part of the milkshake of insanity that is this movie’s plot.
Meat Loaf and Michael Madsen and just about every other guy who isn’t Sir Ben run around with mullet wigs to rival the men of Poison. Fake sword fighting commences, the aforementioned blood orgy unfolds (the rumor — and I hope it’s true — is that real prostitutes were used as extras), and a lesbian subtext (penned by “American Psycho” screenwriter Guinevere Turner, who proves here that she’s the coolest woman on strike in the WGA) between Loken and Michelle Rodriguez so strong it leaps the high jump bar and becomes literal tabloid text, transforming it into the film’s third dimension.
Movies like these don’t come along unintentionally. Lazy filmmaking it’s not. If it were, it would be as inert and lifeless as “Are We Done Yet?” (that’s the one where Ice Cube builds a house and fights little animals). And you can say a lot of negative, fancy film critic things about Boll’s movies, but you can’t say that they aren’t crazily alive.
I vote that Boll, in a manner not unlike what big-budget “Transformers” director Michael Bay seems set on doing, wants to dismantle cinema as we know it. It’s a big job, one that requires ignoring all the rules, one that John Waters and David Lynch and Lars von Trier have been trying to accomplish for a while, each in their own distinct way, with movies that people seem to like. This just means that Boll’s road is more difficult, working as he does with only the support of shadowy deep-pockets producers.
So here’s to him and his trashy vision. He’s got my 10 bucks this weekend. That’s 10 more than I’ll be giving to the new “Veggie Tales” movie. Dumb talking vegetables. They forgot to include the zombie massacre.
Dave White is the film critic for Movies.com and the author of “Exile in Guyville.” Find him at