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November 21, 2006

In Case You Missed It—November 21, 2006

This week, I decided to focus exclusively on one of my favorite unrecognized directors. I apologize for the lack of diversity, but it’s hard to justify anything less for the magnificent failure of a human being that is Uwe Boll.

Movies: The Works of Uwe Boll (1991–Present)

Sadists have all the fun. And, in one way or another, we’re all sadists. It’s our inner psychology’s proverbial reach-around for our violent relationship with life in general. Somewhere, deep inside of every human, there is a part of us that delights in violence, gore, and all those other wonderfully awful things that we experience. It’s that little voice that whispers to us whenever we see these things—these horrible, amazing things. We delight in them because somewhere, that voice is always whispering, “Thank God that’s not me.”

And that is why, whenever I despair, whenever I think there is no end to tragedy, whenever I lose faith in humanity as a whole, I know that I can always sit back, relax, and take pleasure in the pain of others. And that is why director Uwe Boll is my personal savior.

Let me first give you some background. No one really knows where Boll came from. Some say he was born in Germany many a year ago and led a tortured existence as a child. Like Ivan the Terrible, he lived a sad and miserable life and resorted to torturing small animals as a way to relieve his torment, dreaming of one day visiting his despair upon the whole of humanity. Others claim that he was born to a coven of cave trolls and witches, explaining his Neanderthaloid features and rampant mental retardation. Still others say that one day he sprouted, fully formed, from the forehead of Hitler, ready to reap horror and despair upon humanity.

By any stretch, his mission of despair has failed in the most ironic fashion, as his movies have succeeded in bringing nothing but sadistic delight and happiness to all who witness them.

To be serious for a moment, Boll is a director who, by some magic or chance, consistently receives millions of dollars to make horrible movie versions of horrible video games. He consistently convinces legitimate actors to star in these movies. And these movies consistently fail in spectacular manner that hasn’t been matched since the work of Ed Wood.

First, let’s get one thing straight: I am not a proponent of the view that many bad movies are so bad that they’re good. There are very few movies that have this trait. I, for one, can barely stand to sit through Wood’s Plan Nine from Outer Space. But Boll adds a touch of unbelievable incoherence and wretchedness that makes his movies a real delight to watch.

For example, let’s take his most recent trainwreck, the movie BloodRayne, which was based on a video game of the same name that few played and even fewer enjoyed. It stars Kristanna Loken (of prestigious Terminator 3 fame) as well as—get ready—Michael Madsen, Michelle Rodriguez, and Academy Award winner Ben Kingsley. The plot consists of some forgettable progression of events strung together loosely by vampires, blood, violence, and sex. You would think that with a setup and cast like this, any director could at least make a passable attempt at some sort of a vampire action flick. For example Underworld wasn’t exactly amazing, but it was at least fun to watch. BloodRayne, on the other hand, elicits no gasps, no tension, no excitement, not even edge-of-seat sitting. In fact, it elicits nothing but laughs.

The “action” usually consists of about four different shots played at various speeds and edited together into an incomprehensible mess. I know I am prone to exaggeration, but this is the good honest truth. In every action sequence, the viewer sees the same person killed the same way about three times in succession, inter-spliced with a few shots of the hero killing two different villains. The editing and shooting are lazy and lack any sort of intensity. In one scene, a group of evil vampires hacks at the corpse of a monk for a full 12 seconds, with all of the actors looking exceedingly bored and disinterested. This wouldn’t be that bad if that shot hadn’t been replayed three more times in the same scene. And to top it all off, this shot is played once again during the movie’s entirely nonsensical conclusion. It’s annoying, it’s disorienting, it’s ridiculous—it’s also really freaking funny. In these moments, you can see Boll’s career crumbling right before your eyes.

And lest you think the disproportionately talented cast would provide any sort of saving grace, let me assure you that they provide nothing but unintended humor. In any other movie, Madsen and Rodriguez would give at least passable performances, but it’s as if Boll’s mere presence just sucks all the talent from the room. They repeatedly deliver their lifeless, cliched lines with about the same amount of acting skill as my left foot. Kingsley delivers each line with painful monotony and a complete lack of grace. It’s like Boll killed Kingsley and replaced him with a Speak & Spell. This is the guy who played Gandhi. Here, we find him talking like a six-year-old in a movie about vampires that is directed by the worst filmmaker of our day. Like I said, it’s a hilariously sadistic pleasure.

If you’re interested in checking out Boll’s work, there are a few new ones coming out, including Postal (2007), Far Cry (2008), and the promising BloodRayne 2 (2008). God only knows where he gets this money, seeing that the original BloodRayne cost the production company somewhere in the neighborhood of $46 million. Other than BloodRayne, the 2005 winner Alone in the Dark would be a good choice for current viewing. That movie isn’t quite as hilarious as BloodRayne, but Tara Reid’s anemic performance almost makes up for it. To give you an idea of the scope of that performance, just recall how bad Tara Reid is in general, and now imagine her with even less talent. Such is the magic of Uwe Boll.