Before we start, two observations that apply to all of these films and need to be addressed.
Firstly, they all look very good. Both in terms of production values and how they are shot, all of the movies show a surprisingly high level of technical ability within the crew. The cast are, mostly, similarly talented. Whilst there are a couple of bad performances, most are quite good IF you ignore the material they have to deal with. These are multimillion-dollar productions, and they have the look and feel of multimillion-dollar productions that don’t sap your will to watch. As such, any and all criticism has to be placed directly at the feet of the director and producer, Uwe Boll, for the active decision to make such god-awful movies when they could so very easily have made perfectly okay ones.
Secondly, the sex scenes are atrocious. They are not sexy, most of them are not needed, there is next to no chemistry between anyone involved, and even the ones that you can just about accept as part of the plot are excessively long to the point of dullness. These films were obviously made with a predetermined boob quota and the assumption that showing a breast is, in and of itself, erotically charged. The most pointless was in Along In The Dark, as it could have been cut from the film and made zero impact on any of the story even though it involved two of the main characters. The most offensive was in BloodRayne 3; wherein the hero and unconscious heroine in a van taking them to a concentration camp, with zero romantic build-up, decide to have wild, freaky sex because he groped her whilst she was unconscious. Everything else is somewhere between those two points, and all are down to “artistic” decisions Uwe Boll made.
5. Along In The Dark
If this film had a face I would run it over with a truck, then reverse to make sure it was dead.
This is one of the few movies that I have watched that made me physical anger due to its apparent intention of making me feel like a fool. Imagine you have sat down with two people you have just been introduced to; they start up a conversation but are clearly skipping every third, but sometimes fourth or fifth or even sixth, word. That is the whole of the 90 minutes of this film.
Everyone within it knows exactly what is going on, whilst anyone outside has no chance, as it’s incomprehensible gibberish. Things happen, mostly relating to some kind of hidden species of CGI megafauna with big pointy teeth, for no reasons. Conclusions are drawn out of thin air, whilst everyone involved acts as if they are in full control of the facts. Nothing adds up, but it doesn’t add up in an inconsistent and unsatisfying manner. People do obviously stupid things, and situations happen in obviously stupid manners, but the lack of a cohesive narrative removes the ability to clearly explain why it’s so stupid. You skip, moment to moment; trying to untangle the last nonsensical scene whilst being assaulted by another.
At first it is intriguing, then it is frustrating, and then it’s just insulting. This is not a puzzle to be solved, a mystery to be unwrapped, or a journey to be experienced. This is being repeatedly slapped in the face and being told everything is fine and you aren’t being slapped. It is not fun, it is not intelligent, it’s not even amusingly bad or demonstrating the applaudable bravado of ineptitude; its just aggressively, maliciously bad.
4. House Of The Dead
Somewhere within this tale of teenage party-goers fighting for their lives on a zombie-filled island, there is a good story. It’s just that Uwe Boll decided to try and bury it as far out of view as possible and laugh at the audience with this disheartening near-miss. Not even Jürgen Prochnow and Clint Howard inexplicably acting their arses off can save this movie, because every problem with it is behind the camera.
Beyond the standard lack of care and attention that Uwe Boll displays to trivialities like pacing, motivation, or coherency, there are two specific, inexplicable, choices that highlight where this film fails. Firstly, there are repeated and lengthy cuts to scenes recorded directly from the video game. Given that it was a 1996 rail shooter, this means visuals that are both highly pixelated and visually abstract to what’s going on in the shot. A few of them, noticeably at the start, add a tiny bit of tension and build up. But once they start being used wholesale in the middle of actual fight sequences they just get annoying as they pull you out of the action.
Secondly, there is a single shot in the middle of the film that is a visual two-fingered salute to the very audience that is, by this point, very slowly being brought around to thinking they haven’t wasted the previous 40 minutes of their life. A zombie throws an axe at one of the humans, with the axe entering dramatic slow-mo. The human notices, and turns to fire their shotgun; again, in dramatic slow-mo that contrasts with the frantic action of the rest of the multi-participants gun fight. The shotgun blast is tracked in perfect detail, each pellet light and moving to perfection, as it heads on its course to the incoming axe. A ballet of physics, of life-and-death, plays out before our eyes. And then they fail to connect and everything just carries on as before. Because it was you, the viewer’s fault for daring to think something cool could happen. A-ha-ha-hah!
With this film we enter into the middle ground of competent filmmaking. By which I mean I wouldn’t have destroyed my copy if I got it on a disc. Til Schweiger is the surly boat captain with a mysterious past, Emmanuelle Vaugier is the intrepid reporter out to solve the mystery on an island and, even more mysteriously, fall onto Til’s dick; Udo Kier is Dr Bad Guy on the island, Ralf Moeller and Don S. Davis are wasted in bit-roles, and lots of things blow in a passable manner.
The bulk of it is perfectly serviceable nonsense, which exists to let an army of disposable bad guys exchange bullets with the indestructible hero. It’s got a lot of action, it’s got a bit of sci-fi, it’s got a bit of light-hearted misogyny, there is a touch of buddy-movie, and the bad guy is a Nazi working for the USA government so you can want him dead and think the film is maybe saying something political. The stunts are reasonable, the bullets and blood flow freely, and there is a boat chase to mix things up.
And there is Emillio, played by Chris Coppola, who is the “comedy” “character”. He’s overweight, and so self-obsessed that he is totally unaware of his surroundings. He’s fat (ha-ha!), he acts like he’s important (LOL!!! This is killing me!), he’s pretty much useless (how are you not laughing??), and he doesn’t see any of that (Funniest Thing EVAR!!!). And that’s the whole joke, slapped unrepentantly into your face and in the way of the otherwise okayish film, from act two until the bitter, bitter end.
2. BloodRayne 3
It has to be said that the core theme of this film is handled pretty well; in that the Nazis were awful people, and if they had gained the powers of vampirism that would have made them even worse. Also, the Holocaust, and WW2 in general, were cruel and lead to a needless loss of life, so the people who fought against the Nazis were brave and doing something noble. That’s not an especially high bar, but this was the fifth film of the day so I was surprised that that bar was reached and felt it needed highlighting.
The rest of the movie is pretty mediocre, with a bunch of underdeveloped characters and plotlines that just floated around to fill in the time and give an excuse for Natassia Malthe to not wear very much with a pair of tonfa-swords . The central story could have been done in 30 minutes, the rest is just padding that riffs along the themes of Nazis doing bad things, Nazis getting killed in amusing manners, and people living under Nazi occupation having a rough time of it. There is some semblance of discussion about the Polish resistance, but that is almost accidental and gets embarrassingly brushed under the carpet for fear of being too interesting.
The central character of Rayne is similarly “okay, I guess it could have been worse”; her major personality traits being presented as looking like she shops at Hot Topic, being in an explotativly long lesbian sex scene, the eternal mookiness of being a day-walking vampire with wazzy powers and having a really nice pair of tits.sigh. She also has an on-again off-again relationship with a very cool Russian tankie-hat, and the fact we all mostly discussed millinery through the film says a lot.
1. Joint Least-Worst
In The Name Of The King: A Dungeon Siege Tale
As far as overblown, overlong, generic fantasy movies go, this is definitely one of them. The plot was fine, from what I can remember of it, and kept out of the way so that a collection of skilled actors could get stuck into some very lame characters. The lines were vapid, the motivations were stale, and the performances were universally great in the way they can only be when an indifferent director tells a bunch of true professionals to just go for it.
In between unexpectedly good acting there was a lot of wandering around through some very pretty sets, a “greatest hits” collection of fantasy cliché, a forest filled with the eco-warrior wing of Cirque Du Soleil, and a number of battles you could totally class as passably good fun. A lot of plot points, ideas, and troops were pulled out of nowhere, but they looked okay for the brief time they were on screen and it was all pitched low enough for you to really care. There was also a rescue mission that had a bit of plot development-slash-conclusion, but mostly that was Ray Liotta hamming things up with an impressive CGI budget.
Had half an hour been shaved off of it’s running time it would probably be the top-ranked movie of this collection. But at two hours, with at least 40 minutes of that runtime happening after the really cool battle, it dragged on way past its welcome. Still, at least none of the overrun was due to a naff sex scene.
This is probably the most reasonably passable films that was watched during the charity movie marathon, and were it to turn up late night on some high numbered cable channel whilst bored in a hotel room, it could even hold my attention until an advert turned up. The setup of pairing reluctant vampires with pseudo Middle-Ages (and middle age) is passably interesting, and it’s got enough star power to con you into thinking it might possibly be good.
The key problem is that all the plotlines and characters are incredibly forgettable to the audience, and the script pretty much conspires to have them do nothing you care about. The most engaging part of the experience was us coming up with ideas as to why people are in it, and having to make your own entertainment is a sign of the quality for a movie. (Turns out we were right that Ben Kingsley did it because he just wanted to have a laugh playing a vampire).
There is enough of a plot and distinction between characters to keep things in order whilst the film is running, but writing this a couple of days later I couldn’t tell you much of what happened. There were some fight scenes, Kristanna Loken and Matthew Davis had us in hysterics with their semi-romantic athletics, and Billy Zane was the focus of scenes but we couldn’t work out how he fit into the plot. Still, nothing was too objectionable and it was all over in 90 minutes so I guess you could use it as some kind of audio-visual wallpaper if you really wanted to.
That’s the lot, and may god have mercy on the souls who watched them along with me. Whilst it was absolutely worth watching all of them to raise £1030 for Crisis, I cannot in all good conscience encourage you to do the same. Please, watch something better