Last of the Monster Kids

Last of the Monster Kids
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Wednesday, May 15, 2019


“BloodRayne” is a video game series nobody seems to talk about much anymore. There hasn't been a new installment since 2011, which came five years after the previous entry. However, when the series was new, it was a pretty big deal. The central premise of a leather-clad vampire babe fighting the Nazis with her spring-loaded wrist blades obviously appealed to teenage boys. (I was among this demographic at the time, so I can attest to that.) Perhaps the inherently juvenile aspects of that premise – which extended to the marketing, with Rayne becoming the first video game character to have a spread in Playboy – seem kind of embarrassing today. Say what you will about it now but “BloodRayne” also had a fairly cinematic premise. Whatever hope fans might've had for a “BloodRayne” movie was dashed when Uwe Boll got a hold of the rights. Naturally, the resulting film was not well received nor financially successful.

Right away, Boll's “BloodRayne” drains some of the game's cool factor by shifting the setting from World War II Germany to 18th century Romania. Dwindling vampire hunting organization, the Brimstone Society, is fighting a loosing battle against vampire lord Kagan. Kagan's army of the undead and enslaved humans are in search of magical artifacts that can remove the vampiric weaknesses. Three Brimstone Society members, Vladimir, Sebastian, and Katarin, hunt down a dhampyr – a half-human, half-vampire – at a freak show. This is Rayne, the daughter of Kagan. Training with the Brimstone Society, she hopes to gather the artifacts before Kagan does.

Much like his “Alone in the Dark” adaptation, Uwe Boll's “BloodRayne” movie features a plot that is both entirely irrelevant and way too invested in its own bullshit. The script is, naturally, awkwardly assembled. A gypsy woman appears strictly to explain the plot to Rayne, which is far from the only heavy-handed exposition in the film. Rayne never even meets Kagan until the very end, meaning the hero/villain relationship comes off as utterly impersonal. The plot is largely a generic MacGuffin fetch quest. Despite the obvious lack of care taken with the plot, the film is also awash in backstory for supporting characters, specific terms for magical items, and interpersonal relationships and rivalries inside the Brimstone Society. Make up your mind, Uwe. Do you or do you not actually give a shit about your movie's writing?

The script is credited to frequent Mary Harron collaborator Guinevere Turner, which is surprising. She says she only had enough time to write a first draft, which Boll rewrote on-set, which is not surprising. Considering his previous films, I'm not shocked that Boll doesn't treat a female protagonist well. Rayne plays a passive role in her own movie. She spends the entire film under the control of different men, ranging from the abusive freak show owner, to the condescending Brimstone Society men, to her evil dad. She acts erratically, deciding to kill other vampires randomly. She's not even allowed to kill the bad guy by herself. She's also treated largely as a sexual object. A sex scene happens for no reason, she's pawed at by a deprived fop vampire lord, and is almost raped twice. Kristanna Loken seemed like solid casting for the part but she woodenly delivers her dialogue. I don't really blame her though.

Sadly, “BloodRayne” doesn't even feature as much unintentional comedy as Boll's earlier efforts. Take a look at his action scenes, usually a reliable source of chuckles. Yes, the fight scenes in “BloodRayne” are misguided, at best. The editing is ramshackle and incoherent. The action scenes frequently devolve into gory special effects shots randomly being inserted in-between shots of swords swinging. Boll is bad at establishing who or what is present during the fights, causing new weapons or characters to wander on-screen without much warning. So the action scenes are bad but in a boring way. There's only one hilariously misplaced use of slow motion. No bullet time, no random karate fights, no video game footage flashing on-screen. It's just no fun at all.

Most of the unintentional humor that does exist in “BloodRayne” is the results of the supporting cast hamming it up. My favorite is Billy Zane – who gets a “Special Appearance From” credit. Zane clearly doesn't understand the script, so instead he passive-aggressively talks down to the people around him, which is pretty funny. Meat Loaf of all people appears as that foppish vampire sex trader, which is amusingly bizarre casting. Michael Madsen and Michele Rodriguez, both as members of the Brimstone Society, hilariously fail to hide the clear contempt they have for the script. Ben Kingsley, sadly, weirdly restrains his hammy instincts as Kagan. Udo Kier is in the film but, disappointingly, he just spouts some exposition in one scene. What a waste.

“BloodRayne” is another Uwe Boll movie that flopped in theaters – grossed 3.5 million against a 25 million budget – but must've proved popular in video stores. It received two direct-to-DVD sequels. Unlike most of the sequels to his films, Uwe Boll directed both. Notably not returning was Kristina Loken, as Natassia Malthe stepped into Rayne's leather pants. (Michael Pare was the only returning cast member, though he played different characters in each.) 2007's “BloodRayne 2: Deliverance” dropped the vampire-killing-vampire into a wild west setting. 2011's “BloodRayne: The Third Reich” finally saw the cinematic Rayne fighting Nazis. Even more bizarre, Boll shot a fat joke filled parody called “Blubberella” concurrently with “BloodRayne III,” apparently utilizing the same script, sets, and supporting actors. Maybe the video game series ending abruptly and the film series continuing on are directly related? [3/10]

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