BloodRayne (2005)
Visual Entertainment
Cast: Kristanna Loken, Michael Madsen, Ben Kingsley, Michelle Rodriguez
Extras: Commentary Track, Featurettes, Storyboards, Trailer

Based on the videogame of the same name, "BloodRayne" is another cinematic atrocity from the director who gave us "House of the Dead" and "Alone in the Dark." Uwe Boll continues to desecrate the artistry of filmmaking with a cluelessness unseen since Ed Wood cranked out his low-budget abominations.

"BloodRayne" is set in 18th century Romania (on what appears to be leftover set designs from a Medieval Times franchise) and concerns the trials and tribulations of a part human/part vampire hybrid (otherwise known as a dhamphir) named Rayne (Kristanna Loken). She's been imprisoned by carnies and put on display as a freak show attraction, where she is systematically tortured for the amusement of bloodthirsty audiences. How she got into this position, we don't know. Why she doesn't use her strength and karate prowess to escape, we don't know. Anyway, three warriors from the town of Brimstone; Vladimir (Michael Madsen), Sebastian (Matthew Davis) and Katarin (Michelle Rodriguez), learn of Rayne's presence and go searching for their quarry.

After her freakshow "performance," Rayne is locked in a cage and accosted by one of her drunken handlers, which triggers a bad case of "blood rage." Finally, she decides to escape from her captors, unleashing a fury of badly choreographed fight moves on the assorted carnies, decimating them in mere seconds (once again, why did it take her so long to fight back?). Haunted by flashbacks of her "father" Kagan (Ben Kingsley…yes, that Ben Kingsley!), the vampire who created her and killed her mother, Rayne sets out on a quest to eliminate him. Apparently, Kagan wants to possess three talismans from a dismembered vampire (an eye, a rib and a heart) that are spread across the land and, when united, can make Kagan powerful enough to control the world. What happens next is anyone's guess, since the film devolves into a cacophonous blur of ridiculous action scenes (like Loken's obvious stunt double doing flips during her battle with an ogre), pointless training montages (didn't Rayne already know how to fight? She killed a town full of carnies!) and enough grue and sinew splashing across the screen to satiate even the most fervent of gorehounds.

"BloodRayne" is a slap-dash mess that might have been somewhat redeemable if only it had embraced it's "so bad, it's good" B-movie leanings, instead of taking itself so seriously. But Boll's limp direction sucks the life out of every scene, causing one to wonder just exactly what he was striving for. It certainly wasn't horror, since there are no scares present. And it certainly wasn't adventure, since the fight sequences are so clumsily staged that they only serve to induce migraines. Boll alternates between static scenes (shooting them head-on, as though we were watching a play unfold) with wildly divergent, kinetic scenes (shot through colored filters, CGI transitions and annoying, twitchy camera work), creating a jumbled hodge-podge that's neither fish nor fowl. There is no consistency to the film, unless you count total disregard of taste or anything resembling logic consistent.

Unfortunately, the actors contribute to this inconsistency, with most appearing lost or confused. None of them seem to be acting in the same film, as though Boll handed them different scripts to work from. I should have known this experience was going to take me to the pits of hell when, during the opening credits, the words: "Special appearance by Billy Zane" flashed across the screen. I still see these horrifying words when I close my eyes at night. Zane's appearance happened to be so special that he was relegated to two scenes, smugly attempting to add comedic heft to a comically bereft script. Once again, Zane lets his hairpiece do all the acting and, much like the other actors, seems to think he's in another film entirely, giving his character a contemporary delivery that is so out of place it had me checking the disc to make sure I was still watching the same movie. On the other side of the coin, Michael Madsen lethargically stumbles through his role, as though he kicked back a couple of beers before the cameras started rolling. When not mumbling under his breath, he gallantly tries to appear interested in his surroundings. His costars don't help though, with Loken as plastic as a mannequin, her foreign accent drifting in and out from scene to scene (the bullish Michelle Rodriguez suffers from this same affliction; at least Madsen and Davis steer clear of these affectations). Then we have Ben Kingsley, "Gandhi" himself, who puts another nail in his career coffin (after the equally horrific "Thunderbirds") by portraying Kagan as a vampire in dire need of No-Doz. In his defense though, the role basically only requires him to sit pensively in a chair, staring off into space. This is the one character I could relate to, since I wanted to slip into a coma many a time during this film. Even more confounding is a brief cameo by MeatLoaf (yes, that MeatLoaf!), who shows up in a powdered wig straight from the "Amadeus" costume department and begins shouting insults in a fey manner while getting rubbed by a cabal of nude women. If all of this sounds intriguing, it isn't. Honestly, my relative's home movies display more ingenuity, passion and better acting than this festering pile of dung.

Sadly, I could go on and on about the inane plot devices that propel the "story" forward (like Vladimir and Sebastian's cunning escape from Kagan's dungeon, which literally had me rubbing my eyes out of disbelief and the completely unnecessary sex scene between Loken and Davis that pushes the boundaries of physics), but I'll quit while I'm ahead and quickly mention the incoherent ending. Since I haven't seen the theatrical cut of the film (this release is unrated), I assume much of the last scenes were cut, due to an overwhelming amount of gore that's presented (supplied in over-the-top fashion by Olaf Ittenbach, director of the "Dead Alive" wannabe, "Premutos"). The film seems to end at a logical point (even the screen fades to black), but suddenly, it springs back to life, as though taunting us and then incomprehensibly assaults us with copious amounts of beheadings, disembowelings and eye-gougings. This onslaught goes on for what seems like a Millennia and then slides back into the story as though nothing happened. Even after getting sucker-punched in the gut throughout the film, this last sequence truly left me dazed.

Visual Entertainment brings us"BloodRayne" in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation. For some reason, the transfer doesn't preserve the original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. With that being said, "BloodRayne" appears fairly clean and sharp. There were a couple of instances of slight edge enhancement, but it wasn't enough to completely bash the look of the film. Black levels are well rendered, especially considering how dark scenes are. The only real problem is the color palette, which can look murky and hazy at times. I'm not certain if this was a stylistic choice or evidence of the low budget, but colors seem to be considerably muted and washed out (they are noticeable when continuity mistakes occur, especially when one shot is bright and the next is dark). Skin tones appear natural, except of course when the vampires transform into their evil forms.

As for the sound, we get a Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track and A Dolby Digital 5.1 track. Overall, the mix is fairly unremarkable, with dialogue being problematic. Sometimes when speaking, there isn't a defined channel that voices are limited to. Instead, we hear them from different sources at different times. Problems also occur when the music pumps through, often drowning out moments of dialogue. While the operatic score isn't effective by any means, at least it attempts to infuse the anemic sequences with some sort of urgency. Also included are English and Spanish subtitle options.

The "Bonus Features" include a commentary with director Uwe Boll, Producer Shawn Williamson and actors Kristanna Loken and Will Sanderson. Much like the film, the commentary diverges into strange directions, with Boll telling stories that have no relation to what is happening onscreen. But, Boll does shed some light on his actors, the most interesting comments involving Michael Madsen's "jet-lag" at the beginning of filming and how uncooperative he tended to be, then conceding how he ultimately gave a good performance. Then, inexplicably, Boll puts down Jennifer Garner (inferring that she is a weak lead actress), praises the tone of Zane and MeatLoaf's performances and castigates various crew members, vowing never to work with them again. All in all, the rambling and unfocused commentary has some interesting tidbits here and there, but it also suffers from everybody praising the film and each other at almost every turn. How delusional are these people?

Next up is a brief "CGI Making of the Film" that, for unknown reasons, is comprised of before and after CGI shots that are devoid of sound, which repeat over and over again, backwards and forward. So, we are left in the dark about the effects process, with no explanation given about what we're seeing. This runs 5 minutes long.

Another feature is "Dinner With Uwe Boll," a bizarre interview with the director, conducted by two folks from the IGN game site. Set in front of a stark white wall, Boll and his interviewers eat food and sip wine at a candlelit table. Boll answers questions about his childhood, why he chooses to adapt videogames, his writing process, the problems he's encountered with control over his films and what projects he has in the pipeline. Things get interesting towards the end though, when Boll lashes out at internet critics and talks about how tired he is of giving interviews (claiming this is the last one he'll do). Apparently, people who criticize his movies fall into two categories: those who are wannabe filmmakers and are jealous of him and those who just like to revel in the fun of trashing him. Boll, at times, comes off as a funny and intelligent guy, but then shoots himself in the foot by skirting responsibility for his own short comings as a filmmaker. This extra runs 47 minutes long and could have benefited from some judicious editing, since the staid atmosphere and long, static shots begin to grow tedious.

Also included on the disc are storyboards (which are printed so small that they are difficult to decipher) and the theatrical trailer.

In a move that reeks of desperation, the BloodRayne 2 PC game is included on a separate disc, making it the first time an entire game has come as a supplement to a DVD. This tells me that the company has no faith in "BloodRayne" selling itself, so it needs to give consumers an incentive to purchase the film. Don't fall for this trap! If you crave the game so bad, then buy it separately and pretend that the film doesn't exist.

Director Uwe Boll continues his reign of terror over videogame to movie translations. Incomprehensibly awful, "BloodRayne" offends on so many levels that I emerged from the viewing emotionally scarred. Much would be forgiven if this travesty had some sort of trashy entertainment value and if Boll had embraced the inherent campiness of the material. As it is though, the film struggles to stay afloat, loaded down with poor direction, atrocious acting and shoddy writing (from Guinevere Turner, who penned the "American Psycho" adaptation). Never have I encountered such a soul-deadening waste of celluloid. If only garlic and crucifixes could work on"BloodRayne," then the world would be a much safer place.