BloodRayne (2005)

When it comes to vampire franchises, I guess it is unavoidable to face Uwe Boll’s oeuvre at some point.

BloodRayne’s story revolves around Rayne, a female half-vampire (or: “dhampir”). After some ill-explained identity crisis that lasts for no more than 30 seconds, she decides to try and kill her father Kagan, who is the world’s mightiest vampire and is currently working on a plan to become all-powerful. Enter a trio of vampire hunters who apparently are looking for Kagan’s daughter, because of some prophecy or other. Do not expect to find a comprehensible explanation in this film. The trio is part of a wider network or order of vampire hunters which fights Kagan, but unlike the trio’s leader the order itself apparently has a strategy that does not include Rayne.

At least I think it doesn’t. As I said, there are no useful explanations in this film. Anyway, Rayne gets herself kidnapped twice and that ushers in a second act in which not much is happening, except a pretty bad sex scene that is totally unjustified plot-wise. Nothing that has happened in that film up to this point has created a situation where it would seem even remotely likely that the two characters involved would have sex.

In fact, the whole film is full of plot holes, ill-defined character motivations, and amateurish exposition dialogue – all of it topped off by blatant MacGuffinism.

The third act does not really improve on the second, as drama and excitement fall somewhat flat.

 

BloodRayne is based on a computer game, but according to wikipedia the game and the film have not much in common. All the more surprising as there are battle, “quest”, and puzzle scenes in the film which look like being taken directly from a computer game (and that is not a compliment).

The film’s cast is impressive: Sir Ben “never-pass-on-a-paycheque-movie” Kingsley, Michelle Rodriguez, Geraldine Chaplin, Udo Kier, Michael Madsen – such a cast does deserve a better script. But it is always great to see great actors being professional and trying to entirely sell their roles in spite of a mediocre plot and script; and this is exactly what is happening in this film acting-wise.

 

While no really convincing world-building takes place in this film, at the least the way in which this world is visually represented is quite satisfying at times. The costumes, for example, are convincing (with exceptions), and the towns and villages look reasonably medieval in a Hollywood sort-of-way. Some of the landscape shots are good – BloodRayne is one of those films that imitates the vast aerial shots used in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. And while offering nothing new, the film adopts the style competently within its means.

Parts of the CGI (for example the traps inside the monastery or some outside architecture of Kagan’s castle) are rather poor even by 2005 standards. A rival vampire’s castle, on the other hand, is represented by a pointless outside shot of Neuschwanstein.

The choreography of some of the fights seems to be rather good, but you cannot really enjoy it, because of what I would call an “eye-witness camera perspective” – not quite “shaky-cam”, but half-way there. Most of the fights are filmed a bit too close; and with a line of sight that is often partially blocked by other combatants.

 

The frustrating thing is that BloodRayne is not an entirely horrible film. It has a feasible basic idea, is set in a promising world, and has a well-balanced and reasonably-sized set of characters. It is just that there has not been put enough work into any of these factors. Story and premise are ruined by a mediocre script and possibly by arbitrary editing. There is no convincing world-building that would allow you to immerse yourself in this world – instead, you just witness it from the outside which inevitably leads to you finding it pretty ridiculous. And the characters are not introduced to you in a way that would make you care for them or even understand their motivations. So there are the kernels of an acceptable fantasy film hidden in here somewhere, but it would have taken a different director to mould all of this into a workable end result.

With his energy and his ability to get projects off the ground and to get them done, Uwe Boll would probably be a great producer. And he might possibly even be a passable director, if only he could be kept on a short leash. He needs to be kept under tight control and be reigned in at times, in order to make sure that he overcomes his “that’s just good enough” attitude to so many aspects of his films. And someone needs to tell him that he is a work-horse, not an artist, and should stay away from the more creative aspects of his films. Script writer Guinevere Turner estimates that only 20% of her original script survived and that the rest was changed by Boll or made up on the fly during filming. And that is pretty much what this film looks like. Mind you, I don’t think we can let Turner entirely off the hook, given that certain short-comings, like the barely-disguised MacGuffins, are probably down to her original script.

 

As it stands, BloodRayne is not a good film, and calling it mediocre would be almost euphemistic. There is some effort made here by the A-list actors, but severely hampered by the mediocre script. The film does not look too bad to the naked eye, and you might be able to enjoy it a bit if you can keep your brain from questioning the plot or trying to understand every aspect of the story. It is not a complete disaster like Crimson Winter, but still quite shambolic. And I don’t think a rating higher than 3.5 or 4.0 out of 10 would be justified. Imdb’s current rating of 2.9 is harsh but fair and it would be difficult to argue that it is too low.

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