With the accolades of hate thrown onto his first two video game adaptations, House Of The Dead and Alone In The Dark, notorious filmmaker Uwe Boll has fast become one of the most despised director's in the industry today. Some how and for some reason, however, his films continue to be profitable and the man keeps working and with BloodRayne, his latest video game adaptation, he even managed to score an Oscar winner to play a fairly important part. The fates truly shine upon you, Uwe, and for this, bad movie fans the world over remain ever thankful.
The story centers around a vampire-human half-breed, referred to in the film as a dhampir, named Rayne (Kristanna Lokken of Terminator 3) who, when we first meet her, is being used as a circus freak. We soon learn that the head of the evil vampires, Kagan (Sir Ben Kingsley of Ghandi!!) killed her mother and that her life has kind of sucked ever since. When, in a fit of blood lust, Rayne escapes from the circus she runs off into the night to finally take solace at a monastery where, after talking shop with a monk (Udo Kier of Blood For Dracula) she absorbs a sacred eyeball that is one of three mystic talismans desired by Kagan and his henchmen, Domastir (William Sanderson of House Of The Dead) and Elrich (Billy Zane of Titanic).
Eventually Rayne meets up with a band of fighters lead by Vladmir (Michael Madson of Reservoir Dogs) and his two friends, Katarin (Michelle Rodriguez of Resident Evil) and Sebastian (Matthew Davis who starred alongside Steven Seagal in Into The Sun). We know these guys hate vampires because we've just seen them attack Leonid (Meat Loaf of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, a decadent bloodsucker with a taste for real, live Romanian hookers. After she proves that she means them know harm and shares their cause, they take her in and train her to fight evil. She proves to be a natural, which causes Katarin to become a little jealous of her and which causes Sebastian to hump her (gratuitous topless nudity alert)! After the soap operatics play out, it's time to bring the fight to Kagan and so our intrepid warriors head off to face him on his home turf, but there's more going on under the surface than meets the eye and there is a traitor in their midst.
As an adaptation of the video game, BloodRayne fails pretty miserably because it changes too many character traits in the lead and completely disregards important plot points in the source material. As a horror movie, BloodRayne also fails pretty miserably because it just isn't scary or even particularly suspenseful. When all things are seriously considered, BloodRayne is in fact a pretty bad film full of predictable characters, obvious plot twists, and dialogue that sounds like it was written by a twelve year old boy. But you know what? This reviewer had a blast with the film. Keep your expectations in check and know going in that this is a Uwe Boll film and don't start the movie expecting a serious piece of art and you might come away pleasantly surprised by the exploitative elements that feel like a throw back to the gore soaked films of the past. The movie has a very retro feel and the special effects from German splatter wunderkid Olaf Ittenbach (he of Premutos fame) really drive that home. There is a fair bit of CGI used in the film but not nearly so much as you'd think and the vast majority of the kills, or at least the good ones, are done the old fashioned way which was really nice to see. There's also the nekkid Kristanna Lokken factor, which cannot be overlooked. Her love scene with Davis isn't in the least bit erotic but she does shed her clothes to 'hop on pop' for a scene that goes on for a ridiculously long time involving sexual positions that are probably not physically possible for most people.
All of this cinematic nonsense is set to a really odd synth-pop score that sounds like it was recorded about twenty years ago by an ex-member of Tangerine Dream. It feels completely out of place, but at the same time, with Boll's 'everything but the kitchen sink' approach to this project, maybe it isn't so awkward after all. Half the fun of this one comes from thinking about the logic behind certain directorial decisions and questioning why they were made – the biggest 'huh' obviously coming from the film's ending. It's also a lot of fun to see Ben Kingsley simply sleepwalk through the film and to see Michael Madsen trying his damnedest to look like he knows what is happening around him. All of this while Lokken chops peoples heads off, screams a lot, and generally overacts.
BloodRayne is a train wreck, but it sure is a fun one.
So what does this un-rated director's cut add that wasn't in the theatrical version of the film? Well, it's been a while since this reviewer has seen the R-rated cut, but going by memory, it's mostly gore – and there's a fair bit of it put back in. Pay attention during almost all of the fight scenes and the strange ending where Rayne has her flashback and watch the chunks fly and the arterial spray paint the screen a bloody, crimson red. Olaf Ittenbach's early 'gore film' roots shine through in this scene and it's pretty fun stuff. While some might argue that additional splatter doesn't make the movie any better, there's enough of it here that thankfully that is not the case – with BloodRayne, the additional gore effects do make the movie better. It's still a bad film, please note that, but it's improved in this form and more enjoyable on a so-bad-it's-good level because of it.
The 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer has been matted down from the original 2.35.1 widescreen theatrical aspect ratio but thankfully the compositions aren't too compromised by this unusual choice. BloodRayne was not a super high budget movie and it lacks some of the gloss of similar films like, say for example, Underworld but the quality of the image on this DVD is pretty decent. There's some grain in spots and a little bit of mpeg compression in a few of the darker scenes but other than that the picture is decent, even when it's not perfect. Flesh tones look good though sometimes the colors look just a tad on the flat side. There isn't any print damage to report on but there is some slight edge enhancement in a few scenes that is difficult to overlook. For a recent film, this movie should have looked a little better than it does on this DVD but this is still a decent transfer, aspect ratio issues aside.
Although the back of the packaging has the DTS logo prominently displayed on the bottom near the specifications, there's no such DTS mix present anywhere on this release. Instead, we get a very mediocre English language Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound track that has a couple of problems, the primary one being that there are a couple of scenes where the dialogue comes at you from more than one speaker which gives a lot of the movie a strange echoey effect. This isn't throughout the entire film but you will definitely notice it when it happens. Bass levels could have been stronger as well, and because of that a couple of the fight scenes don't sound as powerful as we might have liked. That being said, you won't have any problems understanding the performers a the movie plays out, and the score does sound pretty decent on this DVD. It's just a shame that there are those scenes where the dialogue is spread out like that, as it does definitely sound very 'off.' Subtitles are available in English and in Spanish.
The first extra feature on the disc comes in the form of a director's commentary with Uwe Boll himself and he's joined throughout the discussion by performers William Sanderson and Kristanna Lokken, as well as producer Daniel Clarke. This is a pretty active, is slightly delusional, discussion of the film and its origins. Boll obviously hasn't' played through the games as he gets his facts wrong in a few spots throughout the talk, though he makes sure we all know that he is quite pleased with the way that the film turned out. The rest of the participants seem a little confused by Uwe at certain times during the discussion, and it almost seems like in spots Sanderson is making fun of him. That doesn't stop Uwe from ranting about how great certain aspects of the movie are, like Kingsley's death scene or some of the sexier moments in the movie. The man does seem to genuinely believe he's made a bit of a minor masterpiece this time out. In amongst the nuttiness that Boll provides there are some interesting conversations about more technically oriented details as they relate to the making of the movie. We hear how Boll had the title sequence done (he's also very proud of the opening credits) and where some of the location shooting took place It's a very strange blend of informative and flat out weird – those who enjoyed his discussions on Alone In The Dark and House Of The Dead know what to expect.
There are also two featurettes included on this disc, the first is entitled CGI Making The Film and as you might guess from the awkward sounding name, it's an examination of how computer generated special effects were used to 'alter the reality' of the movie and optimize some of the set pieces. We watch a few scenes, then we watch a few scenes play in reverse (?), and we're able to see what a difference the computers made to Boll's vision. It's moderately interesting though hardly anything we haven't seen before. Oddly enough, this five minute piece is silent. Weird.
The second featurette is entitled Dinner With Uwe Boll and it's a forty six minute discussion between the director and two writers from IGN. While this does have some good bits in it, unfortunately it's way too long and it's not edited down at all. Presented simply as one long piece of raw footage, there are too many spots that contain the dreaded 'dead air' where no one really has much to say, and there are too many spots that just aren't interesting. If you're willing to sit through the whole thing to get to the good parts you'll hear some interesting stories about Boll's filmmaking philosophies and some of the casting choices, but getting there can be a bit of a chore.
Rounding out the extra features on the first disc is the film's original theatrical trailer and a selection of storyboard artwork that is presented as a still gallery.
The second disc in this two disc set contains the complete version of the BloodRayne 2 video game in PC format on a DVD disc. Slap this puppy in your DVD-rom if you're so equipped and after a lengthy install process you'll be able to pretend Ben Kingsley is your vampire daddy while you fight evil in a leather bikini.
BloodRayne is silly, goofy stuff and it isn't scary in the least but you know what? It's still a whole lot of fun. This movie will probably disappoint most so keep that in mind when thinking about purchasing it but it really does work as a big dumb b-movie. It's got completely gratuitous nudity, gore galore, laughably horrible dialogue and ridiculous plot devices that all add up to a good time if you're in the mood for and able to appreciate something that is almost completely inept. Recommended for those who already know they like this material, everyone else would be best served by renting it first.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.