[13 January 2006]
PopMatters Contributing Editor
BloodRayne is a movie of unconnected plot dots. In the hands of director Uwe “German Tax Dodge” Boll, a simple sword and sorcery story with vampiric overtones turns into genre-jumping attempts to find an audience. This incredibly crappy movie mixes unequal parts blood and guts action, mediocre macabre, dungeons-and-dragons fantasy, video game variables (complete with hidden “clues” and set stages of conquest), and a smidgen of softcore porn.
Boll’s style is erratic, to say the least. He overcranks a sequence to mimic a Gladiator fight scene, adds handheld histrionics to make the viewer “feel” part of the battle, then loads the camera onto a helicopter to recall the epic mountain vistas of Lord of the Rings. When he’s not stealing outright from other films, Boll uses only two shots. We are either in so tight that we can count the pores on Kristianna Loken’s cheekbones, or so far away that horse and rider become topographical tidbits.
Rayne (Loken) is a “dhampire” (half vampire, half human) who has been passing the time as a sideshow freak. A group of undead assassins (led by Michael Madsen and featuring Michelle Rodriguez) decide to take her back to their secret castle keep. There they will prepare for an all-out war with Eurotrash villain Kagan (Ben Kingsley), who wants three sacred talismans that will help him rule the world. Rayne holds the key to capturing these magic lucky charms. As she learns to kick ass with a couple of impractical swords, blood flows and subplots sink, all leading to the final confrontation between evil and… sort of evil.
Though the script was supposedly written by Guinevere Turner (scribe of Go Fish and American Psycho), it rips off those improbable peplums that Sam Arkoff and AIP used to make for drive-ins. But instead of Hercules, we get several surprising cameos: Meatloaf runs the world’s only vampire brothel, his big wig matching his scenery-chewing turn. Billy Zane calls one of his pages a “suck-up” and Geraldine Chaplin besmirches the family name as an exposition-supplying oracle. With Michael Paré as a butcher/blacksmith and Udo Kier as a determined monk, the movie is like an Irwin Allen celebrity “disaster.”
The main special effect is something called the “slash and spray”—a sword slice across the torso that causes a fountain-like torrent of arterial goodness. Unlike Quentin Tarantino’s “House of Blue Leaves” sequence in Kill Bill (from which this movie lifts its female swordplay), rapid-fire editing hides the most hideous harms. Still, there’s a decent shot of a blade to the eye, and a gaping neck or two.
The film’s video game source might explain some other elements, including the occasional sex (Rayne diddles one of her captors for no apparent reason, except that she’s had a bad dream, and Meatloaf runs a cathouse), spree killing, and Goth whores with incredibly loose morals. All this makes BloodRayne the cinematic equivalent of a Whitesnake album—all fist-pumping poses and headbanging bombast. Except that the source is based in the 1930s.
During the film’s first half, Rayne meets up with what looks like a humanoid pile of putrefying suet with a sledgehammer. They trade blows, then Rayne enters the secret chamber to face a series of Indiana Jones-like booby traps. You can almost feel your hands beginning to take on the familiar vice-like controller grip as she deftly defeats these perilous puzzles, one by one.
The movie makes up new vampire rules (non-holy water hurts the undead, wounds regenerate after drinking blood) and offers nothing new even in terms of vampire makeup (all these blood-drinkers are from the Buffy school of wrinkled brow beasties). BloodRayne seems the entertainment equivalent of a sugar-addicted adolescent with ADD.
Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/bloodrayne-2006/