News broke this week that Uwe Boll, the less-likable, modern-day Ed Wood, has more or less retired from filmmaking following the release of Netflix project Rampage: President Down, and he is now running a successful restaurant in Vancouver. It has nothing to do with a sudden realization that he’s an all-time awful filmmaker, of course; like all deluded national treasures, he’s still convinced he’s a genius.
Boll has dealt mainly in unconscionably bad adaptations of so-so video games and consistently retaliates against his critics, which only pushes them to criticize him further. In 2007, he responded to a negative review from Wired by telling the author to “go to your mum and fuck her … because she cooks for you now since 30 years … so she deserves it.” In 2015, during the production of Rampage: President Down, he released a scathing YouTube response to a petition that was started in an effort to stop his crowdfunding efforts and career altogether; Its title? “fuck you all”, which is a message that could just as easily apply to his work’s regard for its audience or film in general.
There is something about Boll that feels simultaneously more pure and more sinister than Tommy Wiseau, who in recent years has been tainted with the scourge of self-awareness. Now that he’s gone full Howard Hughes (without any of the talent or money or hot women), I decided to watch the worst of his worst according to Rotten Tomatoes and pray that a letter from Boll telling me to fuck myself is in the mail.
Cinema Crime #1: In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale
Described as a German-Canadian-American action-fantasy film, those are the only five words in this movie that make sense in a sentence together. Studded with some bamboozled or desperate white men — the Jason Statham, Ray Liotta, Ron Perlman trifecta — In the Name of the King had a budget of $60 million, 75 percent of which seems to have gone to maintaining Statham’s buzzcut. The source material is completely irrelevant, but it’s a 2002 Microsoft computer game, a big hit in its time but largely forgotten by the movie’s 2007 release.
King is one long, confusing, occasionally boom pole-in-the-shot fight scene that was even worse than the recent Dungeons & Dragons adaptation, so here’s what I could make of the plot: Statham is a man known as Farmer (whose actual name is Camden Konreid) and was adopted by Ron Perlman, whose name isn’t relevant to the story. Fast-forward what looks like 40 years based on Statham’s craggy old-road-map face (but is really about 25 years), Farmer has acquired a hot wife and a son named Zeph who eventually dies. The passing elicits an unconvincing scream of despair from Farmer (or Camden Konreid, it hardly matters). We can safely assume that Zeph is the luckiest character in the story, because he is dead, and therefore doesn’t have to be involved in this world any longer.
Ray Liotta functions as one of my favorite bad characters, the aging actor who isn’t sure if he’s in a movie or a vivid and terrifying lucid dream. He’s the ostensible villain of the film, and his nemeses include Matthew Lillard (Shaggy) and Burt Reynolds, who is a king and maybe Farmer’s real dad.
Eventually, the movie ends. Farmer and his hot wife are reunited, sans son, and no one seems to care.
Cinema Crime #2: BloodRayne
Ah, yes, an adaptation of a video game that almost no one remembers, which is too bad, because maybe the film would have gotten some attention, and all press is good press. While BloodRayne is another middling PC game brought to life, which seems to be Boll’s expertise if you could call making bad movies based on mediocre games an expertise.
In any case, Boll manages to court yet another cast comprised entirely of people who may have been in trouble with the IRS and needed cash fast; this time, it was Michael Madsen, Billy Zane, and Meat Loaf. It’s also one of the few Boll films that boasts a female protagonist (played by Kristanna Loken), and the director takes out what anyone could have guessed is a bizarre, raw rage at women on Ms. Loken, all while forcing her to display ample cleavage. It’s got everything: vampires that don’t drink blood, a deformed monk, steampunk freak shows, and Billy Zane. It’s almost good enough to hate-watch, but it can’t quite get there due to sympathy for poor Loken.
Playing the role of “older actor who might think that he’s volunteering at his great grandson’s nativity play but is actually, regretfully in a Uwe Boll movie” is Academy Award-winner Ben Kingsley. I can guarantee that it would be news to him that he played a character named Kagan, King of Vampires. I can also guarantee that Meat Loaf is incredibly proud of the fact that he played a character named Leonid, a hedonistic vampire lord.
Cinema Crime #3: House of the Dead
If you thought that we were getting through Uwe Boll’s worst movies without an obligatory zombie movie, grow up. This movie, based on a Sega arcade game, starts in a place that’s near and dear to my heart: horny teenagers at a rave being murdered. After the first half-hour, it loses all steam, integrating a Spanish priest from the 15th century that’s inexplicably tied to the emerging zombie narrative that swallows the movie whole.
It is at this point in my marathon that I began to lose heart. At 45 minutes in, I needed to take a walk. At 46 minutes, I needed to take a shower. At 47 minutes, I had to call my ex-lovers in a desperate attempt to do anything else. Then I took a Xanax, and the rest is darkness.
Cinema Crime #4: Alone in the Dark
If Alone in the Dark wasn’t engineered specifically to get a 1 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, I don’t know what is. Starring a puffy, defeated Christian Slater doing his damndest and Tara Reid as, and I shit you not, a scientist, this movie is loosely based on a semi-successful video game series that ran throughout the ‘90s. Nearly every scene in this film involves Slater talking to a tertiary character who provides exposition while his character, Edward Carnby, repeats that he’s a paranormal investigator who lost memories from the first ten years of his life.
As with all movies with a white male paranormal investigator at its helm, a vague plotline about the ancient Mayans emerges that somehow connects to how Christian Slater’s character had his memory wiped when he was a kid, but from what I could tell is never fully explained. Were I to hazard a guess, Boll conducted a meeting where every Nic Cage action movie was screened and said, “Okay, so the Mayans. Put it in the outline. We’ll improvise. No research. Good work, let’s go to Panera Bread.”
Of all his storied disasters, though, Alone in the Dark is the most fun to watch - it’s a virtual attack on the senses and the intelligence of the audience in every way, and is so terrible that it almost, almost justifies the fact that a sequel was produced.
So here lies Uwe Boll’s career: unimpressive, uninspired, and mercifully, discontinued.