Tuesday, 31 March 2009

The Cheap-Arse Film Review #26- "BLOODRAYNE 2: DELIVERANCE."









PRICE £1.00

I love direct-to-video sequels to films that had theatrical releases, especially when I had no idea they existed in the first place, as was the case with "Home Alone 4," which I reviewed over Christmas. Did you know, for example, that there's a "Cruel Intentions 3?" I didn't. I knew there was a second one, but I didn't have a clue a third one existed until I found it in a charity shop recently (sadly too expensive to pick up. Seriously, £2.50 for "Cruel Intention 3?" I know it's for Cancer and all, but come on...). Even better, remember that movie from the early ninties, "The Cutting Edge?" The one that starred DB Sweeney as a hockey player that gets injured and becomes a figure skater? Well, that has two fucking sequels. No, I'm not lying, go to IMDb if you don't believe me. they were released in 2006 and 2008 respectively, well over a decade since the original came out. What could possibly have been the thought process behind that? What could have made somebody think, after all that time, the world needed another installment in that particular saga? So yeah, I hope to one day review all those, as I have "Home Alone 4," and as I am this. This one is a little bit different to most DTV follow-ups, though. With most diminishing returns, they lose absolutely everything people associated with the first one, from budget to cast to director. Here, whilst almost the entire original cast (including Sir Ben Kingsley, who is currently in his cycle of starrng in good movies in an attempt to make us forget he was in "Thunderbirds" and "The Love Guru") have seen sense and run for the hills, the original movie's director has stuck around.

And scarily, that man is Uwe Boll.

You don't need me to tell you who Uwe Boll is, if you like movies enough to give what I do a second look, you already know. You also don't need me to tell you that he's not a popular filmmaker, and has a, shall we say, combative relationship with his critics. There's also the long-standing theory that he makes the kind of films he does as an elaborate money-making scam. I don't really understand it myself, so I won't try explaining it here, and it should be easily-findable if you've never been exposed to it, written by people much smarter than me. However, if what these people say is true, then believe it or not, I'm not going to be that fast going after him with the pichforks and torches, because perhaps moreso than anyone else on The Internet, this writer respects your hustle, sir.

However, admiring a decent scam and enjoying the fruits of said scam are two very different things. Put delicately, his movies aren't very good. But again, I feel the need to say this... I actually think he's improving as a filmmaker. Now, before you start yelling at me, sit down and think about what I'm saying, and what he's improved from. Let's look at his most famous (though not his first, as some people seem to believe) film, "House of the Dead." I fucking hate that movie, and I'm not alone. It's on a very short list of films I've seen that don't have a single redeeming feature, and no, it's not even "so bad it's good." People throw that term around so much these days I don't think they know what it means anymore. Then we move onto "Alone in the Dark," which is pretty terrible too, although unlike the last one there are a few things to praise. For a start, whereas "House..." looked like a bad student film in all areas of production, this at least looked like a real movie. Sure, the stunts were wonky and the CGI looked nasty, but at least I got the sense that somebody cared. "So bad it's good" lovers were treated every time Tara Reed tried to act rather than stand around looking pretty (remember when she could do that? Poor Tara). And the ending was surprisingly good, like it'd been cut off another, better film and edited it onto this one. Skipping the first "Bloodrayne," which I've not seen, up next is the snappily-titled "In the Name of The King: A Dungeon Siege Tale." I wouldn't even call this one bad, if I'm honest. It's breathtakingly unoriginal, and the cinematography makes it look like somebody smeared shit all over the camera lense, but it's not a bad film, just a boring one, save for a couple of actually-quite-exciting fight scenes. And finally, "Postal," which isn't the last film he's made (he churns them out, I'll give him that), but is so far the last one I've had any exposure to. I've not seen the whole thing, but I've seen clips, and those... were funny. On purpose. I can't say for sure until I've sat down and watched it from beginning-to-end, but there's a good chance that this kind of film, the zany, gonzo, politically incorrect comedy, may be the type he's actually good at, the kind of stories he understands how to tell. Either that or he's just getting better as a director, possibly against his own will. I mean, if you do something consistantly for long enough, you're going to get better at it without even realising, aren't you? So I'm interested to see what I make of this one, as it came out the same year as "Postal" did and could make-or-break my whole theory.

The credits are nothing special, just Old West-style font over pictures of Frontiersmen doing Frontier things. Following a lush establishing shot of a forest and some snowy mountains, we meet Pyles (snigger...) played by Chris Coppola. No, not that Chris Coppola, the man responsible for "Creature." Don't feel too bad if you made that mistake, I did too, although I couldn't reconcile the pictures I've seen of Christopher Coppola with the man on my television. Let's just say they don't look alike and move one, I'm not opening that particular can of worms, especially due to the fact that I'm one of those worms. He's a reporter from the big city sent to the town of Deliverance to bring back stories of gunfights and crime, but sadly for him he seems to have been sent to the most boring new development in The West, with The Mayor (Michael Robinson) telling him how unexciting things are there, the only noteworthy thing being the new railway that will soon run through there, opening them up to outsiders. You can just see the disappointment on Pyle's face. You normally only see this kind of longing for bloodshed on the faces of newscasters. Then, we're whisked to a shack to meet a man, his wife and their two children, the father is unhappy, he and his wife have a conversation about how times are hard, and then suddenly A NOISE OUTSIDE! Alright, here we go, some excitement. The guy's all, "The fuckin' bear's back," he grabs his shotgun, goes outside and... we stay in the cabin with the wife and kids. Um, okay. Maybe we'll cut outside in a bit. then this strange hissing sound can be heard, and the man's wife decides to go outside to check on her husband. At this point I was torn between wanting to scream, "DON'T GO OUTSIDE YOU STUPID WOMAN! THE WIND IS HISSING AT YOU!" and egging her on because we might follow her. Only we don't, we stay with the kids, who get so scared they hide under the bed. No, don't go under the bed! Go outside! I want to know what's going on outside! Eventually what was outside comes inside, that being Billy the Kid (Zack Ward), who this movie has recast as an evil, centuries-old Vampire with an East European accent. He walks around the place a bit, then sits down at the table the family had just been eating at, his back to the boys. He starts talking to them, asking them if they miss they're parents already, and they they'll be with them soon. Then two seemingly-disinterested henchmen just casually stroll in, drag (or more accurately, gently help up) the boys out from under the bed, as they put up almost no struggle,and take them outside, as Billy sits at the table hissing, blood round his chops. I have to applaude the filmmakers for the previous scene, I really do. They took what is an inherently awesome concept (VAMPIRE COWBOYS!) and introduced it in boring, unexciting way. That takes a special level of anti-talent, to take something like that and totally suck the cool out of it. Well done. To be fair, they make a better impression the second time we see them, which is the next day when they take over the entire town of Deliverance, kidnap more children, then Billy goes toe-to-toe with the The Sheriff (John Novak), taking four bullets in the chest and biting him on the neck. See? That was bad-arse, that's what I want with a film featuring Vampire Cowboys. He then makes the Mayor his bitch just by looking at him, gets invited to stay at his house, and brings Pyles with him so he can "bare witness to the greatest story ever told." "The Lord of the Rings?" (CONFESSION: I had "The Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Women" here right up until just before I published this thing, then chickened out at the last moment)

It's after this, 15 minutes into this movie, that we finally meet the films hero and star, Rayne, played by Natassia Malthe, replacing Kristanna Loken. I recognised this woman the second I saw her on the box (which considering the amount of airbrushing going on was really impressive), but I couldn't place her. So off to IMDb I went to peruse he previous roles, and I've got tell you, the movies she's been in. When I think the best one on the list is "40 Days & 40 Nights," you're in trouble. There's was also a disturbing theme of her settling for Uwe Boll's leftovers, as she's also been in "Alone in the Dark 2" (which Boll didn't direct, but rather was replaced by two people, which amuses me because as it stands right now that film has a 4.4 quality rating, whereas the first one is at 2.2, meaning the doubling of directors also doubled the quality). Then I found the movie I'd seen her in before, and I felt like laughing and crying at the same time- she was one of Jennifer Love Hewitt's friends in "The Social Climber." This movie. The gift that keeps on giving. I suppose she's not too bad here, but she's not really asked to do much beyond scowl and deliver the occasional quick comeback. She also looks great in a cowboy hat.

Her destination is the shack the got attacked earlier, and as you'd expect, finding her friends dead and their children missing doesn't really sit well with her. As she grieves over the bodies, a man sneaks up behind her, and at knife-point tells her this was the work of Billy the Kid, that he's a "creature of the night." This man is played by Michael Pare, and as far as I can tell he's the lone cast member from the original movie returning for this one. He's not playing the same character as he did their though. His character isn't named in this scene, and as far as I can tell it's not mentioned until right at the very end, where it's casually thrown out that he's Pat Garret. Yes, that Pat Garret, recast as a demon hunter. This movie could have been so fucking cool.

He tells her that the children have probably been taken to Deliverance, which is where Rayne heads off to next. She arrives at nightfall, and instead of the quite little town we saw before, it's now buzzing with life, especially the bar, which has a new air of menace about it, mostly down to one man, Flintlock Hogan (Mike Dopud), one of Billy's Vampire goons, as he harasses waitresses, tells stories of killing men, even shooting a pint glass out of Pyles' hand (which he loves, as he seems to all of this). He's got a dirty mouth on him too, even going so far as to call Rayne the "C" word. It's his use of the word "cocksucker," or variations thereof, that made my ears prick up (no pun intended). He uses it three times, and by the last one I couldn't help think to myself, "Okay, I get it, you've seen "Deadwood." Well done." The funny thing is, as anybody who's seen Charlie Brooker's excellent show "Screenwipe" could tell you, the foul language in that show was a stylistic choice made by the creative team, done to replace the milder period curses that would more likely be used with modern one in order to help the audience connect with the earthiness and anarky of those times. So, not only have the writers ripped off a product of higher quality than they could ever hope to create, but in doing so they've managed to make their movie even less authentic without even realising it, probably.

Flintlock and Rayne have a confrontation after he flirts with her in his own distinctive style (sexual assault), and we discover they have a history, which begs the question of why he didn't recognise her the second she walked in. Rather than kill him though, she briefly give him a stay of execution and even plays Poker with him and boys (one of whom is an Irishman so stereotypical that he may as well be three feet tall and wearing green). Of course the game turns nasty when she whups them all, and soon things are taken outside to be settled with bullets, the cocky Flintlock saying he's not afraid of Rayne, as since they last met he's fought, amongst other things, "Chinamen and Ninjas." VAMPIRE COWBOYS VERSUS NINJAS! THIS MOVIE I WANT TO SEE! Sadly I'm currently stuck with this one. Despite his tough talk, she dispatches with him and his friends rather quickly, using bullets treated with garlic and Holy Water. This angers The Sheriff, who since we last saw him has been Vampirized, and he has Rayne arrested and announces she'll be hung before the night is out. She decides this is bullshit and tries to escape, taking out two of his deputies, the music swells heroically... and then the Sheriff hits her on the head with his gun, knocking her out. Well, that was embarrassing.

Whilst in the jailhouse, she meets Muller (Brendan Fletcher), who had also come to town looking to take out Billy, and also like her is a Brimstone, as disinguished by his necklace. It's never explained what being a Brimstone is or entails, which frustrated the hell out of me. I know I just got done savaging "Camp Blood 2" for having too many flashback and exposition scenes, but there's got to be a happy medium between always filling us in on past history all the time, and totally ignoring it. There has to be. They talk for a while, and figure out Billy's plan, that when the railroad is finished he'll have a constant stream of people coming in to turn and thus build up his army, keeping the town as normal as possible between then and now by having his people only feed on the children he's kidnapped. It's an interesting plan, but there are holes in it, the main one being the idea of feeding on the children. There are loads of Vampires walking around at this point, and as far as I can tell they only have something like seven or eight kids stashed away (minus one for the little girl Billy later eats, in a scene that actually managed to shock me, because I didn't think they'd have the guts to show him killing a child), so they would surely run out long before the railroad would be finished, and then what?

Then Muller dies by being hung. Again, this shocked me, because I didnt think they'd go to all the trouble of introducing a new character who had important information and ambiguous ties to our heroine's backstory, and then kill him off roughly ten minutes later, but that's exactly what happens, and I can't decide if this is good or bad. It's something, that's for sure. So the time comes for Rayne to hang, but as everybody's busy faffing around, she slips out of her cuffs, does some damage, before diving into the water, which Vampires can't cross (even though they're not supposed to be able to enter people's homes uninvited, and they regularly break that rule throughout this thing), taking bullets as she does so, and having to be pulled out of the water by Garret. The next day, after we're treated to a shot of two Native Americans in a canoe for no apparent reason, was see Rayne lying on the ground by the river being tended to by Garret. We then finally get some backstory on her, that she's half-Vampire, a Dhampir, and that the only thing that can heal her wounds quickly is blood. Taking one for the team, Garret then cuts his arm and les the blood drip into her mouth, which gets her all excited to the point that he has to beat her away and tell her off like a bad puppy. And what does she say to him after he pretty much saves her life. "You could've used a cup." There's gratitude for you.

With Rayne on the mend, they decide the best way to save the town is to assemble a crew of people themselves. and by "crew," I mean two other people. The first is known simply as The Preacher (Michael Eklund), a sleazy, vaguely camp man they find in a church giving a fire-and-brimstone sermon, warning of the dangers of things like "the moist, warm lips between a virgin's thighs," before encouraging his flock to give all their money to him so that he may save them, which they all do, with the exception of Rayne and Garret, who just put his folded-up wanted poster in there. They then say they won't turn him in if he agrees to help them fight Vampires and... he agrees. Just like that. Even the characters are surprised. The next person they recruit is Slime Bag Franson (Michael Teigen)(how many Michaels are there in this thing?)(I just went and counted- four. Five if you count Mike Dopud), who they find in a whorehouse. Rayne works her magic on him this time around, pretending to be a hooker and dancing around, with him liking what he sees so much he exclams, "I don't know where to start, the top or the bottom!" I often have the same dilemma. This is the only scene where Malthe gets to exhibit a positive facial expression, and man does she make the most of it. It's like she's so sick of frowning all the time that she's genuinely happy to do something else. She's adorable, frankly. It doesn't last long though, as she mounts him and shoves her gun in his mouth (sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, folks) and gets him to agree to help them pretty much through fear of death. He then asks if they're still going to fuck. I like this guy.

With the gang all together, the prepare themselves by all becoming honourary Brimstone members (although Garret may have been one all along, as this is the first scene we see him wearing the Brimstone necklace, and he doesn't need to be given it by Rayne like the other two do. Again, this is never explained). And by having Preacher bless the water to turn it into Holy Water so they can coat their bullets with it. I couldn't make up my mind whether or not Preacher actually was a man of God. At first it seemed like he was only running a scheme, as he curses and kills, and he even nails a hocker at the whorehouse. But here he is doing this for them. So I guess he really is a Preacher just a bad one. And you have to wnder how much weight the words of a man who's Holy in name only actually carries. So anyway, the head back to town, where everybody else is still too scared to do anything (with good reason, if you ask me), and all Hell breaks loose. Well, sort of. This is easily the most action-packed section of the film, but even here things just feel a bit flat and unexciting, which isn't helped by the constant use of slooooooow moooooootion. Boll has a tendancy to fall in love with certain tricks and special effects, and he was really into slowing down time when he made this one. At least there's no Bullet Time. Preacher and Slime Bag die within minutes, it's worth pointing out, so they were worth bringing in. I like how useless all the heroes are in this thing- The Sheriff gets bit, Rayne gets knocked out and shot, her new friend from the prison cell gets hung, and now these two. Even the cowardly Mayor gets shot the second he grows a pair. These are really people worth rooting for. There's one good bit, where Rayne bursts into the room where the kids are being held, only to find them all hanging from nooses rigged to a trap that sprang to life the second she opened the door, forcing here to stay where she is holding the rope in order to stop them all dying. It's quite ingenius really, and one of the kids actually does die because of it, and is then fed on by Billy, as he attempts to goad Rayne into letting go of the rope and joining him. It's spoilt however by how long it goes (over five bloody minutes!), and in the end all she does is jump and cut all the ropes with her blade. Couldn't she have done that right at the start, before the boy died and Billy had a chance to feel up on her?

The fight between the two is now on, and it's quite an intense showdown, but like everything else, it goes on too long and is plagued with slooooooow moooooootion. The end is at least cool, with Garret cutting Billy down with A GATLING GUN and Rayne sticking a stake in him. The surviving kids return to their families, and the next day, Rayne leaves to travel to Tombstone to help Wyatt Earp deal with The Clinton Gang (who are also Vampires in this awesome, awesome universe), leaving the town in the hands of Garret and Pyles, who is inexplicably the new Sheriff. The movies last line? "Newton, life is like a penis- when it's hard you get screwed, when it's soft you can't beat it." Actually that's not the last line, the last line is Pyles saying, "I gotta right that down!" So have I?

So, does this movie aide me in my theory that Boll improves with every movie he makes? Well... yes and no. It's better than "House of the Dead" and "Alone in the Dark," I don't think saying that would get me into too much trouble. But it still falls foul of the sins that blighted "In the Name of The King," that being terminal dullness, and here you don't have the big name actors to distract you or the occasional fun fight to break things up. The acting is either hammy or vacant, the script outright drops the ball several times with regards to logic (how come tere were any humans left in the town? Why didn't Billy have them all changed?), and don't even get me started on the presentation. Actually, do- the film has some of the most distracting, shakey camera work I've ever seen. You know when you can tell this is happening intentionally, that the director wanted it that way stylistically, so as to give the film a kinetic energy? Well, that wasn't what they were going for here, I'm sure of it, it's just a case of the guy holding the damn thing couldn't stop twitching. Maybe he was bervous, and if that's the case I hope he never works on a big picture, otherwise he may cause an Earthquake.



No, I haven't emptied my bin since the last time. It was only three days ago. STop shaking your head at me, you're not my Mother.

Until next week (thankfully), I'm The Cheap-Arse Film Critic, and where the hell are you from? Krypton?

(PS- First Killer Film review up here. Y'know, just incase you want to read it. Again, for some of you.)

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