Schlock wave

By: Brian Crecente

Uwe Boll makes movies everyone hates.

And he won’t stop.

While the German-born director’s ability to turn a mediocre video game into a truly reviled film is notorious, what will likely cement his position forever in the hearts and hatred of gamers worldwide is his ability to keep making them.

BloodRayne, Boll’s latest film which opened earlier this month, hit half as many theaters as expected, but possibly 985 more than it needed to, if you listen to the critics. They trashed the film as a plotless bloodfest and referred to Boll as one of the worst filmmakers working today.

Despite the critical feeding frenzy Boll’s flicks spur, he manages to remain upbeat about his next video-game movie . . . and his next, and his next.

He is, in fact, so busy that he recently told the Rocky Mountain News he may have to start turning away projects.

Getting started

Boll’s first video-game movie, House of the Dead, came about as an accident.

“I got the script of House Of The Dead and thought that I always wanted to do a zombie movie,” he said. “That it was based on a video game was secondary. After the movie was a success I kept going with that idea of video game-based movies.”

Success is relative. While the movie, based on an arcade lightgun game, made only $13.8 million in theaters, that was more than it cost to make. Boll wasn’t happy with the end product, but it helped him realize the power of creating a movie based on a video game.

Game fans are “sensitive about these movies,” he said. “But the reality is that I think video games are very good, in a way like a book or a comic, as a foundation for a movie.

“You have a lot of settings, wardrobes, costumes, production design, fighting style, the mood of a game, some character story points to work with. So to have a video game as the basis for the movie is not only a promotional thing, but also it can have a lot of things you actually can use to help create a script.”

For his second video-game movie, Alone in the Dark, Boll felt he had more creative control, but still wasn’t pleased with the end result. Nor were critics, with The New York Times suggesting that the movie should have gone straight to video, or perhaps the trash can.

By the time he was ready to make BloodRayne, Boll felt he had all of his ducks in a row.

He picked the writer and was happy with the end result.

But the day the film opened, half of the theaters decided not to show it.

“He was extremely frustrated,” said Jim Schramm, founder, president and CEO of Romar Entertainment, the film’s distributor. “He was furious.”

A full week after its disappointing showing at theaters (and, again, with critics), Boll still managed to find a silver lining.

“I think a lot of reviews (of my movies), like Alone in the Dark, were personally insulting, but not BloodRayne,” he said. “I read bad reviews on BloodRayne and good reviews and medium reviews.

“Of course there are things in BloodRayne you can criticize, but I could also do that with Brokeback Mountain.”

Shaking off the criticism

Boll is unshaken by his reputation for making films panned by both the movie and gaming communities.

“I can’t do anything about it,” he said. “I want people to see my movies and they should look into my movies and they should judge on their own.”

Boll says it’s him and not his movies that critics don’t like.

Chris Carle, entertainment editorial manager for gaming site IGN.com, thinks Boll’s theory may have some merit.

“I think what’s happened is that a lot of people have glommed onto the Uwe Boll name and they have kind of demonized him on the Internet,” he said. “Everybody has taken pot shots at him.

“I think he is trying to make fun genre movies.”

Carle, who says he loved House of the Dead, thinks Boll is a victim of the video-game movie genre and not the other way around.

“I don’t think he’s a terrible director,” said Carle, pointing to three earlier films he made before he started using games as inspiration. “He’s a person that has stepped into some projects that made him look less productive than he is.”

The gaming crowd that’s now his target audience is a “very vocal, very, very demonizing audience,” Carle said. “They definitely want their opinion known.”

Boll’s true abilities may lie more in his skill at raising cash for his films than in using that money to create watchable movies.

An hour on the phone with Boll can leave you thinking that perhaps you were wrong after all, perhaps his movies – even those that cast Tara Reid as an archaeologist or tell the story of zombies hanging out at a rave – aren’t that bad, just misunderstood.

“He’s very personable, very honest,” Carle said. “He’s quick to laugh, he’s a fun guy to hang out with.”

Schramm, whose company distributed BloodRayne, said he was so charmed by Boll that he ended up putting some of his own money into promoting the film.

“He is so serious about making sure his investors are taken care of, that his actors are taken care of . . . he’s more interested in that than anything at all,” he said.

Word has gotten out, Schramm says, that Boll is a good guy to work for.

Branching out – eventually

Although Boll says he plans to make more than just video-game movies, he still has several in the works and a few more he’s eyeing.

He’s in post-production for In the Name of the King, based on the role-playing PC game Dungeon Siege, and is writing the script for Postal. After those he plans to start work on Far Cry.

Others in the industry have approached him about several other video-game movies as well, most famously one based on the popular Metal Gear Solid franchise. But Boll doesn’t know when he’ll have the time to get to them.

“Look, I’m super busy,” he said. “I can do three movies in two years . . . so the earliest time I could do Hitman or Metal Gear Solid would be the fall of 2007.”

For now, Boll’s busy talking up his latest movie, the 145-minute-long In the Name of the King.

He refers to Oscar-winners like Braveheart, Gladiator and the Lord of the Rings trilogy while talking about the film. And he points out that the game developers, Gas Powered Games, had a lot of input in the movie’s creation, a first in Boll’s experience.

The developer decided to go with Boll despite his notoriety because he seemed the most passionate, said Jeremy Snook, spokesman for Gas Powered Games.

“Passion goes a long way for us,” Snook said.

Gas Powered isn’t concerned about his previous failures because his other movies were “so low-budget,” he added.

“I think BloodRayne was his first budget over $10 million. The Dungeon Siege budget is over $60 million, so we have high hopes for the film.”

Vince Desi has equally high hopes for Boll’s upcoming film based on his game, Postal.

Desi – outspoken founder of Running with Scissors, creator of what is considered the most violent mainstream game in history – contends things will be different when Boll creates a movie based on his game.

“You look at Christian Slater and Tara Reid (in Alone in the Dark), they couldn’t give a (expletive) about the movie,” he said. “My approach is very straightforward. If you want to be part of this project you are going to work your (expletive) off . . . ”

But Desi also makes it clear he’ll keep a close eye on how Postal is produced.

“Boll’s a good-hearted guy, but he’s in Hollywood and I wouldn’t trust those people with a dead body.”

Desi, who has watched all of Boll’s earlier game films, is quick to say that Boll’s past failures won’t be repeated with his movie.

“I think Postal is going to be his best property,” he said. “The reason is, you know, Postal is sarcastic, current-day Americana, pop culture.”

“I think Postal will afford Uwe the best opportunity to break out of his mold.”

The Postal games were most notorious for their over-the-top-depiction of random and seemingly senseless violence, like dousing a marching band with gasoline and setting them ablaze.

Desi says that much of this was created as a form of deliberately absurd satire.

The games aren’t sold in many U.S. stores and were temporarily banned in 13 countries.

So far, only Gary Coleman has been cast for the movie, to play himself. And the story, Desi says, will likely be original instead of one plucked from the games.

Desi identifies with Boll, and sees the ultimate product of this newly formed friendship as being something transcendent.

“In a weird way Uwe Boll in Hollywood is a lot like Vince Desi in the gaming industry,” Desi says. “We are both outcasts, we both have reputations for being . . . different.

“Postal is going to be a big film. It’s going to be around for a long time.”

And so too, it seems, will Uwe Boll.

This story originally appeared in The Rocky Mountain News on Jan 27, 2006.

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