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Underworld Evolution and BloodRayne

MovieHype00635 – Bite Me

I had the opportunity to view a couple of Vampire flicks this week; UNDERWORLD EVOLUTION and BLOODRAYNE (both in theatres). I thought I’d review them together, since they’re similar in genre, yet so different in execution.



00635 – UNDERWORLD EVOLUTION

[Before tackling the sequel, you’ll want to have seen the first film. Hyperion Reviewed UNDERWORLD back in 2003.]

I avoided reading the reviews for the new UNDERWORLD sequel, but I couldn’t help seeing the headlines: terrible all around. This was disheartening to me, but then I pulled out my old review of the first film (see above); one of my favorite reviews I’ve ever written. The critics trashed that version as well, and I loved it.

I realize I’m not responsible for 100% of UNDERWORLD’S success, but I did try to get a lot of people to watch it, and now it seems like many I talk to are into the film; a cult favorite, almost. That makes me feel good, like I’m a small part of the machine.

Part 2 is a sequel in every sense of the word. You remember SCREAM 2, where the rules of sequels were spelled out? More violence, more blood, more sex. Of course, these things alone don’t make for a good movie, but they can’t hurt.

The initial UNDERWORLD told the story of an ages-old feud between Death Dealers (Vampires) and Lycans (Werewolves). As much as I loved it, the plot was pretty confusing. EVOLUTION has upped the ante, bringing in an entirely new branch of the mythology (kind of like how MATRIX RELOADED did), and many more characters.

(At one point Derek Jacobi shows up, and we have no idea who or what he’s supposed to be. Military? Referee in the ongoing war? Maybe he just wandered down the hall some Elizabethan drama. Whatever. It’s good to have him!)

Hyperion’s Rating System

Suspension of Disbelief (out of 10): 10. No way Kate Beckinsale fits in that suit.

Genre Grade: I guess this is a monster/horror/goth/vampire movie? B-/C+.

Sex/Violence? Plenty of violence, blood and gore. Some nudity too, but if you’re offended by that, you’re clearly in the wrong movie.

Family Film? A world of no.

Asskickingness: There’s some good ass kicking going on here, if not quite as much as the original. 68.

Pantheon Percentile (where the film ranks in all movie-dom, as a percentage of the movies it’s better than): I gave UNDERWORLD a 70. Part 2 gets a 55.

At the heart of the story is Kate Beckinsale (Selene) and Scott Speedman. I wrote in part 1 that I could never get into Speedman, partly because he looks so much like the lead singer of Creed. For my money, he also can’t act too well. Chicks seem to like him, though. Kate Beckinsale is in her familiar latex/leather power outfit, which is always nice to see. (Although: the whole point of that outfit is to induce lust, and seeing as how we already saw it, you’d think the filmmakers might come up with something different this time around.)

Part 1 was completely devoid of sex, and this time that’s fixed, with a nice sex scene and a Vampire Ménage á Trois. Although—and I don’t mean to complain—the sex scene is filmed in such low lighting that it’s kind hard to tell what you’re seeing. (Is that a boob or a shoulder? Who can say?)

I told you there was more blood, but I need to reemphasize this. The gore factor is kicked up at least 3 notches. Why this is, I’m not sure, but if you’re squeamish, take note.

The cinematography is the same flattened blue-tone, which still is cool, but also can come across as dirty. Additionally, it makes it really hard to tell who’s fighting who when the enemies aren’t Transformered into Vamp or Wolfie attire. (Makes you understand why the Geneva Conventions insist on uniforms.)

I would definitely say that EVOLUTION is not as good as the original. One of my rules for judging sequels is to imagine I’d seen the film first. (Apart from plot confusion.) Would I be as blown away by the visuals? I think I would have, for the most part. We don’t get that great Vampire Mansion or the train scenes, but there is a subterranean scene that involves a lot of water and a helicopter. (Any time a helicopter shows up you know there’s going to be some Indiana Jones-like action.)

But I didn’t like the added mythology. I would prefer a simpler tale. Nor did I like upping the ante by giving one of the Vampire wings. To me, they looked and acted way too much like praying mantis pinchers than actual wings.

But I’d still say UNDERWORLD EVOLUTION is a worthy, or near-worthy sequel. Considering how most sequels suck eggs, I would think most fans of the original won’t be disappointed.



00636 – BLOODRAYNE

Realistically speaking, BLOODRAYNE isn’t the worst movie ever made. But it’s pretty damn close.

I knew absolutely nothing about the BloodRayne mythology going in. I found out that it’s a video game, based on a dhampir, which is apparently the offspring of a vampire and a human. (I’ve never seen the BLADE movies, but I have seen VAMPIRE HUNTER D, and I’m guessing this is the same thing.) BloodRayne is a moderately popular/important video game, enough so that the protagonist (Rayne) had her video image in Playboy a couple of years ago:

Profile:
Height: 5 ft 11 in (1.80 m); 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m) in her heels
Measurements: 36-22-36
Heritage: Dhampir (Half human, half vampire)
Hobbies: Hunting Nazis, arcane occult rituals, martial arts
Favorite food: Blood sausage
Turn-ons: Men in uniform, big blades, leather, bite marks
Turn-offs: Sunlight, hairy backs


Sounds like my kind of woman. The movie is directed by Uwe Boll (pronounced oo-vah bowl, in case this comes up in conversation),and from the Internet I gather he’s one of the worst-regarded directors of all time. (Called “Ed Wood without the talent.”)

I have zero problems believing this. BLOODRAYNE is one of the worst directed films I have ever seen. The editing is choppy and sloppy. The fight scenes don’t look choreographed, there is zero blocking for the characters (to give their words meaning), and the score runs virtually throughout, which kind of makes the music meaningless.

In fact, the film is so terrible, that I’m kind of in awe how Boll got big-name actors to star. Kristanna Loken (or TERMINATOR fame) is Rayne, and you have to feel sorry for her. She’s got a nice body, which is shown to us in a midriff-baring bustier tank top. (I mention this because everyone else is wearing traditional 1850s Romanian garb, and they never bother to explain why she’s not. I guess it doesn’t matter.)

Loken cannot act, but she at least looks good jumping around. Billy Zane shows up for a couple of scenes; the point of which I have no idea. Meat Loaf is there too. (More on him in a minute.) Michael Madsen is one of the main characters, and he CLEARLY doesn’t care. Madsen has done some good work lately, so I know he’s capable of it. Makes you wonder how a director could let a performance so obviously phoned-in survive.

Then there’s Michelle Rodriguez, recently of LOST fame. (She’s Ana-Lucia.) Rodriguez gives us the same single expression as on the island, which leads me to conclude it’s really the only expression she has. At least she tries. (However, I must point out that while Madsen is called “Vladimir,” in Romania, he does not attempt an accent whatsoever, whereas Michelle Rodriguez, clearly of Latin blood, speaks with an English accent. Well, tries to. Words can’t express the wrongness of this. As one IMDB commenter put it, “It’s like Patrick Stewart playing a Redneck.”

And who is the bad guy? Ben Kingsley! Oh Ben, oh, Ben: lama sabachthani! We’re talking about one of the top ten actors alive, maybe even in the top three, and then he shows up in dreck like BLOODRAYNE and THUNDERBIRDS? Explain that to me.

I’ve sort of glossed over the horror, so let me take a minute to tell you in no uncertain terms that BLOODRAYNE lives up to its title: there truly is a rain of blood. If gore bothers, you, be warned. But perhaps worse than the gore, is the hair. Every single male character had such bad hair that I think it HAD to be a joke. Billy Zane looks like he stole a William Shatner rug, from somewhere around 1980. I am absolutely positive that Michael Madsen had Daniel Day-Lewis’s hairpiece from LAST OF THE MOHICANS. There’s this dude with a racetrack shaved into his head…and then there is Ben Kingsley’s wig. It almost makes you wonder if there are pictures out there of Ben Kingsley making out with Rosie O’Donnell, and Ewe Boll has the negatives.

Suspension of Disbelief (out of 10): 10. I can buy bloodlusty vampires and half-breed scions, but no way am I buying that hair.

Genre Grade: monster/horror/goth/vampire movie? F.

Sex/Violence? When is there not?

Family Film? If your family would sit down to watch this, I don’t want to meet them.

Asskickingness: There is one cool scene, underwater, until you remember that earlier in the film they made a point of how dhampirs can’t stand water. That negates any ass kicking that’s going on.

Pantheon Percentile: I assume there are worse movies out there, but there can’t be many. 1.

There is sex, although not as much as I’d have hoped for. (I read phrases like “copious amount of nudity” attached to this film, but that didn’t happen.) One scene involves Rayne having sex up against prison bars, ripping off her bustier not for the act itself, but just so the director can get some nipple-cam close-ups.

The other scene involves Meat Loaf. Not Meat Loaf naked (that WOULD make it the worst movie ever), but Meaty playing a dandy of a vampire (with hair taken from Ben Franklin, maybe?) surrounded by 30 naked women.

When I first heard about this I was concerned. I’m not the squeamish type, but it just seems to me that 30 naked women writhing around on the floor would produce….hygiene issues. However, the scene was tastefully done (as much as a scene involving Meat Loaf fondling 30 naked women can be), and I found out later that the director used actual Romanian whores for the scene instead of actresses, and claimed they were better behaved. I have to say, I was impressed, and should I ever feel the need to be in the presence of 30 naked women all at once, I’m going to make sure they are Romanian whores.

(The phrase 30 Romanian Whores just has a nice ring to it, n’est pas? In fact, I’m tempted to start a Goth band with just that name. I can already see the tryouts….)

I’m not sure what I’m forgetting, but I’m sure it’s awful. And yet, for all off that, I didn’t loathe sitting through BLOODRAYNE. There was a cheerfulness to the squalor that made it easy to laugh at, and the running time under 90 minutes didn’t hurt.

Still, I would go out of my way to not recommend BLOODRAYNE. If you have to watch a Vampire movie, stick with the UNDERWORLDS. Or just wait around until the Romanian Whore channel pops up on cable.

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