Razzie Weekend 2007, Part 2: BloodRayne, The Wicker Man, Basic Instinct 2
This is Part 2 of a two-part article. Click here for Part 1!
Razzie Nominee #3: BloodRayne
This is easily one of the most forgettable films I’ve seen in a long time. I couldn’t even get through it in one sitting, I was so bored. I kept pausing it to go off and do other things. As a result, this film took me about six hours to watch. Or maybe it just felt that way.
Based on a video game no one’s ever heard of, BloodRayne tells the tale of a half-human, half-vampire named Rayne (former Terminatrix Kristanna Loken) living in vaguely medieval times. Rayne is being held prisoner in a traveling freak show, where it seems her big trick is that water burns her skin, and drinking animal’s blood instantly cures her. Yeah, bring out the kids for that one! (Don’t think too hard about this though, because her nasty reaction to water disappears about ten minutes in, thanks to some mystical mumbo jumbo.)
One night, Rayne’s bloodlust reawakens, so she kills her captors and escapes into the wilderness. There, she somehow meets up with a group of vampire hunters (led by Michael Madsen, whose performance consists mostly of squinting—he doesn’t even bother attempting any medieval mannerisms).
The vampire hunter guys want to take back their kingdom from an evil vampire overlord (played by—really? Ben Kingsley? Ben, what were you thinking?).
At the same time, Kingsley wants to assemble the preserved body parts of some long dead, fantastic über-vampire, which will somehow bring him back to life. Or something. And, oh yeah, Kingsley is Rayne’s father, possibly, and he killed Rayne’s mother. I think. As you can probably guess, this is not a film that could be called well-crafted. Which can be attributed 100% to its director, Uwe Boll.
At the moment, Uwe Boll is the internet’s favorite punching bag when it comes to directors, but honestly, from BloodRayne, I couldn’t tell you why. This is the kind of film that premieres every weekend on the Sci Fi Channel, with the only differences being an increased amount of blood, nudity, and (one-time) A-list actors in the cast. (I honestly didn’t think I could feel embarrassed for Ben Kingsley after Species, but this movie proved me wrong. It looks like his entire part took one day of shooting, and for his sake, I hope I’m right.)
While it’s apparent that Boll has no discernable talent, the real reason he gets crapped on is because he directs video game adaptations, which is the easiest way to whip up the rage of hardcore geeks on the internet. Are Boll’s movies that much worse than a thousand other hack directors who make one film and then vanish from the face of the earth? Probably not. The only remarkable thing about Boll is that he actually continues to make movies. And that’s probably because, to paraphrase Kevin Spacey in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, he’s pissing off all the right people. His most vocal critics are the kind who will go on IMDb/AICN and incessantly bitch about his latest movie, and then go out and buy the DVD anyway.
Remember that movie critic character that gets eaten in Shyamalan’s Lady in the Water? Boll has recently taken his hatred of movie critics even farther than that, by actually challenging critics to face him in the boxing ring. Given that Boll is a trained boxer, this seems a tad bit unfair. Perhaps Boll should challenge critics to make a better movie than him. Give me $25 million, and I guarantee you I can come up with something more interesting than BloodRayne.
The only positive thing I can say about this film is Kristanna Loken looks good, and looks the part. And you do get to see her boobies in one scene, a definite plus. I can’t say anything more for her performance, because it’s completely ordinary. But that’s probably the result of the shitty script, and given better material, she may do well as an action star. Hell, who knows? Maybe Kristanna can pull a Charlize one day, and ugly herself up, and play an insane retarded lesbian, and finally have her true talent recognized. But if we’re judging her solely by BloodRayne, she seems to have very little to offer beyond her looks.
Also in the cast is Michelle Rodriguez as one of the vampire hunters. And every now and then, the movie flashes over to Billy Zane, in a random castle, wearing a stupid assy wig, and writing letters to Rodriguez. And in the letters we learn Zane is her… father? That can’t be right.
Regardless, I’m pretty sure Zane doesn’t factor into the plot, because he never interacts with any other character (I think we found ourselves another one-dayer), and he disappears about two-thirds of the way through.
The rest of the movie is mostly inept attempts at battle scenes, broken up by some of the strangest cameos you’re likely to see: Udo Kier shows up for some reason. Meat Loaf has a bizarre scene better left unexplained. And Michael Paré pops up to deliver, I swear, about ten words.
Probably the only notable product of this film is that later on, Michelle Rodriguez and Kristanna Loken hooked up as a couple. I don’t know if they’re lesbians, or bi, or if they had come out prior to this, or what, but honestly, I could care less, as long as I get to imagine those two getting it on, because that’s pretty damn hot.
If BloodRayne had featured a makeout scene between Michelle and Kristanna, that would have been more than worth the price of admission. (But then again, Naomi Watts and Laura Harring making out didn’t stop me from wanting to commit ritual suicide during Mulholland Drive.) Kristanna does have a sex scene in the movie, but it’s with a guy, so I bet Uwe’s really kicking himself now for not exploring the whole lesbian angle. Well, there’s always the next video game adaptation to rape and pillage, right?
Okay, to be honest, I have no real hatred for Uwe Boll. But maybe that’ll change if and when I see his other films. I do know that the BloodRayne DVD has a special feature called “Dinner with Uwe Boll” (I assure you, I’m not making this up) where, over pasta and wine, he explains to two nobodies that he’s really a misunderstood genius, and there’s absolutely no reason he should be so reviled on the internet. Even if I had never seen one of his movies, I would probably hate him just for this special feature. Meaning, in fact, I do hate him. What do you know?
And this film does make me mad, in a way. Uwe’s crew may not be the top-flight, top of the line talent, but that’s to be expected for a film of this budget. Regardless, I’m sure they all worked their asses off on this film. And it just pisses me off that this much time and effort was put into something that’s such a big nothing. Look, Uwe: Make a very good movie, or make a very bad movie—at least one of those will get people talking and angry up the blood. BloodRayne is the kind of movie that just leaves me confused and depressed.
BloodRayne in a nutshell: So utterly devoid of entertainment value (intentional or unintentional) that it’s not even worthy of an “in a nutshell” blurb.
Did it deserve the Razzie nomination? I don’t know, I guess. It’s fine, really. Whatever. Look, if you’re trying to bait me into saying this film was too good to be nominated, you’re out of your mind.
Razzie Nominee #4: The Wicker Man
If it were possible to do a statistical analysis on movie quality, I’m sure we’d find that remakes don’t have a worse track record than any other kind of Hollywood movie: i.e., 90% of them suck and need to die. But on the other hand, 10% of remakes are good-to-great, which seems to be conveniently forgotten when people complain about how “creatively bankrupt” Hollywood is these days. People love to bitch about remakes—never mind that Cronenberg’s The Fly, Carpenter’s The Thing, Scorsese’s Cape Fear, and De Palma’s Scarface were all significant improvements on the originals.
No, remakes shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand, because every now and then, a remake will punch through and outdo the original. And 2006’s Wicker Man is… not one of those remakes. In fact, when people bitch and moan about remakes, this is precisely the kind of movie they’re talking about.
The big problem is that, other than “hey, let’s remake The Wicker Man“, nobody involved with this movie seems to have the faintest clue why they’re making it. Worse than that, the movie all but implodes around a truly heinous performance from Nicolas Cage. Half the time he’s giving the most laid-back performance ever in a thriller; the other half he’s going absofuckinglutely insane.
The film awkwardly struggles to follow the plot of the 1973 original: a police officer gets a desperate letter from a mother saying her daughter is missing. The mother lives on a remote island called Summerisle (changed to “Summersisle” in the remake for no reason), where the locals practice bizarre customs. When the police officer arrives, the locals insist there is no missing child. But as he digs deeper, he soon figures out the shocking truth.
To reveal any more would, I think, ruin the pleasure of viewing the original. I went into the first Wicker Man knowing absolutely nothing about the plot, and while I don’t think it’s one of the greatest movies ever made (as the small cult around the film would have you believe), it certainly reveals its plot points with precision, each twist clearly building on the last. The same can’t be said for the 2006 Wicker Man, which weaves and wobbles like a bicycle with a flat tire (all too apt, considering a bicycle is Nicolas Cage’s primary—and somewhat less than intimidating—mode of transportation in this movie).
Cage assumes the police officer role played by Edward Woodward in the original (as a child of the ’80s, Woodward will be known to me forever as The Equalizer). In the first film, Woodward was clearly a man who would risk his life in service of god and country. By contrast, Cage is a slacker, almost apathetic, maybe even jovial at times. For the first hour, we never feel anything is at stake that’s driving him to solve this case.
It’s established early on in the movie that Cage is a California police officer. And it’s also established that Summersisle is in the Puget Sound, off the coast of Washington. So it makes no sense whatsoever for him to pursue this case. Why wouldn’t he just let Washington authorities handle it?
Ah, but there’s a reason he’s drawn here, and it might just be this movie’s biggest blunder. It appears writer-director Neil LaBute wanted to bring a more personal angle to the case, so the woman with the missing child is also Cage’s ex-fiancée. Which completely botches the story’s dynamic. In the original, even the child’s mother denies the child ever existed, generating that eerie Bunny Lake vibe where you’re not sure who’s crazy. In LaBute’s remake, the fiancée assures Cage that the girl exists, completely undercutting all possible tension.
The sum effect is that the film feels haphazardly edited out of order. Actually, it probably was edited out of order, because Cage frequently has knowledge of things no one ever explained to him. It says a lot that even though I’ve seen the original, this movie still made no sense to me.
Is it possible that the original Wicker Man is remake-proof, in that it’s too tied to a certain place and time? In the first film, the true nature of Summerisle didn’t seem quite that implausible. It took place not long after the late ’60s, after all, and one could easily imagine such a strange commune actually existing. Summersisle, by comparison, is an Amish-like community that never feels the least bit authentic, and only serves to make Cage’s naturalistic, California-ized performance seem even more awful.
Unfortunately, despite the ten long years since his debut outing In the Company of Men, LaBute still feels it necessary to work out his woman issues in his films. (I had mistakenly thought his previous film The Shape of Things had gotten it all out of his system.) So Summersisle is recast as a matriarchy, a colony of shrews and bull dykes where the men are bred to be dumb, lazy brutes.
Christopher Lee’s role in the original, as the leader of the community, is gender-swapped and given to Ellen Burstyn, and I literally winced in pain when lines that Lee had delivered so magnificently became almost throwaways when recited by Burstyn. I bet LaBute thought to himself, Hmm, Ellen Burstyn. Oscar winner, she was in The Exorcist… Eh, I don’t have to give her any direction. She’ll figure it out on her own.
Speaking of lines getting destroyed, consider this classroom exchange. If you haven’t seen the original, this is just dumb. If you have seen the original, it’s dumb and painful. It’s like someone dropped the original dialogue in a paper shredder:
Twins: [in unison] Phallic symbol, phallic symbol. [I guess in Summersisle, it makes perfect sense to refer to two people as “Daisy”.]
Earlier, I bemoaned how hard it is for a director to run off with the studio’s money and make a howlingly bad film. The Wicker Man is probably the closest we’ll get to that happening in this day and age. I’m sure you’ve seen the YouTube clip of Cage’s most crackpot moments from this movie, all taken out of context. Those random images of Cage running around in a bear suit and punching women in the face are flat out hilarious, but the really good news? Those moments are just as hilarious in context.
If you’re not convinced of this movie’s sheer badness yet, consider this: The DVD is one of the rare occasions where the “director’s cut” has a shorter running time than the theatrical version. A closing scene has been removed, and judging from the description of it found on other sites, I can see why. Perhaps LaBute should have trimmed an additional ninety minutes. He might have had a masterpiece on his hands.
The Wicker Man in a nutshell: Lazy, unfocused, half-hearted police procedural. Everybody seems half-asleep in this film, until Cage goes nucking futs in the final fifteen minutes and starts punching women in the face. Spare yourself the torture by just fast forwarding through the first hour.
Did it deserve the Razzie nomination? Oh, no doubt. The scene where Cage delivers a roundhouse kick to Leelee Sobieski alone is enough to earn it the nom.
Razzie Nominee #5: Basic Instinct 2
Never mind what I said about BloodRayne. This is the most forgettable movie I’ve seen in a good long while. At first, this was puzzling to me. After all, Basic Instinct 2 moves along at a good clip, and at no point during its two-hour running time did I start mentally working on a grocery list. But ultimately, it’s a hollow endeavor, not good enough and not bad enough to inspire much of any emotion, other than ennui.
But why am I talking about the movie? It’s almost beside the point. The real story here is Sharon Stone’s shameless attempt to recapture former glories. 1992’s Basic Instinct made her a star, and deservedly so. But in recent years, her box office stock has taken a tumble (see: Catwoman), and Stone was eager to prove she could still headline a film and look sexy doing it, even at 47.
Let me just get this out of the way right now: Stone looks great for a 47 year old woman. She looks great for a 27 year old woman. If she’s “too old” to do sex scenes in movies, then she is more than welcome to bring her too-old ass over to my place and act them out here.
However, one thing that made her captivating in the first film was that she could turn on a dime between vicious psychopath and innocent, fresh-faced girl next door. Here, Sharon Stone looks hard-edged, and world-weary, and doesn’t come off nearly as seductive. Also, she’s much thinner in this film, which only makes her look older and harder and more brittle.
And then there’s the obvious plastic surgery—In fact, her “lopsided breasts” scored a Razzie nomination on their own, for Worst Screen Couple. Yeah, it’s juvenile, but on the other hand, they are lopsided. On the other other hand, they’re really not onscreen enough to be the star of the show. So shame on you, Razzie voters, not for picking on Sharon’s physical attributes, but for insinuating that they’re on display long enough to satisfy seekers of trashy cinema.
As for the movie itself? It falls squarely into the “so what” category: It’s a sequel that came about ten years too late, which nobody was clamoring for in the first place, and ultimately proves everyone right by being completely unnecessary.
The first Basic Instinct was shit, but it was entertaining shit. Despite a twist ending you could figure out five minutes into the movie, and an overlong plot that barely made sense, Basic Instinct did have something in it like the spark of life. Both Stone and Michael Douglas brought intensity to otherwise clichéd roles, and at the very least, the film had something to say (unfortunately, that something was “all women are bisexual homicidal psychopaths”).
Basic Instinct 2 does not have that spark of life. It does not have anything to say. It does not feature great performances. The whole cast is sadly made up of B-rate actors (The biggest star other than Sharon Stone is Charlotte Rampling. What does that tell you?).
And the plot refuses to chart any new territory: One could even call this a pseudo-remake of the first film. Once again, Stone is Catherine Trammel, a devious, omnisexual novelist who commits murders and always manages to seduce someone else into taking the fall. This time she’s in London (they completely blow an opportunity to suggest she’s evading something in the US, making it all the more apparent it was a cost-cutting move). The opening scene is the film’s sole campy moment: Stone is speeding around London in a sports car while her male passenger fingers her (and I certainly don’t mean he’s accusing her of a crime).
The car ends up in the river, the passenger drowns, and Catherine is accused of murder. Once again, she toys with the police, and once again, she zeroes in on her prey, this time in the form of her court-appointed psychiatrist (David Morrissey, a fixture on British serial dramas). As with Douglas in the original, she slowly proceeds to screw with him in every sense of the word.
When people think of Sharon Stone’s original take on this character, they mostly focus on her lack of panties and dexterity with an ice pick. But for a movie like Basic Instinct, it was a pretty good performance. It’s also easy to forget her Oscar nomination (for Casino). So, multiple Razzie noms for Worst Actress notwithstanding, we know Stone has the chops, and at times her presence borders on interesting. And fourteen years later, I can somehow find it in me to commend her for being able to so effortlessly slip back into this character, with the same mix of evil and vulnerability.
But I’d be surprised to learn she’s onscreen for more than 40% of this movie. The rest is spent looking at blank, lifeless David Morrissey, who wanders through this film with a perpetual look of confusion on his big puffy face.
Yes, the film keeps things moving and only lags in a few places. But what it needed to be was shocking and suspenseful. Somehow, Basic Instinct 2, made 14 years later, is more demure than its predecessor.
Oh, sure, it tries to be kinky. There’s a group sex scene, if the term “group sex” applies to a room full of couples not even looking at each other. And then there’s the sexual asphyxiation. In fact, this might be the first mainstream Hollywood film to depict the act of sexual asphyxiation. (But for me to really know that for sure, I’d have to become an expert on cinematic depictions of sexual asphyxiation, and let’s just say years of bad movies have not left me that brain damaged just yet.)
I’m not sure how we’re supposed to feel, watching Sharon Stone strangle David Morrissey with a belt in the heat of passion. Aroused? Titillated? Unfortunately, I could only laugh. His head is so doughy and puffy, that when she tightened the belt, I half-expected raspberry filling to come squirting out.
It’s hard to believe anything could make the first Basic Instinct look like a pretty good movie, but this movie does just that. At one point in the film, Catherine explains that her novels are about “the basic instincts”. Not even Joe Eszterhas would have written anything that groan-worthy or on the nose. And the director, whatever his name is, actually made me say to myself, Well, he’s no Paul Verhoeven. And how sad is that?
Basic Instinct 2 in a nutshell: Didn’t even rise to the level of enjoyable trash that I hoped it would. It’s fine, it’s not going to kill you, but without Sharon Stone in it, this sequel would have gone straight to video.
Did it deserve the Razzie nomination? Not likely. But Sharon Stone is in it, so what else could they do?
The Final Verdict
Well, the Razzies have come and gone this year, so if you’re reading this, you probably already know the outcome: Basic Instinct 2 nabbed the award for Worst Picture, and scored the most awards that night, four in total. Little Man took home three Razzies, while Lady in the Water earned two.
Since I’m not nearly enough of a masochist to see all the movies nominated for Razzies this year, I can only speak with any authority on the Worst Picture nominees. And obviously, Basic Instinct 2 was pretty far from the worst movie of the bunch.
The truly worst picture out of these five, as far as I’m concerned, was…
Are you ready?
Lady in the Water. Which really surprised me. Given Shyamalan’s track record, I was convinced I would enjoy some part of it. Instead, it was a grueling experience where I found myself more than once yelling at the screen in exasperation. In some places, it’s like Night himself is daring you to turn it off.
And the best of the five films nominated for Worst Picture?
Wait for it…
Wait for it…
Little Man. Yeah, I can’t really believe it myself. Not that I ever have any intention of watching it again. But if someone put a gun to my head and made we watch one of these five movies again (actually, I think someone would have to put a gun to my head to make that happen), Little Man is the one I would pick. Now, if that same person told me I had to watch Lady in the Water, I might possibly take the bullet.
And no way, no how, does Basic Instinct 2 deserve to be regarded as one of the worst movies ever made. If anyone implies that, I’m going to smack them around the face and show them what a real bad movie is like. Anyone who thinks Basic Instinct 2 is that bad will be crying for their mommies after about twenty minutes of Blood Freak.
It’s a lesson I’ve learned time and time again: People will slam movies purely because of who’s in them. When forgettable films like Crossroads or Glitter or From Justin to Kelly make it onto the IMDb’s list of the 100 worst films of all time, you know people are voting based on the magazine covers at the checkout stand. Same with the films nominated for the Razzie this year. If not for the presence of Sharon Stone, the Wayans brothers, Nicolas Cage, M. Night Shyamalan, and (to a much lesser extent) Uwe Boll, would anybody give two shits about any of these movies? Probably not.
I really shouldn’t be surprised. That’s the way the Razzies have always picked their winners. Well, except for Gigli. That movie deserved it.
Seeing these five films honestly made me feel nostalgic for Gigli. It’s the kind of Razzie winner that we can all feel good about: a movie so embarrassingly awful that you often feel the need to cover your eyes while watching it. Here’s hoping 2007 brings a new rotten crop of Razzie nominees half as bad as that. And here’s hoping we can make Razzie Weekend an annual event.