- Ben Child
Uwe Boll’s chief rival for the mantle of worst film-maker of all time, Ed Wood, is supposed to have once told a critic, upon being informed in no uncertain terms that his latest venture was less than stellar: “You didn't like it? Well, my next one will be even better!”
You might imagine that Boll, the German director of quarter of countless foetid video game adaptations - many have been named amongst the worst films in history - would have built up his own thick skin from all the critical brickbats routinely thrown in his direction. But the Canada-based film-maker, who last month announced his retirement in the face of plummeting DVD sales, is famous for taking a rather more combative approach than his forebear.
In 2006, fed up with unfavourable reviews from critics, Boll challenged five journalists to face him in the boxing ring. He proceeded to cheerfully batter all five.
In 2006, fed up with the barbs being thrown with gusto in his direction by just anyone ever responsible for reviewing a film in a professional capacity, Boll challenged five journalists who had been particularly derisive about his work to face him in the boxing ring. Like idiots, they all agreed, and the German proceeded to cheerfully batter all five.
Sadly, the director once memorably described as the "Jonas Brothers of film-makers" was never able to achieve a similar level of competency behind the camera. Over the course of a career stretching back more than a quarter of a century, Boll ruthlessly exploited European film funding mechanisms to deliver some of the worst movies in living memory.
At least a dozen of the director’s efforts would make most self-respecting critics’ Hollywood Room 101. But so consistently appalling is the Boll’s entire ouvre that trying to pin down his worst movie is a bit like deciding which fruit to pick from a basket of rotten apples. Nevertheless, special mention ought to go to Alone in the Dark, identified by some critics as the worst film of all time, Postal, a shockingly boorish paean to white trash culture that makes Freddie Got Fingered look like cerebral comedy, and disastrous fantasy epic In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege tale.
The latter film, an attempt at big budget swords and sorcery in the style of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, is famous for miscasting professional cockney Jason Statham as a lowly rural serf who saves his kingdom from an invasion of monstrous goblin-type creatures with a combination of boomerang throwing and martial arts. Yes, this is Tolkien if Frodo was a balding Landarn bruiser with a black belt in Taekwondo and a penchant for aboriginal Australian weaponry. Released four years after Jackson’s Oscar-winning fantasy triptych racked up almost $3bn at the global box office, the adaptation of video game Dungeon Siege is to the earlier work what Buckfast Tonic Wine is to Cristal. Most of the cast, from Ray Liotta to Ron Perlman and Matthew Lillard, have thick American accents - which turns out to be particularly problematic when we find out that Burt Reynolds' King Konreid is actually Statham's dad. The standard of creature makeup is on a par with early episodes of Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, and in keeping with Jackson's love of the epic, our hero's adventures in ersatz Middle Earth are stretched out to a horrifying two and a half hours.
Alone in the Dark may just be even worse. Featuring Christian Slater as a Raymond Chandleresque supernatural investigator, and the horribly miscast Tara Reid (who won a Razzie) as his scientist ex, it's a confusing mishmash of influences, taking in everything from Indiana Jones to the X-Files, clumsily stitched together by a director who seems to understand exactly what makes Hollywood tick but has no idea how to repeat the trick.
Words almost fail me when it comes to Postal, Boll's 2007 adaptation of the video game Postal 2. Centred on a trailer-dwelling everyman known as The Dude, who in the game goes on a gun rampage round his local small town, the German decided to set out the big screen version as a kind of satire on trash culture and gross-out comedy. The problem is that rape jokes are distinctly unfunny, and Boll is no Chris Morris.
Wood, the director of famously appalling 50s monstrosities such as Plan 9 From Outer Space and Glen and Glenda, eventually shifted into soft porn territory and ended his life as a writer of countless dime store novels. Boll recently opened a restaurant in Toronto, signalling his own shift into new art forms. But if you think that means he accepts his lot as a critical punching bag, you’d be wrong. In recent years the German film-maker has refused to go gently into ignominy, railing against film fans for not paying into his Kickstarter for a third Rampage movie with an expletive-ridden rant. “So, basically, my message is f*** yourselves,” he said in a video message to the haters. “It looks like no one gives a s*** about Rampage 3 so maybe I shouldn't do it then. I have enough money to play golf 'til I'm dead.”
Even upon announcing his retirement last month, Boll challenged those who hate his movies to revisit his canon and reflect on whether his efforts really were quite so terrible. So were they?
The final word here should perhaps go to the owners of the World of Warcraft game, Blizzard, whose response upon being told the German wanted to buy the rights to its big screen transfer, the big budget 2015 fantasy Warcraft, perhaps tells us everything we need to know about how Boll will be remembered. “We will not sell the movie rights, not to you,” an executive is reported to have said. “Especially not to you.”