I have seen one Uwe Boll film. 2003’s House of the Dead is technically inept on almost every level of known filmmaking standards, but it is one of the most enjoyable experiences you can have when watching a movie. I feel genuine happiness when I see that film, and I think it deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Plan 9 from Outer Space and Troll 2 as a film that transcends its innumerable faults and becomes an otherworldly piece of satisfying art.
It’s important that I come clean with my lack of exposure to Boll’s filmography because my further observations are not directly based on his body of work. Instead, they are an analysis of the vitriolic response that body of work has engendered to a massive amount of people, and speculations as to why Uwe Boll has become one of the most despised directors in the history of cinema.
This examination was brought on by a video that Boll posted in regards to a crowdfunding campaign (one of three the director has attempted) that failed to reach its goal:
It’s clear to me that Boll is an fiercely abrasive personality, and his pugilistic nature towards his detractors is well documented, going so far as to stage a series of boxing matches pitting himself against his critics back in 2006. I have to believe there is some measure of self-awareness when it comes to Boll’s combative demeanor. In an industry that thrives on being recognized, outfitting yourself as a vulgar and outspoken individual is a good way to get someone’s attention.
Apparently, that attention has been overwhelmingly negative. A petition that was created back in 2008 that asked for Boll to retire from the filmmaking industry reached upwards of 360,000 signatures. The Golden Raspberry Awards bestowed Boll with a “Worst Career Achievement” award in 2009. Two of his films (House of the Dead and Alone in the Dark) both rank on IMDb’s Bottom 100 list. One week before the release of his film Postal, theater distributors backed out of their deal to open the film on 1,500 screens and reduced the release to an eventual 21 screens. It’s obvious that the director is anything but a beloved figure.
But, why? The argument that it has to do with the quality of his output can only go so far. There are scores of terrible movies being released every year that never garner this level of active hatred. I’ll admit that Boll’s comments about how his movies get funded do incite some genuine displeasure from me:
“The reason I am able to do these kind of movies is I have a tax shelter fund in Germany, and if you invest in a movie in Germany you get basically fifty percent back from the government.”
- Uwe Boll, from the Alone in the Dark commentary track
However, Boll’s methods of funding his films aren’t where the majority of his backlash comes from. I have to believe that a significant portion of this was brought on due to the kinds of films Boll makes: video game adaptations. Nearly a third of his directorial credits are attached to films based on video game properties, and here’s where I feel the beginning of the Uwe Boll hate machine starts.
As last year proved, the gaming community can be a harsh one, and it’s often filled with members that are overwhelmingly vocal about their opinions. With Boll’s movies taking properties that are held dear to a contingent of people, it’s unsurprising that those people would be loudly opposed to adaptations that don’t meet their standards. As I only have House of the Dead and the popular consensus to go off of, I’m certain that Boll’s films aren’t misunderstood masterpieces or anything, but I can also see gamers and less knowledgeable movie-goers decrying his films as indefensible garbage when they are probably on par with most of trash cinema’s ever-growing library.
I’m not trying to defend Boll. I’m trying to understand why he is such a specific target for derision. I’ll admit that his cantankerous attitude plays into this whole drama, but I’d also argue that his frustrations are mostly understandable (though offensively conveyed). That’s the most disheartening aspect of this entire situation: the reciprocation of hate that has occurred between Boll and those who stridently bash his films. I’m not naive or childish enough to think that sending thoughts of love and prayers towards Boll is what’s necessary, but it’s hard to deny that there is a symbiotic nature that has developed between the director and his disparaging audience.
It leads me to ponder if directors like Albert Pyun, Edward D. Wood Jr., Ulli Lommell, Claudio Fragasso, and a slew of other low grade filmmakers would have been able to have careers in this modern age, or if they would have had to adapt to playing to an audience that openly detests them in order to maintain some modicum of relevance. It’s this mutual vehemence that makes Uwe Boll an important figure in filmmaking history, and whether or not he and his films deserve this enmity is something worth exploring and discussing.
All I know is that you should definitely watch House of the Dead.