Infamous German film director Uwe Boll is giving up film making – his latest effort, Rampage: President Down, will be his last, according to an interview in the Toronto Metro.
There are probably a lot of critics out there celebrating this news – Boll was always the director they loved to hate, relentlessly slamming his movies. Boll famously challenged some of his detractors to a boxing match some years ago (the result: four knock outs for Boll), and has never tried to be a critical darling. But you know what? His detractors are wrong. And I’ll admit to having been one of them at some point. If you think Uwe Boll is the worst director of all time, then you need to see more movies.
Sure, he has made a stream of films that are effectively unwatchable – his endless video game adaptations like House of the Dead, Alone in the Dark and Bloodrayne being prime examples. But Boll himself knew that these films were bad – just watch his Rifftrax-inspired ‘director’s cut’ of House of the Dead, which opens with him being kidnapped and forced to watch his own film, which then plays out with mocking on-screen captions. Can you actually think of any other director who would be so brutally honest about the shortcomings of their own work?
But Boll also made some interesting and serious films – Seed, Stoic, Auschwitz, Attack on Darfur – using the money made from the game adaptations to finances them. Increasingly though, the market for low budget indies is drying up. Streaming platforms like Netflix, far from being a new outlet, are dominated by Hollywood blockbusters, with indie films either not hosted or buried away, without even the pull of a fancy video cover to sell them to the curious. The physical market is considerably reduced in size, and theatrical is almost entirely dominated by major studios or arthouse distributors, with little room for those who fall between.
As I have complained elsewhere, your modern cult movie fan will get wildly worked up about the latest Star Wars or Marvel movie, but completely ignore the small, often direct to DVD movie that will frequently be more interesting. Times are tough for indie film makers who cannot – or will not – get state funding for their work. If someone as prolific and relatively well-of as Boll is throwing in the towel, what hope for other low budget, edgy, inventive independents?
Regardless of the variable quality of his work, we need more people like Boll out there – churning out small, independent films both trashy and serious. Do we really want a world where our only choice is between a new Guardians of the Galaxy movie and a Ken Loach film?
Boll has, of course, ‘quit’ before, and then come back for more. For once, I rather hope that this new announcement is another publicity stunt. The film world would be rather duller without him.