As cinefiles, it’s relatively easy to come up with a list of generally unfavored directors. But that’s too easy, and “punching down” isn’t what true film criticism is about. So in the interest of keeping things interesting, as well as fair, what about a list of the good films they’ve made? That’s significantly more interesting, and in an underdog kind of way, it’s important to give credit where due. Yes, even to Uwe Boll.
1. Event Horizon (1997, Paul W.S. Anderson)
Hot off the heels of the wildly successful Mortal Kombat film adaptation, director Paul W.S. Anderson and producing partner Jeremy Bolt earned the freedom to be more choosy about their next project. Although Paramount Pictures rushed production when James Cameron’s Titanic had been delayed, once again, it didn’t stop Anderson from making one of the 1990’s best sci-fi horror films.
Heavily inspired by the 1963 film ‘The Haunting,’ ‘Horizon’ dared to be a classic chamber-piece horror film, set in space. With Sam Neill and Lawrence Fishburne taking top billing, the film had some star power, but it seemed destined to be a cult favorite, as its darker themes and moody atmosphere narrowed wide appeal. Finding a second life on home video, Anderson’s film quickly gained a reputation for its eerie tone, nightmarish imagery, and exceptional art design. Anderson has gone on record to say the ship was fashioned out of a real cathedral, subconsciously tapping into gothic themes. It’s these baked in ideas that render the film more than just another sci-fi scare fest.
Fun Fact: The original 130-minute cut of the film contained extended footage of the Hellish torture dimension that we only see short glimpses of in the current print. It’s become a well-known bit of movie trivia. Anderson claimed he would love to release a director’s cut, but it’s up to Paramount to sanction it. The next best thing is Anderson and Bolt’s DVD commentary, which you should absolutely check out.
2. Rampage (2009, Uwe Boll)
Much like Ed Wood, Boll has become infamous through his notoriously bad films, especially his downright shameful video game adaptations. Has anyone seen Bloodrayne? Don’t. Although seeing Billy Zane pampered to look like a young prince, and Meatloaf’s horrendous wig of long blonde locks is admittedly entertaining. Instead, Taste of Cinema urges you to give at least one of his films a chance.
Rampage seemingly came out of nowhere, and what it lacked in fanfare/exposure, was made up for with its controversial narrative, and its rebellious “bad taste” humor. No, it’s not Fight Club, but it garnered a similar, albeit smaller “coolness” factor, which would attract a very particular type of crowd. There’s no denying it’s an irresponsible film, reveling in its pitch black themes of killing the weak and thinning the sheep. The “protagonist” (if you can call him that) literally runs around a small town, pumping rounds into unsuspecting locals, simply for existing. And yet, it’s competently made, and technically proficient.
Rampage is shot well, paced tightly, and criminally underrated actor Brendan Fletcher commands the lead role. Leave your morals at the door, and give this Boll film a shot.
3. Deep Blue Sea (1999, Renny Harlin)
Though not as “bad” as some of the others on this list, Renny Harlin certainly has had his fair share of duds. Anyone remember Driven? We barely do either. But how could anyone forget that late 90’s shark film, where Samuel L. Jackson gets chomped on right after a riveting speech? Deep Blue Sea is a buttery bag of popcorn, dripping with cheesy B movie greatness, and… LL Cool J! This isn’t “fine cinema” and doesn’t pretend to be. A total product of its time, ‘Deep’ thrives on the tried and true horror formula of picking off a large ensemble of characters one at a time. A young Thomas Jane is a perfect fit for the male lead, and leads the pack convincingly.
Furthermore, the special effects are impressive to this day. Sure, The CGI hasn’t aged so well, but every practical effect (and there are a lot look stellar. Harlin ensures there are plenty of “big movie” set pieces, too. One of the highlights is a flooding elevator shaft, with the finned beast circling below, getting ever closer to its prey. The combination of a sinking set, animatronic sharks, and CGI peppered in for the final touches, is a production triumph. Harlin may not have the best track record, but no one can take his action credibility away. He knows what he’s doing when things go boom.
4. The Lost Boys (1987, Joel Shchumacher)
Joel Schumacher is too easy of a target. We all know Batman & Robin is the biggest joke in comic book movie history, but do you really want to bash a director, who is now deceased, when we have The Lost Boys to thank him for? A product of its time, the Corey Feldman, Corey Haim vehicle is a nostalgic echo of late 80’s horror. More than that though, it’s just a really fun movie.
With a family-centric plot grounding things, Schumacher knows when to go loud, and when to pull back. Not to mention, the makeup and special effects are top notch. But it’s really the vibrant color palette that makes the whole thing pop. From the neon-soaked boardwalk of Santa Carla, to the high contrast blacks that practically shimmer off the leather costumes, The Lost Boys is a looker.
5. Star Wars: Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980, Irvine Kirshner)
With stinkers like Robocop 2, and Steven Segal film On Deadly Ground under his belt, it’s sometimes hard to believe Kirshner is the same man who directed what is arguably the best Star Wars film. Building on the characters set up in A New Hope, the anticipated sequel takes them to new heights, literally and figuratively.
‘Empire’ expanded the universe of Star Wars, adding now iconic characters like Boba Fett and Lando Calrissian. Of course, there are many who think Kirshner was more of an “organizer” rather than having much creative input. Regardless, it was his film to direct, and considering it’s widely referred to as the “fan favorite,” there’s little reason to believe he didn’t play a big part in that.