Guest column by Dan Franzen
It should come as no shock to you when I say that Alone in the Dark is a crappy movie. To put it bluntly, it’s as if a dung monster defecated, ate the result, and then vomited. The final product would still outshine this movie.
Seemingly based on an ancient (!) Atari videogame, the movie has something or other to do with a portal to the bowels of the earth, the unleashing of demons, and ancient civilizations. Something about there being two worlds, that of darkness and that of light. (Guess which one’s ours.) Oh, and 10,000 years ago a really super-duper advanced civilization opened the portal, demons came over and had a blast, then wiped out the civilization. Which is why we’ve never heard of them, conveniently enough.
Christian Slater, perhaps pining for the days of Heathers and Pump up the Volume, plays Edward Carnby, a paranormal researcher to whom Something Bad happened when he was 10 years old. He’s hot on the trail of one of the artifacts of said advanced civilization. Carnby used to be part of a secret institution called 713, which has been trying to figure out what happened to that long-ago civilization. But Carnby believed he wasn’t going to be able to find the answers he sought, so he left the group.
But see, these beasties are out, and they get their prey in varying ways, such as gutting them, splitting them down the middle, implanting neurological control devices in them, or just turning them into killing zombies. Yes, it’s another zombie movie.
That’s about as distilled I can make the plot. It’s pretty convoluted and incomprehensible. In similar movies, one might see the intrepid researcher/adventurer figure things out a step at a time, and when we the audience are mentally with the researcher, it’s a lot of fun. But when the scenes shift from attack to attack with no perspective or context… not so much fun.
The acting is dreadful, save for Slater, who (although he almost seems embarrassed to be in the movie) showed he was capable of carrying the acting load. He had to; get this—Tara Reid is cast as a museum curator! Honest to goodness, I thought I’d seen the casting of a lifetime when Denise Richards was cast as a nuclear physicist in Tomorrow Never Dies. But Reid here matches Richards, crappy emoting for crappy emoting. Highlights include Reid pronouncing “Newfoundland” as “New Fownd Land,” Reid delivering most of her lines in a dazed, throaty monotone (kinda like she’d been on an all-night bender for the past week before filming), Reid—a museum curator, mind you—spending a lot of the movie in a midriff-bearing top and hip-hugger jeans. Oh yeah, she was as believable as Jessica Simpson giving stock quotes. Oh, why must the pretty ones be so dumb? (Note: I don’t think Tara Reid’s all that good looking. She looks like she’s in perpetual need of food.) Almost everyone else in the cast is completely forgettable, except perhaps for Steven Dorff, who played Burke, one of the leaders of 713. Dorff’s character wasn’t terribly well developed, but nothing in the movie was, from the sets to the characters to Tara Reid. But I digress.
Anyway, the perplexing and utterly preposterous storyline is tough enough to follow with the film moving at such a breakneck pace, but director Uwe Boll tosses in a pounding, mind-deadening soundtrack; it’s so loud you can’t hear what the actors are saying in some of the scenes! That can’t be right. Given the acting level, however, perhaps thanks are in order to Mr. Boll.
Oh, and a fun note. The opening moments of the movie include narration… of the words that are crawling across the screen at the same time. Remember the first Star Wars? You heard that now-familiar Star Wars theme while the prologue crawled. There was surely no need for narration; why do I need some doofus to read what’s on the screen for me? Were the producers simply looking out for blind people? Maybe that also explains why the soundtrack was so loud—they were also looking out for hard-of-hearing people. Also, the narrator inexplicably had a lisp for the first few lines of the crawl—then lost it. Bizarre.
Alone in the Dark is a loud, dopey mishmash of dreadful acting, an incoherent script, and ham-handed directing. Hardly a note rings true. There’s so much chaos that the audience simply gives up caring about the characters and roots for their demise. Even in the dark, the demonic creatures seem cooler and much more developed by comparison.
Ironically, since there were only three other people in the theater, I watched this Alone in the Dark. I wonder if Uwe Boll planned it that way? I can’t quite give this the lowest rating, because I had low hopes for it to begin with—and because it never grabbed me enough for me to get worked up about it. It’s atrocious, although Slater redeems himself a tiny bit.
Alone in the Dark: *1/2
Read more movie reviews by Dan Franzen at Frothy Ruminations!