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Dustin Putman

Dustin's Review

Alone In The Dark (2005)

Directed by Uwe Boll
Cast: Christian Slater, Tara Reid, Stephen Dorff, Mathew Walker, Frank C. Turner, Will Sanderson, Mark Acheson, Karin Konoval, Catherine Lough Haggquist, Ed Anders
2005 – 93 minutes
Rated: Rated R (for violence and language).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, January 26, 2005.

With only one previous film under his belt, director Uwe Boll has become infamous in horror fan-boy circles for creating 2003's "House of the Dead," an abominably bad video-game-adaptation-cum-zombie-pic that had hack written all over it. How he received funding for a sophomore feature, and how he already has a third movie filmed and waiting in the wings, is a quandary for the ages. Walking into "Alone in the Dark" with an open mind is fruitless; this motion picture, loosely adapted from an old Atari video game of the same name, becomes unintentionally hilarious before even the first frame. If Ed Wood, that notorious filmmaker of "Plan Nine From Outer Space" and "Glen or Glenda," is Uwe Boll's primary inspiration, then he is succeeding in spades with his career trajectory.

"Alone in the Dark," a collection of howlingly bad dialogue and every half-assed horror/sci-fi movie cliche imaginable, opens with a white-print-on-black-background scroll (think "Star Wars") that, at first, seems to be setting up the story. The hitch is that it goes on, and on, and on, taking up close to ten full paragraphs, nearly incomprehensible, and seemingly narrated by an overly exaggerated radio deejay who turns the entire three-minute introduction into a rip-roaring laugh riot. It even prompted an established critic at the press screening to ask aloud, "Is this the book version of the movie?" Once the scroll has mercifully concluded, one would assume the film would begin in earnest, but no. There is still a prologue set 22 years earlier to get through, followed by the first of many interludes in which poor Christian Slater (2002's "Windtalkers") narrates what is going on in one of the most embarrassingly written and awkwardly placed narrations in memory. It's Ed Wood's—I mean, Uwe Boll's—version of would-be moody film noir stylings.

Even with the opening scroll, and the double-narration, and the prologue, the plot is close to indecipherable. From what can be ascertained, Edward Carnby (Christian Slater) is a paranormal investigator who, following a hiatus where he skipped town, returns to his old stomping grounds just as a whole ancient culture of monsters known as Abskani are about to be let loose on society to destroy mankind. The dastardly Professor Hudgens (Mathew Walker) has gone in search of a collection of artifacts that, together, are the key to unlocking the doorway to what can only be assumed is Hell. Edward, too, carries some of the artifacts, and is not about to let Hudgens get them. With the help of ex-girlfriend Aline Cedrac (Tara Reid), an archeology curator specializing in Abskani, and Commander Richards (Stephen Dorff), head of the 713 branch of the paranormal SWAT team, Edward is thrust into a fight to save the universe. There is also a subplot involving mind control via parasites that have been planted on people's spines, if you can believe it.

It seems thoroughly absurd, but "Alone in the Dark" is even more amateurish than director Uwe Boll's "House of the Dead" debacle. Movies this unthinkably bad, so purely inept on every level—writing, directing, acting, technically—arrive on a rarer basis than viewers might believe, and "Alone in the Dark" is prime prey for a "Mystery Science Theater 3000" roasting. Choice examples of dramatic dialogue include "Some doors are meant to stay shut" and, upon arrival in an underground cavern made of skulls, "I don't think we're supposed to be down here." In Uwe Boll's disillusioned world, an action setpiece involves nothing more than a bunch of random gunfire in pitch-black surroundings—first from the protagonists, and then, out of nowhere, from an army-type squad that mystically appear in the room with them—scored to a bombastic heavy-metal song.

Sheer idiocy and plot holes abound. When a museum guard hears otherworldly growling noises, he calls out, "Is anyone there? Ms. Cedrac? Mr. Carnby?" When Aline and Edward hear the same noises, plain as day, Aline asks, "Do you hear that?" Following the museum attack by slimy monsters that leaves the guard gruesomely impaled and the SWAT team to investigate, Aline is unfazed. Splitting up from Edward, she says, "I'm gonna go analyze these artifacts some more," and returns merrily to the museum. And, after Edward and Aline travel underground to stop the monster's lair from being unsealed and become trapped with no apparent exit, they miraculously find one just in time to be saved from the climactic explosion. Their escape hatch? A ladder that appears, leading them to—I kid you not—a normal, old cellar entrance placed in the front yard of an orphanage.

In his first leading man role in the better part of a decade, this is not the victorious reemergence Christian Slater probably had in mind. It is a testament to his basic skills as an actor that he avoids looking too bad in the role. The same cannot be said about the other performances. All supporting roles, by no-talent thespians who shall go unnamed, are on the level of an elementary school stage production. Paired against Slater are Stephen Dorff (2003's "Cold Creek Manor"), looking ashamed of himself at all times, and Tara Reid (2003's "My Boss's Daughter"), outrageously miscast as a scientist, hair pulled tightly behind her, glasses seldomly leaving her face until she turns into a buff, gun-toting action heroine in the second half. In early scenes, Reid's idea of being intellectual is to walk around with a pen and clipboard in hand, scribbling nonsense down even when she is holding a normal conversation and isn't actually working on anything. Every actor, it should be noted, appear as if they haven't even learned their lines, stumbling and hesitating over basic word exchanges. It probably didn't help that their German director speaks little English and is, no doubt about it, the modern-day Ed Wood.

"Alone in the Dark" avoids the dreaded zero star-rating—barely—for two reasons. (1) No awful movie this downright silly and cluelessly incompetent is physically painful enough to not be given a little credit, and (2) the very brief glimpse through the doorway into the monster's hellish world is atmospherically rendered even if it is an infringement on H.R. Giger's meticulous gothic artwork. If so-bad-it's-funny is your cup of tea, then the countless inadequacies of "Alone in the Dark" may well become the subject of college drinking games across the globe. This is jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring, "I-can't-believe-someone-made-this-crap" badness we're dealing with. Guffawing laughter is the only possible response to be met with the end credits.
© 2008 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman