ALONE IN THE DARK
Director: Uwe Boll
Cast: Christian Slater, Tara Reid, Stephen Dorff, Matthew Walker, Frank C. Turner
MPAA Rating: (for violence and language)
Running Time: 1:36
Release Date: 1/28/05
Review by Mark Dujsik
If someone recommends you see Alone in the Dark, assume that person hates you or at least dislikes you. In the same vein, if there's someone you don't particularly care for, tell him/her to go see it, and if you're feeling really cruel, tell him/her to make sure they stay through till the end because there's a big surprise that makes it all worth it. This is the kind of movie you wish on your worst enemy. It heralds the potential death of cinema in the form of director Uwe Boll, who last assaulted our senses and violated our intelligences with the video game adaptation House of the Dead, a nonsensical splatter-fest of misguided "style," and those who have had the misfortune of seeing that movie will not be surprised to learn this is more of the same but may be stunned to hear this one's worse. Without the remotest semblance of a coherent plot (those things just get in the way, anyway), the movie simply moves from one scene to the next, ripping off any carnivorous creature movie it can think of, and leaves us in a sort of mental paralysis.
The first sign of something about to go horrendously wrong happens at the offset, as we are presented with a text crawl of expository information that goes on for—I kid you not—about two minutes. I would not at all be surprised to learn that much of the detail in this prologue was added later when someone noted the movie makes no sense without it, and frankly, even having it doesn't help too much. What we get is that there's a government agency for paranormal investigation called Bureau 713, and one of its former members Edward Carnby (Christian Slater) has just arrived home to generic metropolis with an important Abskani artifact. You see, the Abskani were an advanced ancient civilization that worshipped demons. Now, Carnby's museum curator girlfriend or ex-girlfriend (she punches him then sleeps with him—go figure) Aline's (Tara Reid) boss Professor Hudgens (Matthew Walker) is also after Abskani relics and discovers quite a find in a solid gold tomb that contains a creature that kills the entire crew, except him, of course. Now the creatures are loose in the museum and eventually the city, and Carnby and Aline must join 713 and Commander Richards (Stephen Dorff) to fight them.
It actually makes a bit of sense when put up front like that, but screenwriters Elan Mastai, Michael Roesch, and Peter Scheerer weave around the basics and instead give us a lot of jumbled ideas and details. Hudgens wants Carnby's artifact, so he sends a thug to retrieve it. Aline gets a huge crate delivered in the mail and starts to decipher its contents, much to her boss' chagrin. An autopsy reveals the thug had some weird creature attached to his spine. And all of Carnby's orphanage friends mysteriously disappear when Hudgens' crew opens the crate. All of this is tied into the introductory text, I suppose, but even before we care about why any of this is happening, we should at least know what is happening. And what is happening here anyway? Just who are these 713 people, and why are they always "scanning" stuff? I guess they're looking for the monsters, which thrive in the dark and can turn invisible, but then there's also Carnby's nineteen orphan friends who turn into zombies and crash his apartment for no apparent reason except that the exposition is over. Now it's time to kill some stuff.
And kill they do. Boll needs to calm down, because one of these days, he's going to give someone a seizure. Flash-cuts, strobe lights, random zooms, more flash-cuts, blood splattering, cheap CG creatures jumping—it's enough to forget for a moment how we have no idea what the movie's about in the first place and concentrate on what an aimless director is at the helm. Once all of that is through, 713 has scanned again (big surprise) and discovered, uh-oh, there's more of those things at the old abandoned mine. Conveniently, the monsters who can turn invisible decide not to and storm the blockade set up by 713, while Carnby and company head down into the cave for no apparent reason. Now Boll intercuts their exploration with the fates of the nameless, faceless commandos as they're systematically killed off, and if you haven't figured it by now, there isn't much of a movie here. So just try and laugh while you can at Tara Reid's archeologist/curator pronounce Newfoundland as though it were Three Separate Words, how a boat at sea manages to dock with the entire crew dead, and a love scene set to music with lyrics that are completely unbefitting the context.I say this, because at a certain point that desire to laugh will mysteriously vanish. The utter incoherence and incompetence of this movie leads to a state of mental exhaustion, and at that point, it's best if you don't remember what Oedipus did when he found out his family history. It might seem like a good idea at the time, but trust me, it just isn't worth it. I've done my best, but honestly, words cannot fully express the absolute failure that is Alone in the Dark.
Copyright © 2005 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.
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