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Alone in the Dark Review

By Shawn McKenzie 01/28/2005

I am not a video game player (despite the section devoted to them on my site), but I am at least familiar with the more popular titles.  I have to admit that I’ve never heard of the Atari game Alone in the Dark, so the fact that they greenlit a feature adaptation of the game is odd.  Combine that with the credits for the director and the screenwriter, both of whom have not proven their cinematic worth yet, I don’t know how this awful movie wasn’t dumped to straight-to-video status.

Edward Carnby (Dustyn Arthurs) was a 10-year-old boy who grew up at Our Lady of the Perpetual Light orphanage run by Sister Clara (Karin Konoval.)  One day, government agent Professor Lionel Hudgens (Mathew Walker) forced Clara to conduct biological experiments on 20 of the orphans, implanting parasites in their spinal cords, resulting in “sleeper” units with their minds erased ready to awaken one day for bad reasons.  Edward managed to get away after being accidentally electrocuted, which caused the top-secret government agency, Bureau 713, to shut down the incomplete experiment and fire Hudgens.  After that, Hudgens goes on a quest to gather artifacts from the long lost Abkani civilization with the certainty that it will allow him to open a gate between the worlds of light and dark.  Twenty-two years later, Edward (Christian Slater) became an agent for 713, but he is also trying to find artifacts from the Abkani civilization, mainly in order to help him recover his childhood memories.  He quits the agency because every time he stumbles upon anything Abkani-related, 713 shuts him down.  He is now working as a paranormal investigator, and the first scene introducing the adult Edward shows him back from the Amazon after six weeks with his latest artifact.  After taking a cab, he notices that he is being followed.  He crashes, but manages to escape the cab, where he ends up fighting with a superhuman guy who wants the artifact.  After killing the pumped up dude, he finds out that the guy was named James Pinkerton (Ed Anders), and he was a former agent from 713.  Edward finds this from a friend who is still working for 713 named Fischer (Frank C. Turner.)  Edward takes the artifact to the local museum to see if the assistant curator, an ex-girlfriend of his named Aline Cedrac (Tara Reid), can decode the relic’s strange inscriptions.  Edward and Aline with fight with each other, but they work together to try to solve the artifact puzzle.  Meanwhile, Hudgens has commissioned a boat to find a gold casket that he hopes will hold the final key to the Abkani’s power and open the gate.  When the casket is accidentally opened, it lets loose a bunch of weird monsters and wakes up the other 19 of Edward’s fellow orphan sleeper mutants and turns them into zombies, including John (Darren Shahlavi) and Linda (Sarah Deakins), both of whom were friends of Edward since they were all kids.  Edward and Aline need to figure out how what’s going on and how to stop it, which means working with current 713 head Commander Burke (Stephen Dorff), a rival of Edward.  While Edward and Aline continue their investigation, Burke, along with commandos Agent Miles (Will Sanderson), computer whiz Catherine “Krash” Krashinsky (Lough Haggquist), and techie Agent Turner (Mike Dopud), mount an attack against the monsters.  If they succeed, they will avoid the apocalypse.

In case you want to know (or care), the plot of this movie is based off the fourth game in the Alone in the Dark series, called The New Nightmare.  After doing extensive research on a video game I had never heard of before (much less spawned four sequels), I discovered that the plot for the movie doesn’t even match the plot for the game.  There is an Edward and an Aline, but that’s about it.  Edward in the game is trying to investigate the death of a friend in a place called Shadow Island and then runs into the Abkani monsters.  At least that’s what I gathered through the plot descriptions of the game.  Playing the game might be more interesting than watching this movie, which rarely made any sense throughout.

Everyone involved in this movie are at fault.  The director, Uwe Boll, has only made one mainstream movie so far, and that movie was the incredibly awful House of the Dead.  Also based on a video game, that movie was so bad that I was surprised that the studio had given him a bigger budget and bigger stars.  Dead for some reason was set on an island (where was the house?) and it spliced in scenes of the video game, which made absolutely no sense.  If I were going to give Dark any good props, it would be that at least they didn’t do the game splicing thing here.  Boll apparently has a sickness though, because aside from Dead and Dark, he has three other video game-based movies in production:  Bloodrayne, Hunter: The Reckoning, and Far Cry (the first two are games I’ve actually heard of.)  I actually saw the trailer for Bloodrayne, and it looked fairly decent, but if it bombs like Dead and I’m sure Dark will, I bet the productions for the latter movies will stall.  To make matters worse, this movie was co-written by Elan Mastai (with Michael Roesch and Peter Scheerer, both first-time screenwriters) whose biggest screenwriting achievement so far has been the direct-to-video movie MVP 2: Most Vertical Primate.

That is just the filmmakers…so far; the cast was just as bad.  Slater and Dorff haven’t made a good movie in years, and their bad streaks won’t end here.  Slater’s last good movie was 2000’s The Contender, and he wasn’t even the lead; you would have to go back to 1998’s Very Bad Things where he had a meaty role in a good movie.  As for Dorff, his last good movie was 2000’s Cecil B. DeMented, which followed the movie that originally gave him star status, 1998’s Blade.  I could reminisce about both actors’ great movies in the past, but it looks like their heydays are now gone.  Then we come to Reid, she of the accidental wardrobe malfunction at P. Diddy’s 35th birthday party last year.  She has been in a few good comedies, like the first two American Pie movies and National Lampoon’s Van Wilder, but a supposedly “serious” movie isn’t her forte.

Going back to the writing, I think that the characters’ developments were handled badly.  Reid is supposed to be this brilliant scientist, yet the only way we know that is because she wears glasses and puts her hair in a bun (funny…because as soon as she takes off the glasses and loosens up her hair, she sports a skimpy belly shirt that I’m sure all “serious” scientists wear.)  There is absolutely no chemistry between Reid and Slater, and the only indication that they have feelings for each other is one single gratuitous sex scene that is thrown in for kicks and has nothing to do with the story (unfortunately for you guys, Reid keeps her clothes on this time.)  The dialogue is so bad that the characters say lines so clichéd that the teens in the Scream movies would have made fun of them (one line in the movie:  “Something tells me we’re not the first ones down here.”)

I almost feel like I haven’t sufficiently explained what is so horrible about Alone in the Dark that you may accidentally find yourself paying to see it.  I know that this is only the first month of 2005, but so far, it is in contention for being one of the worst movies of the year.  The directing, the writing, the acting (Slater, I feel for you), and even the special effects were so supremely bad that it was painful to watch.  I don’t even think that gamers will be able to stomach it (or understand it either.)  I have to believe that Boll has some blackmailing information on someone (or at least some of that weird mind paste that Locke smeared on Boone’s head on ABC’s “Lost”) to allow the filmmaker to make two of the worst movies of all time.  Whatever the reason, I hope that Boll’s part in this conspiracy won’t sour all video game-based movies forever.  Like comic book adaptations, there are good ones and there are bad ones (though the bad ones for video games outweigh the good ones.)  We’ll find out when Bloodrayne comes out later this year; meanwhile, I’ll be happy that I never have to watch this cinematic dreck again.

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