January 28, 2005
Memory fails to recall a more profoundly wretched theatrical release than the video-game-inspired sci-fi thriller "Alone in the Dark." It looks bad. It sounds bad. The scenes are assembled crudely with little attention to rhythm. Tara Reid plays a scientist. I could go on and on.
It begins with a "Star Wars"-style scroll sequence so preposterously convoluted, we find ourselves glazing over before the first fade-in. See, there was this ancient race of people called the Abskani, see?
And they controlled these secret evil forces, right? And then they disappeared, and then there was this experiment with orphans, and it all took place in an abandoned gold mine and . . . criminy, did a 10-year-old write this? Is that what you are, er . . . excuse me while I flip through my press notes . . . Elan Mastai, Michael Roesch and Peter Scheerer? A trio of 10-year-old screenwriters? Because you sure as heck write that way, homies.
Christian Slater ("Gleaming the Cube") may yet reclaim the dignity lost to his stints in rehab and various stomachbiting incidents, but he’ll find no salvation in this particular role. Obliged to recite dialogue that appears to sting the nerve endings in his face, Slater plays Edward Carnby, a loner who washed out of a secret government paramilitary agency and now identifies himself to strangers as a "paranormal investigator."
"What does that mean?" somebody asks reasonably.
Mostly, it means Edward gets to strut around in a silly leather duster looking for ancient Abskani artifacts that will unlock the ancient evil power mentioned previously. Bad guys want the power, too, so he teams up with his old girlfriend, assistant museum curator Aline Cedrac (Reid). Edward and Aline must have parted on bad terms, because the first thing she does is slap him in the face, making like Karen Allen in "Raiders of the Lost Ark": "I was young! I was in love!"
German director Uwe Boll ("House of the Dead") plagiarizes fast and freely in "Alone in the Dark" (fans of the genre will recognize verbatim bits of "Alien," "The Hidden" and "Resident Evil") and seems more preoccupied with tracer rounds (in Boll’s universe, every round is a tracer round) than coherent plotting. It all builds up, pointlessly, to an orgiastic melee of gore and cornball acting pitting a bunch of baby-faced commandos (Stephen Dorff of "Blade" plays the rough-and-ready commander) against a pack of supernatural beasts that look like iguanas on growth hormones.
How’s this for pathetic? The filmmakers leave the ending unresolved, as if somebody would actually fund a sequel to such a jaw-dropping display of technical and artistic incompetence. Next time, they’ll be lucky if they aren’t shooting a real video game.
’Alone in the Dark’ Grade: F Starring: Christian Slater, Tara Reid, Stephen Dorff Rating: R (violence and profanity) Running time: 96 minutes. Playing: Opens today in Valley theaters