Starring: Christian Slater, Tara Reid, Stephen Dorff, Frank C. Turner. Rated R.
late critic Gene Siskel once devised a simple method of
measuring a film’s worth: “Is this film more interesting than a documentary of
the same actors having lunch?”
in the Dark
doesn’t come close to matching that standard, though it occasionally scores big
on the unintentional comedy scale. With its third-team all-star cast featuring
the notoriously hard-partying Christian Slater and Tara Reid matching wits with
the notoriously combustible Stephen Dorff, who wouldn’t want to check out an afternoon on
that set? Perhaps the better question is, who would want to check out this tired doomsday fable, as bleak
as it is nonsensical?
Granted, it’s tough to wring an engaging story from a video
game – past duds like Street Fighter
Mortal Kombat are proof enough. (Final
Fantasy: The Spirits Within remains the
notable exception.) Judging from Alone in the Dark, based on a groundbreaking Atari title, it would
seem damn near impossible. At its heart, the movie is a 90-minute special
effects reel, with enough shattered glass, splattered blood and digitally
enhanced beasts to satisfy undiscriminating horror fans. The story is of
secondary concern, and it shows.
A brief summary: Professor Hudgens (Mathew Walker) discovers
a tomb containing the evil, reptilian demons worshipped by an ancient culture
called the Abskani. Naturally, he opens it and brings them to Vancouver, where,
with the help of a few zombified orphans, they will attempt to annihilate the
human race. All that stands in the way is a team of paranormal experts – Edward
(Slater), Aline (Reid) and Richards (Dorff) – and their truckloads of shiny
artillery. Hilarity ensues.
Or rather, it doesn’t. If this material had been played for
laughs, as it was so cleverly in Shaun of the Dead, it might have made for amusing satire. Instead, Alone
in the Dark is a somber patchwork of scenes
and ideas borrowed from better movies (Alien, Predator),
rendered in such laughably lifeless fashion that one can’t help but wonder if
It’s not. There’s no levity here, only stiff dialogue (Reid,
in particular, sleepwalks through her role) and appropriately murky tones. It’s
an exercise in style by filmmakers with none to speak of, a dreary death march
in dire need of some comic relief.