Monday, September 24, 2012

Alone in the Dark

I'm a video game fan. So much of a video game fan that I purchased the Red vs. Blue DVDs, actually paid to see Street Fighter in a movie theater and made little home movies on Mario Paint. Shit, I still own an Atari 2600. So when a movie comes along based on a video game, regardless if it's one I've played before or not, I always go to see it the weekend it opens.

Now then, I'm not the biggest fan of Uwe Boll's last game flick outing, the pathetic House of the Dead (whose only worthwhile segment was a violence orgy at the halfway point), but he's a game fan as well and I will give him the benefit of the doubt.
Alone in the Dark is not a good movie. In fact it's pretty awful. But here's the thing... where House of the Dead stunk of last week's ass back to front, this new film is actually a very competently made flick that just happens to have a putrid script and the talentless Tara Reid in a leading role.

The long ass opening prologue tells us that there's a gateway that leads from our world to one that is forever covered in darkness. A race of ancient Native Americans accidentally opened this gateway back in the day and let a few of that world's inhabitants into ours. They're still here in the present, and a cruel scientist uses these creatures to experiment on children to create a race of half-breeds. One of these children is Edward Carnby (Christian Slater), who has grown up to be a paranormal investigator. Together with his ex-girlfriend (Tara Reid) and his ex-boss (Stephen Dorff) they attempt to stop an invasion of these creatures.

Pretty convoluted, eh? Well it is. There's no reason explained as to why that scientist wants to create half-breeds. The only purpose they have in the film is to take part in a lengthy action scene. The film jumps from action set piece to action set piece with reckless abandon plot be damned. It's as if Uwe Boll came up with an assload of cool ideas for action scenes, but had no way to string them together into a cohesive movie. Plus there's a tacked on sex scene that occurs out of the blue (I actually laughed out loud when this scene started). The plot is cobbled together out of plenty of classic and not-so-classic sci-fi/horror films from the last 20 years. If you can't at least be partially original when writing a movie, then don't even try. Also, there’s no way I’m ever going to be able to suspend disbelief long enough to buy Tara Reid as a brainy museum curator.
There are some positives though. The film has wonderful cinematography. So wonderful in fact I'd say it's too good for this movie. It's truly a step up from House of the Dead, which looked like the set design and lighting budget was $2.98 and was filmed in King Kong's buttcrack. The shots are well staged, always interesting to look at and are suspensefully lit when the need arises. Christian Slater actually looks like he's having a good time making the film, as does Stephen Dorff. They're fun to watch. The special FX are actually pretty decent and not overdone. The score/songs are a decent mix of orchestration and hard core metal (could have done without that hokey ass ditty played over the sex scene, but the ending theme “Wish I Had an Angel” by Nightwish is pretty rad). The action scenes are very cool. The first fight scene between Carnby and a bald assassin is exciting and harsh (that dude jumping through that window head first looked painful), but there were a couple of moments when I could tell the actors were on wires. There's good use of Matrix-style slo-mo and some innovative FX shots (the interior of the gun/following the bullet shot was taken from Bad Boys II, but it still rocked). The big gunfight in Carnby's apartment was fun too, but the whole 'the set is completely dark and only illuminated by the muzzle flashes of the guns' was ripped from Equilibrium. And finally there were some quality gore moments, something that's missing from a lot of horror movies nowadays. That split head bit made be squirm since it looked so damned real.

A big step up from House of the Dead but still a hunk o'shite, Alone in the Dark strives to be more than the sum of it's parts but falls on it's ass due to a toilet paper thin script and bad casting decisions. I'm still looking forward to Uwe Boll's next two video game adaptations: Bloodrayne and Hunter: The Reckoning. They can only get better as long as the director continues to NOT splice clips of the game his film is based on into his flicks.

2 out of 5

*written 1/29/05

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