Alone in the Dark

Whether he likes it or not, Uwe Boll has become one of the most recognizable names in the b-movie community, ranking with such greats as Ed Wood and Coleman Francis. House of the Dead has become the subject of endless jibes on message boards and everyday conversation, but I’d feel safe in saying there’s a palpable love for the film and its contribution to the world of terrible cinema. I mean, how often do we get a real turkey like Dead or Battlefield Earth to restore our faith in the utter ineptitude of Hollywood? With that said, let’s see if Boll’s second film, Alone in the Dark can compare to its predecessor in terms of baditude.

In true Boll form, the movie opens in the most confusing way possible, with an astonishingly long text crawl. Here we learn of an ancient tribe of Indians known as the Abkani, lost artifacts, gateways between the worlds of light and dark, evil creatures, a government agency dealing with paranormal phenomenon, a mad scientist, his secret lab hidden within an abandoned gold mine (oh brother), and so much more.

After watching the movie I made sure to go back and watch this section with Boll’s commentary, and in keeping with his usual arrogance he blames the need for a text crawl on the audience. Apparently he and his team wrote the crawl after test crowds became rightly puzzled by the convoluted plot, so it’s literal purpose is to cram all of the expository information into three minutes. To add insult to injury, all of this info is repeated by the characters, so the movie tends to get redundant on more than a few occasions.

Christian Slater, Tara Reid, and Stephen Dorff are the thespian trio forced to carry this celluloid load, and to no one’s surprise they all look bored to tears. Slater, whether delivering useless narration or bulging his eyes out during an “emotional moment” always looks as if he was recently dipped in rubbing alcohol. The poor man just comes off as greasy and weighed down, with his only motivation being the somewhat sizeable check waiting at the end of the line.

Reid plays Slater’s ex-girlfriend who, predictably, resents but eventually comes to fall in love with the human meatloaf. She’s also supposed to be a paleontologist, a key character note which is realized visually with a pair of nerdy glasses and a conservative outfit. Needless to say these details don’t help her ability to talk like a paleontologist, and her dialogue almost always comes off as sedated or pained. I’d discuss Dorff and his role in the film, but it’s so inconsequential it’s not even worth discussing at length. Let’s just say he’s Slater’s rival and leave it at that.

Together these three actors slog through a story which could have been interesting had it been handled by a capable director. With Boll at the helm, however, arcs and subplots come together to create a mesh which is neither especially captivating or even funny on an unintentional level. I just never cared about what was happening in front of me, whether it was the silly assemblage of possessed orphans attacking Slater or the even sillier idea of a gate which leads into a generic world of evil. I don’t know who fell asleep when this script was being penned, but it needed more than a few rewrites before being thrown at the actors. As is, the movie suffers to the nth degree as a result.

And what’s more, can anyone possibly explain the motivation of the film’s main villain? He’s this cooky scientist who’s hell bent on unleashing these evil creatures upon an unsuspecting world, but at no point does he bother to tell our heroes why this is his goal in life. Instead he roars and twitches like the hammiest of actors, trying desperately to distract us viewers into thinking he’s somehow important. Sorry fellah, but I sure as heck didn’t buy your character in any respect.

To wrap things up, let me just say that Alone in the Dark is not nearly as entertaining as House of the Dead. Like a hammer to the skull, it just bludgeons you until the credits roll and you can yank the DVD out of its respective player. Its only good attribute are the decent special effects used to create the creatures, but that doesn’t amount to a hill of beans compared to its lame acting, writing, and overall presentation. Despite all of these flaws, though, it will have a place in my collection, because something tells me an Uwe Boll collection is one worth keeping updated. Dr. Boll, you can be secure in knowing you’ll have a place in the history of Hollywood, even if that place is in the gutter.

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