1 star (out of 4)
There are some stupid films that rock, if you turn your brain off and enjoy them.
"Alone in the Dark" isn't one of these, though it is very stupid. It abets the cinematic slide that Christian Slater is making to Rutger Hauer status (you see him in the cast and say "Uh, oh "), but sure as heck doesn't elevate Tara Reid to thespian from overexposed. Her performance as curator Aline Cedrac is horrific, with the diction of a moron, the expressiveness of a block of wood and the wardrobe of Streetwalker Barbie. And Tara, it's pronounced "Noofundlend," not "NewFOUNDlayund."
But in context, she isn't bad. Slater runs around looking constipated, Stephen Dorff glowers ineptly, and the film itself has a grainy look, as if shot on stock recycled from a real movie.
That this bit of pustulence is based on a video game of the same name is no surprise. It explains the thin plot, characters and abundant gunplay.
Slater is Edward Carnby, a paranormal investigator, artifact hunter and one of 20 orphans abducted from Our Lady of Perpetual Light Orphanage (get it?) more than two decades ago. He finds this artifact, for which a super-powered guy tries to kill him (bullets don't stop him, but Slater can beat him up) and the sinister Professor Hudgens (Mathew Walker) pops up, scavenging for the same group of artifacts that--what a surprise--control evil critters.
Somehow--it is never really explained--this all ties into science experiments on the orphans and the monsters, Xenos, dark-dwelling critters that the government's heavily armed paranormal research team wants dead. Douse the lights, cue the gunfire.
The dark can be a very effective device. Carnby (Slater) is correct when he says, "Being afraid of the dark is what keeps most of us alive." Dark alleys, dark entryways, dark rooms are all places we shudder to contemplate. They're so powerful on the screen because not seeing can be scary as heck.
But because showoff special effects guys want everyone to see their creations, in this instance T-Rex-like metallic monsters, suspense evaporates. Further, there have to be characters whom we grow to like and don't want to see eviscerated. Punch a hole in a cardboard cutout, and who cares?
You'd also think that by now Hollywood would have run out of people who can be sent into dark rooms waving flashlights and saying "Hello?" But here they are, in service of a film in which the stupidity of its characters is essential to its continuation. "Don't open the box." Someone does. "Don't turn that key." Someone does.
And the stupidity doesn't even get into basic continuity, where Reid's earrings change mid-scene and guns never run out of bullets. The Xenos have powers of invisibility, but run around in plain view so the soldiers can shoot them. Sometimes the soldiers can kill them and other times, they can't. No rules, few survivors, no sense.
"Alone in the Dark"
Directed by Uwe Boll; written by Elan Mastai. Michael Roesch and Peter Scheerer; production designed by Tink; music by Jochen Engelke; produced by Shawn Williamson. A Lion's Gate Pictures release; opens Friday. Running time: 1:36. MPAA rating: R (for language, scary monsters, gore and violence).
Edward Carnby - Christian Slater
Aline Cedrac - Tara Reid
Commander Richards - Stephen Dorff
Professor Hudgens - Mathew Walker