Can’t judge ‘Alone’ by its good looks

Times Staff Writer

As silly as it is stylish, “Alone in the Dark” has a preposterous premise, but since the film is based on the Atari video game of the same name, it also has much to appeal to headbangers: fast pace, lots of gadgets, monsters, explosive special effects, plenty of inscrutable plot twists and turns. Beyond that, director Uwe Boll, cinematographer Mathias Neumann and production designer Tink have created a striking-looking world for their film -- one that’s shadowy, brooding and menacing. On a purely visual level, “Alone in the Dark” is persuasive.

The gist of the film’s elaborate premise seems to be this: Some 10,000 years ago the Abkani, a highly advanced group of Native Americans, believed the world was divided into the realms of dark and light, and they discovered the portal to the darkness. They were able to close it but not before some evil spirits escaped, which was enough to cause the Abkani to vanish from the face of the earth.

In 1967 anthropologist/mad scientist Professor Hudgens (Mathew Walker) discovers that portal in an abandoned mine, which happens to be in the countryside outside Vancouver, Canada. He is somehow able to capture those evil spirits, which assume the form of tiny dragon monsters, and subsequently implant them in the spines of 20 children in a nearby orphanage in a deranged experiment to create a mutant species. They become “sleepers” who can be awakened once the evil spirits are set loose.


Hudgens has just located a gold Abkani trunk in a shipwreck packed with not only evil spirits but also a plug needed to open the portal. As it so happens the one “sleeper” who got away, whose inner dragon was apparently electrocuted in some manner when he was still a child, has grown up to be Edward Carnby (Christian Slater), paranormal investigator for a secret bureau run by agent Richard Burke (Stephen Dorff).

On assignment in the Amazon, Carnby happens upon the set of three Abkani rings that surround the plug Hudgens has located; once the plug is inserted into the rings, it’s open sesame for the portal. It also happens that Carnby’s girlfriend, Aline (Tara Reid), is an assistant to Professor Hudgens and is helping him prepare an exhibit of Abkani art.

The plot is set in motion by the opening of the Abkani trunk, which causes the “sleepers” to disappear. Much violence, much sci-fi/paranormal mumbo jumbo follows. Slater dominates the film with ease, and Dorff is appropriately blunt and fearless, but Reid is stiff and bland. The film’s clutch of writers has come up with lots of apparently unintentionally laughable dialogue, and Reid’s flat, deadpan delivery is just perfect for uttering “Alone in the Dark’s” most self-evident line: “Some doors are meant to stay shut.”


‘Alone in the Dark’

MPAA rating: R for grisly violence and language

Times guidelines: Too brutal for children; there’s also a scene of sensuality.

Christian Slater...Edward Carnby

Tara Reid...Aline Cedrac

Stephen Dorff...Agent Richard Burke

Mathew Walker...Professor Hudgens

Frank C. Turner...Fischer

A Lions Gate Films release of a BrightLight Pictures presentation. Director Uwe Boll. Producer Shawn Williamson. Executive producers Uwe Boll and Wolfgang Herold. Screenplay by Elan Mastai, Michael Roesch and Peter Scheerer, based on the Atari video game of the same name. Cinematographer Mathias Neumann. Costumes Maria Livingstone. Production designer Tink. Art director Peter Stratford. Set decorator David Birdsall. Running time: 1 hour, 36 minutes.

In general release.