Film is 'Alone' in its dreadfulness

Alone in the Dark is so bad, in ways the people who coined the word never even thought of, that it's hard to imagine anyone over the age of 10 was involved with it.

Actually, that's not fair. I know some 10-year-olds of average intelligence who, given the chance, could have made this a much better movie.


This is the kind of film that could send the art form back decades, and even make one wonder if Thomas Edison did a good thing when he pioneered the motion picture. At the least, it should cause a re-evaluation of the work of legendarily bad filmmaker Ed Wood, whose reputation as the worst of the worst could be imperiled if Alone is emblematic of the work to be expected from director Uwe Boll. Compared to Boll's handiwork here, Wood's fabled Plan 9 From Outer Space is Citizen Kane.

At least Plan 9 has a plot, more than can be said for Alone in the Dark. The action has something to do with the long-lost Abkanis, a prehistoric tribe of culturally and scientifically advanced Native Americans who opened a portal to another dimension but didn't know enough to shut the door when a bunch of really bad creatures began streaming through it.


Apparently, that oversight led to their disappearance, but not before they left behind a bunch of clues to ... something (the script, which allegedly took three people to write, never makes clear what).

Flash forward a few thousand years - all this back story is explained in an opening voiceover narration that seems to run for an hour-and-a-half - and we meet the hero of our story, Edward Carnby (Christian Slater, ensconced in a career free fall that, at least, can fall no lower). An investigator of the paranormal who once worked for the government's super-secret "Bureau 713," Carnby's out to do ... something (again, the script doesn't really make this clear - maybe a fourth writer should have been hired?).

In this, he is aided by brainy archaeologist Aline Cedrac, who is played by Tara Reid, an actress most famous recently for accidentally exposing her breast during a photo shoot at a P. Diddy party. But never fear, the filmmakers make her appear super-smart by having her wear glasses and pulling her hair back in a tight bun. Ingenious!

The rest of Alone in the Dark goes by in a blur, or maybe my brain refused to process any more of what appeared onscreen, figuring it had endured enough punishment. There's a bunch of zombified former orphans who attack Carnby; an evil scientist who injects himself with evil blood and has plans to do ... something; doglike creatures from the other dimension who have the power to make lights flicker; a dead nun; and tons of loose, nonsensical plot threads.

And those are the best things about the film. You want to dwell on the negatives, talk about an editing style that displays all the finesse of a truncheon - characters appear and disappear without warning, battles are enjoined on one side of the screen while actors on the other strain to look at their cue cards, scenes shift from pitch-dark to blinding daylight within seconds. Or talk about the filmmakers' refusal to give the characters personality; when a bunch of fatigue-garbed Bureau 713-ers start getting mowed down by the nasty critters, it's as though they were all played by the same actor, so indistinguishable are they from one another.

Reid may be no Meryl Streep, but she's cute and usually game and, at least in one film (Body Shots), showed off some respectable dramatic chops. Here, she's forced to utter some of the decade's most inane dialogue ("I don't think we're supposed to be here," she says, echoing what everyone else in the theater is thinking). There's even a scene where she lets her hair down (literally) just long enough to have a make-out session with Slater. Apparently, Boll realized at that moment that Reid was a hottie, and for no better reason decided to show his two stars in the clinch.

Boll and his co-conspirators used an Atari video game as their inspiration. You'd think, after such cinematic failures as Resident Evil and Super Mario Bros., the Hollywood brain trust would come to realize that there's no such thing as a good movie made from a video game (although a Frogger movie, that I'd like to see). It may sound like a gamble, making such a prediction so early in the year, but here goes: Alone in the Dark will be the worst movie of 2005. The idea that anything could be worse is the only genuine scare the movie has to offer.

Alone in the Dark


Starring Christian Slater, Tara Reid

Directed by Uwe Boll

Released by Lions Gate Films

Rated R (violence, language)

Time 96 minutes

Sun Score 1/2