'Dark' is dreary
Feb. 2, 2005
Jeffrey K. Lyles
Staff Writer

Latest video-game movie has no redeeming qualities

There is a special place reserved in the unholiest of unholies for a movie like "Alone in the Dark." In fact, other legendary bad films such as "Battlefield Earth," "Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever," "Catwoman" and "The Adventures of Pluto Nash" await a film of this magnitude because it gets awfully lonely on the island of misfit movies.

Sometimes it's necessary to shy away from really dumping on bad movies because it's akin to shooting fish in a barrel, but in this instance, I would need a machine gun to eliminate any doubt that this is a movie that will haunt you for years.

The film is based on an old video game, so in a somewhat fitting fashion it opens as many video games do, with scrolling text and a narrator reciting what you can clearly read on screen. Video games tend to limit this scroll to two to three paragraphs tops, but for some reason, the film's scroll goes on for such an extended period of time that it becomes unintentionally funny.

This is not the only unintentionally funny moment in this movie, I can assure you.

Poor, poor Christian Slater ("The Deal") stars as Edward Carnby, a paranormal investigator who has been trying to learn what happened to him during his childhood at an orphanage.

He knows it has something to do with evil demons that once nearly conquered the world and are now close to being let loose again, thanks to the probing of Professor Hudgens (Matthew Walker, "Eden's Curve").

Carnby was a member of a special paranormal investigative unit called Bureau 713 but left because he wasn't getting the answers he needed while working with them. In Carnby's absence, his rival, Commander Richards (Stephen Dorff, "Cold Creek Manor"), has taken over the field operations, thus establishing tension between Carnby and the Bureau.

The Bureau is the cut-rate version of "Starship Troopers," with costumes that make them look like paintball players who got their outfits in bulk.

Presumably, the majority of the budget went to the special effects for the demons, who do look intimidating if only due to liberally borrowing the design from the creatures in the "Alien" films.

And only a movie in search of not one single glowing review would dare blow all of its credibility by casting Tara "Where's the Party at?" Reid ("Knots") as museum curator Aline Cedrac.

Reid clearly was cast to up the film's "hotness" quota, but Tara Reid, museum curator, sounds as believable as Paris Hilton, Secretary of Defense. Come to think of it, that would make for a more interesting movie.

Carnby and Cedrac are former lovers, naturally, and while she thought he was dead, she's all too happy to resume the relationship.

Screenwriters Elam Mastai, Michael Roesch and Peter Scheerer craft some truly, uh, unique dialogue here with such gems as "the hair on the back of my neck just stood up."

So the dialogue and the plot are lousy, but at least the action scenes are good, right? Well, the action isn't terrible as director Uwe Boll ("House of the Dead") does bring some life to those scenes, but even the action drags on as it's just scene after scene of Bureau agents getting killed by the demons.

There are several scenes before the action gets going that reminded me of those "mini-movies" one sees while in line for a major ride at an amusement park.

"Alone in the Dark" doesn't even allow for great heckling, either, as my brain was literally getting dumber by the second. With a 96-minute movie, that's a lot of seconds. I'm currently back to reading at a third-grade level.

Truly the most frightening aspect of this film is the prospect of some poor, unsuspecting moviegoer entering a cinema only to find every other movie sold out and deciding: What the heck, why not see "Alone in the Dark"?

And that, boys and girls, is when the real terror sets in.