Uwe Boll | 94 mins | TV | 18 / R
I’ve never played an Alone in the Dark game. I wanted to, when I was young and they were a widely-known cutting-edge franchise, but it was deemed too scary or adult or something like that and I wasn’t allowed. (By the time someone’s nostalgia revived the series nearly a decade later, I didn’t care.) I’ve also never seen an Uwe Boll film, though his reputation obviously precedes him. Considering the latter, having no attachment to the former is probably a benefit to assessing this — I understand that, story-wise, it bears virtually no relation — but I can’t say it helps much.
Right from the off, things don’t look good: it opens with an essay’s worth of backstory in scrolling text… which, just to rub it in, is also read out. It takes about a minute and a half. There are any number of screenwriting rules this not so much breaks as slowly and methodically grinds into sand. Some rules can be bent or broken to good effect if the writer knows what they’re doing, but others exist for damn fine reasons and breaking them just results in a lesser film. This is unquestionably the latter. There’s an almost-excuse: the text was added after test audiences said they didn’t understand the plot. But it’s not much of one. The relevant information is all revealed later in the film too, and neither manage to explain what the hell is going on. It’s not the audience’s fault they couldn’t understand the plot, it just doesn’t make sense.
Quickly, the poor quality opening is cemented with the addition of a dire voiceover narration from Christian Slater’s lead character. He addresses the audience in a chatty style that’s both irritating and incongruous, and primarily exists to continuously dump more useless info. That it disappears without a trace fairly early on is a relief, but proves how pointless and cheap it was in the first place.
And then there’s an action sequence, which defies logic in every respect. The editing mucks up continuity, the good guys turn into a dead-end marketplace for no reason — other than it provides a handily enclosed location for the ensuing fist fight — the bad guy rams cars, scales buildings and jumps through windows, also for no reason, and the fight seems to consist of a punch followed by some slow motion standing around (yes, it’s the standing around that’s in slow motion) repeated too often, interspersed with the occasional ‘cool’ move or shot. On the bright side, there’s one sub-Matrix, Wanted-esque shot of a bullet-time close-up as Carnby fires at the bad guy through a block of ice, which in itself is passably entertaining. You’ll note, of course, that that’s one good shot. One. Shot.
I could go through every scene in the film describing what’s wrong in this way, but no one wants to suffer that. Suffice to say it only gets worse — none of the initial flaws improve, but are compounded by more weak performances (Tara Reid as some kind of scientist?) and the story entirely vacating proceedings. Before halfway I gave up following the plot — after all, why try to follow something that makes no sense in the first place — and just hoped it could pull out some interesting or exciting sequences. But the horror sequences have no tension and the fights no coherence. One action sequence, which begins entirely out of the blue, sees soldiers shooting at beast-thingies in the dark, lit only by muzzle flashes, set to a thumping metal soundtrack. It probably seemed innovative when conceived, but instead is laughable for all the wrong reasons. Like the rest of the film.
Sadly, none of it’s laughable in a charming way — this is not So Bad It’s Good territory. Take the moment where the good guys arrive at an abandoned gold mine that’s actually the villain’s Super Secret Lair. They bring a whole army’s worth of heavily armed marines. Commander blokey insists it’s nothing like enough men… and then proceeds to enter the mine with just half a dozen of them. If there was no budget for more it might be funny, but the rest stay up top to be slaughtered by some Primeval-quality CGI. Even the ending, supposed to be ambiguous apparently, is just a meaningless cop-out that makes absolutely no sense. Like the rest of the film.
Sometimes I feel sorry for Christian Slater. He always seems a nice guy in interviews, yet this kind of drivel is all the work he can get. At the time of writing it’s the 82nd worst film of all time on IMDb (according to its own page, though not that chart). While this is the kind of status that’s often an overreaction (the number of people on IMDb declaring various films are “the worst film ever” suggests most of them have been fortunate enough to never see a truly bad movie), for once it’s justified: Alone in the Dark is irredeemably atrocious.
If you want to subject yourself to Alone in the Dark, ITV4 are showing it tonight at 11pm.
Alone in the Dark featured on my list of The Five Worst Films I Saw in 2009, which can be read in full here.