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Prof. Lionel Hudgens:
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I usually start by relaying the premise of the film, but before anyone makes any hasty judgments about my review, let me preface it by saying that I'm someone who likes most films (just check my other reviews). Alone in the Dark is a film by director Uwe Boll, whose film right before this one was House of the Dead (2003). Like Alone in the Dark, it was also a film adaptation of a video game. Almost everyone hated it. Well, I loved it. I even gave it a 10 out of 10! My point in stating this (which will surely turn some readers off immediately) is that if even I hated Alone in the Dark, there must be something wrong with it.
The Premise: Who am I kidding? Attempting to state a premise for this film is about as easy as trying to balance the United States' budget, but here it goes anyway. Some archaeologists discovered evidence of some lost American Indian tribe. The Indian tribe apparently had discovered some means of broaching the "second world", which was evil in nature. The bad stuff wiped them out, but not before they could lock the door to the evil world and throw away the key. Later, some scientist/government researcher who had been experimenting with the paranormal, and specifically this tribe, decided to experiment on some kids, to try to produce some kind of hybrid with the second world. (Believe it or not--everything up to this point and then some is told to us in a written prologue to the film--it's just white text scrolling across a black screen with a voice-over also reading it to us). Then, there was something about the kids being in an orphanage, but the government takes them back out, and then a bunch of people are searching for archaeological relics, and there are super humans roaming around, and a bunch of military people are called in and on and on.
In fact, the exposition never really stops. It's like a neverending backstory from hell. There are enough ideas here to fill at least 10 films, maybe 25. But not one of them is presented in a coherent way to create one good film. In addition to the mystical lost Indian tribe and the superhumans, we also get monsters that resemble a cross between Alien and a werewolf, worms that invade your body and turn into snake-like aliens, tunneling worms underground, zombies, Starship Trooper-like wars, evil scientists, underground lairs, gold mines, spooky warehouses, impalements, big mostly unused museums, government conspiracies, golden trunks pulled out of the sea, nuns, explosions, complex backstabbing plots, a very ambiguous romance, car chases, home invasions, kitchen sinks . . . wait, I can't remember if that last one was in the film. Even more amazingly (amusingly?), in Fangoria #240, producer Shawn Williamson was quoted as saying, "We're spending much more time on story, being very meticulous about that". Tara Reid called Alone in the Dark "a smarter film".
Let me not mislead anyone. A lot of that stuff above might sound yummy to the potential audience for this film, but the problem is that nothing has the slightest connection to anything else. I usually had no idea what any setting's relation was to any other setting, why we were there, or what anyone was doing (at least when each scene began). It's just a random mishmash of settings and clichés, as if director Uwe Boll had 250 unrelated ideas in a hat and pulled them out like lottery numbers. Then when he was done, he and editor Richard Schwadel decided to cut the film by using dice, then reassembled it by throwing the I Ching. Sometimes the film plays like an extended director's reel (which is a combination of short, varied, unrelated scenes that directors circulate to try to get work), but perhaps that's being too generous. I'm not sure Boll would get work if this were his reel.
Just as I tend to at least like most films, I tend to like most actors and most performances. It's very rare that I say that a performance was bad. Well, Tara Reid was bad here--and I'm someone who usually likes Reid. I don't know what happened. For a large percentage of the film, they just move her around the set like a prop. They might as well have just bought a blow-up doll. That would have saved them money that they could have used for some cgi ghosts and vampires in castle and graveyard settings. Maybe they chose to move her around like a pretty piece of driftwood after they saw the dailies of her mumbling nonsense dialogue in a monotone that's usually reserved for entertaining mother-in-laws.
And speaking of that dialogue, a lot of Alone in the Dark plays like a Godzilla film without Godzilla. By that, I mean that it's a lot of pseudo-scientific gobbledy-gook. At least in Godzilla films, there's a campiness to it, because they know how ridiculous it is, and there's a big payoff in that we get to see Godzilla destroy downtown and battle a giant gnat with radioactive death beams shooting from its eyes or something.
Just what Stephen Dorff and Christian Slater are doing here, besides overacting and filing lawsuits against their agents, is difficult to say. I can't say that I thought anyone in the film had a decent performance, although maybe Slater at least saw the cigar. I think that's unprecedented for me.
Still, I didn't give this film a 1. There was some competent cinematography, even if Boll and Schwadel made mincemeat out of it, and the hard rock tunes over the end credits were good. Heck, even the novelette prologue wasn't so bad. I actually thought the film had promise at that point. But this may just be the worst film I've ever seen with a budget of 20 million or more.
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