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Alone in the Dark

Alone in the Dark

Rated R, 96 min. Directed by Uwe Boll. Starring Christian Slater, Tara Reid, Stephen Dorff, Will Sanderson, Matthew Walker, Frank C. Turner.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Feb. 4, 2005

There's a certain majesty to German director Boll's unmistakable style of filmmaking: a freedom from art, talent, skill of any formal kind, and the sheer pigheadedness to keep going at any cost and damn the straight-to-video market. That sort of single-minded, carefree attitude borders on the mystical if not the sociopathic. It's as if Boll, chasing his unicorn dream over the rainbow of anti-auteurism, has mastered some deeply satisfying zen koan imparted to him by a wise man named Ed Wood. Or is the name Boll just another cryptic take on the prefab Alan Smithee non-moniker? Likely not. Alone in the Dark is the director's second project in as many years that's based on an old video game that no one remembers with all that much fondness. It's not just equally as bad as last year's execrable House of the Dead – it's much, much worse. It's like getting jabbed repeatedly in the cornea with a rusty diaper pin while being forced to listen to the most bombastically atrocious nu-Euro-metal ever recorded as Christian Slater completely tanks his career for the second time (the first time, of course, was 1992's Kuffs). Helium ’n' Marlboro-voiced blondeshell Tara Reid as a scientist? Why not? If Boll can continue to have a career in the wake of House of the Dead, well, all bets are off. The story, which liberally borrows from Peter Hyams' 1997 The Relic as well as Aliens, Tremors, and even William Castle's chestnut (and John Waters' fave) The Tingler, is as senseless as the direction, but the real fun begins even before then, with one of the longest – perhaps the longest – opening expository crawls ever endured. Over the course of the verbiage, we're informed that an ancient Native American race known as the Abkani long ago discovered a portal to another, more evil world, before promptly vanishing off the face of the earth. Since then, Abkani artifacts have been found secreted in the most remote places in the world, while a secret government agency, codenamed Bureau 713, seeks out paranormal events and places and attempts to … do something. Slater plays ex-713er Edward Carnby, who teams with ex-flame Reid to stop mad scientist Professor Hudgens (Walker), who, for reasons never explained, wants to open the dreaded portal all over again and damn the consequences. Rife with unexplained plot twists that make about as much sense as Boll securing financing for this bad, bad dog in the first place, the film also sports some deliciously clichéd dialogue, performances as wooden as pine coffins, and, bad news for Reid fans, zero nude scenes, which at least livened up House of the Dead for a bit. There is one moment of explicit head trauma gore sure to get the gorehounds yapping, but the other 95 minutes of the film are so scatterbrained and ill-conceived as to render even that bit of grue irrelevant. It's just the most inept filmmaking you can catch in theatres right now, or probably all year long, and rumor has it Boll has yet another video game adaptation waiting in the wings. We can hardly wait.
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