By the sheerest chance the news about Christian Slater being attacked in London by a guy with a knife broke on the very day that his new movie was press-screened. (The report has since been denied by the actor, of course.) And though it’s rather cruel to admit it, “Alone in the Dark”–a title that would seem prophetic, because anybody wandering into an auditorium showing it is likely to have very little company–is so bad in fact that it could have immediately crossed one’s mind that his attacker might have seen the picture and acted in response.
The picture is terrible beyond belief, like the worst 1940s serial ever made. But of course it’s not really a crummy Indiana Jones retread; it’s a video game movie, as is immediately revealed by an absurdly long scroll at the beginning, “Stars Wars” style, that sets up the absurd and complicated backstory about the Abkani, an ancient Native American tribe that opened the door to another dimension of being before suddenly disappeared. Slater plays Ed Carnby, a fellow still tormented by what happened to him many years ago, when he and nineteen other children were inexplicably abducted from an orphanage; as a self-styled “paranormal investigator,” he’s now trying to collect artifacts of the vanished tribe because he once served in a secret government agency (the 713) dedicated, it appears, to fighting the evil that the Abkani initially released. Unfortunately he has a rival in his search–a wicked scientist named Hudgens (Matthew Walker), associated with the 713, who was involved in the children’s abduction and is apparently in league with the evil creatures the agency is trying to combat. The scientist is also the boss of Carnby’s ex-girlfriend Aline (Tara Reid), an archeologist who looks like a sultry coed and who–obviously conscious of proper professional attire–seems to favor navel-revealing tank tops in her wardrobe. One other character is prominent: Burke Richards (Stephen Dorff), the gung-ho head of the agency Carnby was once affiliated with, who’s initially hostile to his erstwhile colleague but–in the fashion that’s obligatory in this sort of stuff–eventually becomes a steadfast, self-sacrificing ally.
It’s impossible to say anything positive about “Alone in the Dark.” The plot is idiotic, the dialogue cliche-ridden and inane, the special effects cheeseball, the acting dreadful down the line (Reid seems one of those starlets hired for reasons other than thespian, and Walker of a standard below that expected on Saturday morning television), the direction sloppy, and the technical work several grades beneath mediocre (with Mathias Neumann’s cinematography in particular having a grubby, washed-out look). The whole package is just about what one would expect from Uwe Boll, who was previously responsible for the repulsive slasher flick “House of the Dead” (another awful video game movie). As for Slater and Dorff, they stride around trying to act like tough guys and coming across two sizes too small for the part. Well, they’ve been in worse movies–wait a minute, no they haven’t.
That ridiculously long scroll that introduces “Alone in the Dark” informs us that when the Abkani opened that terrible door, they released something truly hideous into our world. A pity the writers didn’t warn us that it was this movie.