The 2012 Bloody Hearts fest begins with a horror movie that’s so bad, it holds a 1% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and is widely considered to be one of the worst films of all times.
This is my first Uwe Boll movie, and I feel certain that my life will never be the same again.
This review will have SPOILERS because to hell with it.
Also, I can’t promise a lot of coherency in this review. I’m going to try, but I don’t know if it’s actually possible. My friends dared me to write a plot summary; that’s how crazy this movie was. I just can’t make myself go through each and every single thing that happens—I’d have to watch the whole movie again, and clearly, that’s not happening anytime soon, or ever—but here’s the best summary I could come up with:
Edward Carnby (Christian Slater) is a paranormal investigator who apparently makes a living off of investigating his own, appropriately traumatic childhood that he doesn’t entirely remember, and also tracking down the artifacts of the Akbani people, an ancient tribe of Native Americans who mysteriously vanished off the face of the Earth after they opened (and then quickly closed) a portal between the World of Light and the World of Darkness. With the help of his sort of ex-girlfriend, archaeologist Aline Cedrac (Tara Reid) and the 713 (a secret government agency who deals with the supernatural), Carnby must discover who else wants these artifacts, what dastardly purpose they plan to use them for (yeah, one guess), and how to stop them before the world goes to hell in a handbasket (almost literally).
1. According to IMDb trivia, test audiences were so confused by this film that Uwe Boll decided to add a text scroll to the beginning of the movie that would detail all of the background information and make the film easier to follow. Now, that’s not my favorite way to receive exposition—I think it’s sort of a lazy device, honestly, and it’s really only acceptable in Star Wars because I crack up whenever I see DEATH STAR written in capital letters—but it is a fairly time-honored tradition of setting up background info . . .
. . . except in this movie, where the opening crawl just goes on and on, and you kind of can’t help but tune out, which sort of defeats the whole purpose. If you haven’t seen the movie, you might be thinking my complaint sounds like another symptom of an attention-deficit youth who can’t be bothered to read for thirty seconds. Please let me assure you this is not the case. This is, without a doubt, the worst opening crawl I’ve ever seen in a movie. This is the example you use when you’re teaching filmmaking students what not to do under any circumstances.
2. Actually, Alone in the Dark might best be appreciated in that light, as a sort of teaching method on exactly how not to make movies. If you’re an aspiring director, here are some tips that you can learn:
2A: Do not cast Tara Reid as a scientist. Or in a horror movie. Or when you need her to emote in any way, shape, or form. I would just say, “Don’t cast Tara Reid, period,” but that’s not entirely being fair. The friends and all I agreed that she was perfectly enjoyable in Josie and the Pussycats. There’s a time and place for Tara Reid, and that place was not here.
Now, there are no good performances in this movie. Christian Slater, continuing a downward spiral that’s been going on for about, oh, fifteen years now, is fairly ludicrous as the protagonist, and Stephen Dorff, who I actually like in some movies, is just as bad, if not worse, as a 713 agent. But no one, I mean, no one is quite as awful as Tara Reid in this film. Just the concept alone: Tara Reid, serious archaeologist. How do you not laugh at that? Who thought, Yes, yes, my audiences won’t start cracking up the very SECOND she walks on screen at all. Giving her glasses? Er, not exactly enough to cement her intellectual credibility, guys.
More importantly, though? Tara Reid can’t act. When she’s supposed to be pissed at Carnby for leaving her without even a phone call’s explanation, Reid manages a mild whine. When a monster is about to eat her face off, she looks vaguely distressed, like someone just told her that they just ran out of the caramel syrup for her frappuccino. Let me tell you, Tara Reid earned her Razzie in this film.
2B. If you’re going to adapt a video game, try playing the game first.
I’ve never played the Alone in the Dark games before, so I asked my friend to describe the basic plot synopsis for me. When he told me, I’m pretty sure my jaw dropped. I suppose it shouldn’t have. Most video game adaptations are fairly loose, at best. But still, what he described and what I was watching? Yeah. Galaxies apart.
I did some follow-up Wikipedia research—my favorite kind—and discovered that in the original 1992 game, Edward Carnby is a paranormal investigator who goes to the mansion of some dude who’s just killed himself. Carnby’s there to pick up a . . . wait for it . . . wait for iiiiiiit . . . piano. Dude. That’s so hardcore. Then the doors slam shut and the monsters attack, and Carnby has to search around the house to find clues and figure out what’s going on. Also, did I mention the game is set in 1924?
Admittedly, some things in this movie apparently do have (exceptionally thin) basis in later games—there are orphans, for example, and also these guys called the Shadow Hunters, who I guess could be akin to secret agency 713. (You know, except for that whole 20th vs. 21st century thing, but what’s a hundred years, right?) Still, that’s another lesson for you, kids: don’t pull random shit from four or five different games, even if they’re in the same series. You’re going to get a very confused plot if you do, leading me to my next lesson:
2C. If you have a two-minute opening crawl, and you still need someone to narrate what the hell is happening in your movie . . . your story is ludicrously overcomplicated. Rewrite the entire thing.
2D. If you’re going to adapt something called Alone in the Dark, it wouldn’t hurt to have your main characters, at some point, be alone in the dark. A few side characters have to creep around by themselves for about twenty seconds, but otherwise . . . yeah. This movie’s much more interesting in blowing shit up than being scary.
2E. Finally, never have your protagonist sweep his duster around like a cape to transition from one scene to the next. Not unless your protagonist is played by Samuel L. Jackson. He might be able to pull it off.
3. This movie is an example of, well, probably many well-worn cliches, but two in particular that I can think of:
A. If you’re in a helicopter, you are probably going to die. (Broken Arrow, Die Hard, Die Hard 3, Die Hard 4, Deep Blue Sea, etc.)
B. The explosion that will save the day must be detonated manually. (Examples: Event Horizon, Armageddon, Star Trek, etc.)
One point about that last bit: Commander Richard Burke (Stephen Dorff) is the one who goes back to set the charges, thus sealing the barrier between the World of Light and the World of Darkness. It’s all very noble of him, setting the timer for five seconds and stoically waiting to die . . . except, oh wait, that’s not what he does. No, Burke sets the charges for five seconds, and then turns around and tries to run away.
Er . . .
Look, I’m a big fan of the survival instinct, so I’m all okay with a guy trying to do a brave thing and also not die, all at the same time . . . but you just can’t set the timer on a bomb for five seconds and then try to run. Thirty seconds, I could have bought. Maybe even twenty seconds. But five? Why even bother?
4. The music in this movie is fairly hilarious too:
A: “7 Seconds” by Youssou N’Dour and featuring Neneh Cherry. Otherwise, known as Sexy Time Music.
I found this song on youtube, and regardless of the context you first hear it in, I don’t really think it’s my type of music. But at least it’s possible that the song might be acceptable . . . if it wasn’t being used as the sex soundtrack for Christian Slater and Tara Reid. This scene was just hilariously awful.
B. “Wish I Had An Angel” – Nightwish
The music video for Alone in the Dark features this song, and you can watch it here. It’s also the song playing when the end credits come, and I don’t know if I can come up with the right words to describe why it’s so hilarious . . . it just is. The ending of the movie is just so WTF, and then you’ve immediately got this growly, Finnish metal guy screaming at you so seriously about angels . . . we were all just cracking up.
5. Let’s talk about that WTF ending, though, because wow.
So, Christian Slater is considering opening the portal to the World of Darkness—although, to be fair, I don’t think he understands that the door actually is a portal to the World of Darkness. He just wants to know what answers lie beyond it. Tara Reid and Stephen Dorff are all like, it’s up to you, buddy (despite the fact that Stephen’s Dorff character clearly has inferiority issues and has been trying to prove that he has a bigger dick than Carnby pretty much the entire movie, but sure, he’ll just go with whatever Slater says, why not). They don’t bother to ask Red Shirt because, you know. Who cares about him? He’ll be dead in ten seconds, anyway.
Slater says that the Akbani must have had a pretty good reason for sealing up this door and dismantling the key, so they shouldn’t open it. (Which would have been a great realization to have had, you know, hours ago but whatever.) Of course, this is when the Bad Guy comes in, kills Red Shirt, and decides to open the portal anyway. Awesomely, Slater tells him not to be an idiot, when he himself had been seriously contemplating doing the exact same thing seconds ago. Of course, Bad Guy does seem to have a slightly better idea of what this portal actually is, so I’m not entirely sure about his motivations. For that matter, I’m not really sure why the Akbani opened the portal in the first place. I suppose it just seemed like a good idea at the time?
Anyway, the door is opened, leading to a massive cave of evil creature things. The Bad Guy is killed . . . but I honestly can’t remember if the creatures kill him or if the good guys kill him. It’s weird. I only watched this movie last night, but . . . it’s honestly like I’m trying to remember a bad dream. I haven’t even talked about the adult orphans who are secretly “sleepers,” or the magic light bullets, or the monsters that are invisible except when they aren’t. I just can’t remember how they all fit into the story—although that could be because I never really understood in the first place.
Anyway, one way or another, Bad Guy dies. The good guys shut the door, but I guess that’s not good enough, so they try and blow up the cave instead. Only they can’t do it by remote, so Stephen Dorff goes back and sort of accidentally-on-purpose sacrifices himself.
Christian Slater and Tara Reid escape through some magic tunnel they just happen to find—even though they were all trapped ten minutes ago—and make their way to the surface. They’re back at the orphanage where Christian Slater grew up. It’s abandoned except for the dead body of the nun who ran it. (She’s also the same nun who let Slater and his fellow orphans get experimented on twenty years ago, never mind the minor detail that she hasn’t apparently bothered to age.)
When Slater and Reid wander through the city, it’s completely abandoned. We’re told that the city has been evacuated. That’s the exact word on the screen, evacuated. Only then, Slater narrates how the Akbani people were punished for opening the portal by disappearing off the face of the Earth, and that’s apparently what happened to the people in the city. Which . . . people don’t usually use the term “evacuated” as a synonym for “mysterious mass disappearance”. I mean, no one says that the Forces of Darkness evacuated the colony of Roanoke for their crimes against humanity or something. More importantly, shouldn’t the Forces of Darkness have taken the people who were actually present when the portal was open, not just the billion of schmoes upstairs getting their Starbucks and driving to work?
Anyway, Slater and Reid start wandering around the city, and then there are growly sounds and monster version, and Slater and Reid spin around, and—
“I WISH I HAD AN ANGEL!”
Oy. I wish I had two hours of my life back. (Okay, that’s not fair. I had a fun time mocking the hell out of this movie with my friends. Just, you know. I’d never watch it again. Ever.)
6. Finally, like I said before, Alone in the Dark has a 1% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It earned itself two Razzies. It is considered one of the worst films of all time.
There is a sequel. Lance Henriksen and Danny Trejo are in it.
If you’re looking for evidence of a merciful God . . . well, that’s not it.
Incredibly bad. Stunningly bad. The story is a convoluted nightmare. Tara Reid plays a scientist. Nothing makes sense. There is bullet vision. I honestly can’t think of anything to recommend about it, except it could be fun if you pick it apart with a lot of friends. But honestly, there are better movies for that.
Um. Don’t be an orphan?