Alone in the Dark (2005) (part 1 of 8)

The Cast of Characters:
Christian Slater as Edward CarnbyEdward Carnby (Christian Slater). Standard Hero #34-B: rebel, kicked out of his paranormal investigation unit, works on his own now, relationship in ruins, mankind’s only hope. Sort of. Powers: nonsensical philosophical statements, the ability to shoot people without using a gun, and the Voiceover Of Doom™.
Tara Reid as Aline CedracAline Cedrac (Tara Reid). A woman like a light switch: thinking on, thinking off. Archaeologist, Carnby’s ex-girlfriend, and our current excuse for a female lead.
Stephen Dorff as Richard BurkeRichard Burke (Stephen Dorff). Resident tough guy of his paranormal investigation unit, after Carnby got kicked out. Really good at shouting and shooting. Other abilities: unknown.
Matthew Walker as Prof. Lionel HudgensProf. Lionel Hudgens (Matthew Walker). Tries to cross-breed/infuse/whatever-ize humans with strange creatures. Why? Nobody knows, him least of all. He doesn’t have even the tiniest plan for world domination. Hey, I know! Maybe he’s just evil!
Frank C. Turner as Sam FischerSam Fischer (Frank C. Turner). Yep, that’s his name. Has no relationship to a mask-wearing secret agent, however, especially not in regards to his skills. Standard disposable science geek and living exposition device.
Catherine Lough Haggquist as KrashKrash (Catherine Lough Haggquist). My personal highlight of the movie. Not because of the name (who wouldn’t want to have a computer operator named “Krash”?), or because she actually does anything important, but because she’s the head of the keyboard monkeys, and is forbidden to ever leave her basement.

Note from the Webmaster: Welcome to yet another Agony Booth reader submission! This recap of Alone in the Dark was originally posted in the Reader Recaps section of the forums. It was then polished up by both me and The Fili, and now it’s official. See? Dreams can come true.

If you, too, would like to see your name in an Agony Booth byline, click here for details on how to submit your own recap!

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Curiosity is a bitch. My local library has the DVD of Alone in the Dark, and I had to take it home, just to see if it really is as bad as everyone says. Not to get ahead of myself here, but let it be known that this film is stupid. And we’re talking slam-your-head-on-your-desk dumb here.

I know that beating up on director Uwe Boll is a favorite pastime all around the globe. I know that a lot of people go to the IMDb just to give one star to Boll’s latest film, despite having never seen it. I say that if it helps them recover from the trauma of seeing one of his movies, more power to them.

Prior to Alone in the Dark, I had never seen an Uwe Boll film (ah, the days of blissful ignorance), and I had never played the video game the movie is supposedly based on. So I was willing to give the film a chance. Basically, what I’m trying to say is that I’m not an Uwe Boll hater. Really, I’m not the kind of person to hate anyone easily. On the other hand, Boll does make a great target, but that’s his own fault, in my humble opinion.

The IMDb says that Boll received additional money (who gave him that?!) to spend on special effects. I have to admit, the effects don’t look as shabby as they could. (If they were as bad as the script, the helicopters would be suspended by piano wires.) Unfortunately, there were probably much better ways to spend the money, such as hiring a writer with a perceptible level of talent to polish up the screenplay.

There are large stretches in this movie where nothing happens. Other times, three or four shots are intercut, serving absolutely no sensible purpose. An old favorite shows up here, the Obligatory Expository Crawl (along with an Obnoxious Patronizing Narrator) to supposedly help you understand the story. But all this means is that the movie is telling you the same crap twice, making it that much easier to notice all the plot holes.

After posting this recap in the forums, I did a little follow-up research on Uwe Boll, and found lots of documentary video about him. I quickly became fascinated. Watching this guy is like watching a bad reality show where you think everyone must have been paid to act like morons, because nobody can be that stupid and/or unbearable. Don’t believe me? See for yourself:

Uwe Boll tells a theater full of people that the IMDb is out to get him. Not IMDb users. The actual IMDb itself.

I knew hardly anything about Boll before this recap, but it’s always good to have people around who do know these things. And thanks to forum member Case, I was able to track down an article written by Blair Erickson, one of the original screenwriters of Alone in the Dark, which was quite illuminating. Full of tidbits like “I know English is not [Boll’s] first language, but Jesus Christ, I’m not even sure this man has a first language,” the article offers this insight into the evolution (or is that devolution?) of the script:

Blair Erickson: For those of you who actually give a shit, the original script took the “Alone In the Dark” premise and depicted it as if it was actually based on a true story of a private investigator in the northeastern U.S. whose missing persons cases begin to uncover a disturbing paranormal secret. It was told through the eyes of a writer following Edward Carnby and his co-worker for a novel, and depicted them as real-life blue-collar folks who never expected to find hideous beings waiting for them in the dark. We tried to stick close to the H.P. Lovecraft style and the low-tech nature of the original game, always keeping the horror in the shadows so you never saw what was coming for them.

Thankfully, Dr. Boll was able to hire his loyal team of hacks to crank out something much better than our crappy story and add in all sorts of terrifying horror movie essentials like opening gateways to alternate dimensions, bimbo blonde archaeologists, sex scenes, mad scientists, slimy dog monsters, special army forces designed to battle slimy CG dog monsters, Tara Reid, “Matrix” slow-motion gun battles, and car chases. Oh yeah, and a ten-minute opening back story scroll read aloud to the illiterate audience, the only people able to successfully miss all the negative reviews. I mean hell, Boll knows that’s where the real scares lie.

[…] The funny part is, after we walked off and he got his usual team of hacks to churn out a huge steaming pile of shit, he came back months later and asked us if he could get the rights to use scenes from our screenplay… for free. Oh, Uwe.

After watching the movie, I’d say that sounds pretty believable. But don’t take my word for it: Join me as I journey down into the dark dungeons of Alone in the Dark, and find out for yourself.

Behold! Exposition crawling our way. Along with narration, done by a guy desperately trying to sound ominous. And this crawl goes on forever. It’s like a short story scrolling up the screen. Did Boll really expect anybody to remember all this?

Caption contributed by Albert

I was specifically told there would be no reading!

Short version: Mystical Indian tribe (is there any other kind?) opens gate to world of darkness, “evil” slips through, gate is closed, parts of the key to the gate are hidden, and evil is waiting. So far, so original. Sadly, the Indians (called the “Abkani” tribe here) weren’t smart enough to destroy the key and be done with the whole thing. Seriously, why would you keep a key to the world of darkness? “Oh, dear me, we’re all out of sugar. Honey, could you ask the creatures in the world of darkness if we could borrow some?”

The crawl continues, and we’re still deep in exposition.

Bureau 713, the government’s paranormal research agency, was established to uncover the dark secrets of this lost civilization.

I’m assuming Bureau 712 was established to uncover the dark secrets of the Kiowas. After all, it’s common practice to establish a government bureau whenever you discover a new Indian tribe. And of course, they all have dark secrets. So that goes without saying.

The boss of 713 is one Dr. Lionel Hudgens, who’s conducted “controversial research”, first funded by the government, and conducted later in an abandoned goldmine. Which pretty much tells us A) who the villain is, and B) where his super-secret hideout is. If we could just hear how evil is ultimately defeated, we could skip the whole movie and do something fun. Watching paint dry, for example.

But no, first we have to be told that the experiments are “savage” (in case “controversial” was not ominous enough for you). They consisted of “merging man with creature”. Hey, that’s still legal in at least 15 states, you know. By the way, don’t try to figure out exactly what kind of creatures we’re talking about here, or where he got them from, or why humans aren’t also considered “creatures”. All we know is that the subjects of his experiments survived, and are now waiting for “their calling”. And I don’t think the narrator means the priesthood.

And so, we’re only 1:30 into this, and the lucky part of the audience will have already been lulled into sleep by soft narration.

The opening credits are intercut with Your Average Pursuit Scene #124: in this case, it’s nighttime, and a kid in pajamas is running away from guys with flashlights and dogs. Some of the shots are less than three seconds long, but don’t worry, you’re not missing anything. Around here is where we learn a company named “Brightlight Pictures” is involved in Alone in the Dark. Trust me, in a few minutes, you’ll be hurting for anything even close to that humorous.

After the numerous speed cuts and the title, two people enter a dark room, accompanied by the caption “22 years ago”. And here’s the first of many “What the… ?” Moments I had during the film. Do they mean 22 years prior to that kid running off and escaping to a better life (i.e., out of this movie)? Or 22 years prior to the main story that’s coming up shortly? Or what?

The woman turns on the light, revealing two things: she’s a nun, and she seems to dislike talking with the lights off. After five seconds of solid silence, she says, “It’s just… the children are my responsibility.” Boy, this is one heated discussion, that’s for sure.

The bearded guy in the background reminds her that they’ve been through all this, and that his experiments are very important, and so on. I could go on pretending we don’t know who he is, but since we already know that someone is conducting weird experiments, I’ll just cut the crap and identify him as Dr. Hudgens.

“It’s not about a few children,” Hudgens proclaims. Wait, so he’s the unscrupulous kind of scientist? I never would have known. He tells Sister Doesn’t-Talk-In-The-Dark that it’s too late anyway, and that the process has already started. So, let’s see if I’m getting all this. You’ve discussed all this before, and it’s already too late to do anything. In other words, your dialogue is pointless? Great, thanks.

He tells her to call the police, and inform them the children have disappeared. A henchman enters and reports that “the subjects have been transported”, but it appears there’s a problem. Can you figure out what the issue might be from this dialogue?

Henchman: Head count had twenty of them before transport. Now we’ve only got nineteen. Someone’s missing.

Brilliant conclusion, Einstein. Hudgens utters a heartfelt “shit”, and I know exactly how he feels.

Cut to a generator shack. The camera moves shakily towards it. Initially, I wondered if rails for the dolly were too expensive, but when the camera flies through the door via CGI trickery with a whoooosh, I figured it’s probably intentional.

Inside, a kid is sitting between two old-timey electricity coils, that appear to have been stolen from an old Universal horror flick. In a brilliant display of acting, the kid is completely uninterested in the bright lights flashing all around him. I hope nobody tells Sister Doesn’t-Talk-In-The-Dark that her generator’s about to blow. She’s sure to freak.

Caption contributed by The Fili

“When I grow up bzzzz I want to direct horror movies.”

The Fili

Hi, my name is Matthias, I am a student of English and German, and may one day even get to teach these (if my university ever works out how to run a B.A. system). I live in a medium-sized German town few have ever heard of, and have only recently discovered the joys of suffering through horrible movies, describing them in every little... okay, let's forget about the joy and make that therapeutic effect.

Multi-Part Article: Alone in the Dark (2005)

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