ALONE IN THE DARK
Reviewed by: Willie R. Mangum Jr.
Horror, Action, Suspense, Supernatural, Thriller
1 hr. 36 min.
Year of Release:
Evil wakens… and initiates the most incredible heist in the annals of cinematic history, an excruciatingly mind-numbing pilfering of 96 minutes of my life! Make no mistake; this is the most frightening aspect of “Alone in the Dark.”
The total monetary damage was minimal and the cumulative effects were eased by the fact that only 9 or so other souls mustered the courage to enter the theatre. That makes 960 minutes for which the victims can give no rational account. 10 lives forever altered. “How?” you may ask. In those precious 96 minutes one of us could have cured a disease or discovered a new solar system or a new element for the periodic table or at least delivered a few pizzas at $7.50 an hour plus tips, rather than shelling it out for this flick! I can only hope that through some sort of paranormal amnesia, we will be able to put those 96 minutes out of mind, forever.
I would like to take this opportunity to publicly apologize to my friend, Jarod, for dragging him into the trauma of it all. Jarod, I sincerely apologize and hope that I may someday figure out a way to redeem those 96 minutes for you. We were, indeed, sitting at “a gateway to hell.”
Uwe Boll, the producer/director, is making a name for himself among the ranks of those who appreciate a good (I realize this is an oxymoronic use of the word “good”), campy, bloody, gory, special effects filled horror movie. I am not among the few, the proud and the weird that fill those ranks, but that should have given me a clue that this film could not possibly deliver what I was expecting. Why, then, would I choose to review this film? The answer begins with the last sentence of the “Producer’s Synopsis” above.
I don’t know what the producer’s had in mind when they penned that synopsis, but the version of “Alone in the Dark” that I sat through is not that movie. It started with a very lengthy, scrolling prologue (ala “Star Wars”) accompanied by a word for word voice-over reading of the text as it scrolled up the screen. Not a good beginning.
Somewhere within the first 10 minutes, we discover that the lead character, Edward Carnby (Christian Slater), a former investigator with Bureau 713, is investigating the mysterious death of his friend. Somehow, I missed that critical information. Perhaps it was included in the drone of the prologue that I inadvertently tuned out.
I don’t recall any of the clues that supposedly led Carnby to discover, or rediscover, the monsters from his past, but they came, and they commenced a murderous rampage among the men and women of Bureau 713. The goal of the monsters is unclear, but one must believe, according to the “Producer’s Synopsis” that they are bent on world conquest.
The bulk of the movie is made up of “action scenes” chronicling the carnage of men and monsters as they wreak havoc on each other. Apparently, the monsters are the demons that the ancient, yet advanced, civilization of the Abskani once worshipped. They also have something to do with perverse experimentation conducted 22 years ago by Professor Hudgens.
As I read the “Producer’s Synopsis” I was drawn to what this movie could have been. As you read the “synopsis” did you catch the subtle religious and psychological underpinnings?
This from the synopsis: “face to face with bizarre horrors that prove both psychologically disturbing and lethal.” Oh, what a good writer and filmmaker could have done! The physical monsters Carnby faced are no more psychologically disturbing than had he been accosted by a bear or lion. What I saw was nothing more, from a creative perspective, than a duplication of this kind of physical attack substituting the animal with the tired cliché of monster.
But what if the horrors Carnby faced were the very real demonic forces that will manipulate your thoughts and perceptions; demons that can take partial memory of a disturbing past and, through emotional manipulations, cause trauma in the present. Demons that may very well manifest themselves as very real and perhaps even very friendly personal entities (does “angel of light” ring a bell here?).
Demonic manifestations with a broad ranging arsenal of psychological and emotional weaponry provide the creative canvass to explore a man who is “overpowered by the forces of darkness as they eat away at his very sanity.” Imagine this concept in the hands of a writer/director with a deep knowledge and understanding of human nature and the real, spiritual purpose of temptation and demonic assault; a writer who could personify the demonic with the literary insight of C.S. Lewis in his book The Screwtape Letters. Attacks from personal beings with one goal, the destruction of humanity, those created in the image of the Creator.
Only a thoroughly Biblical understanding of human nature, original sin, spiritual warfare, the realm of the demonic and the goal of our enemy, Satan, could have resulted in what I had envisioned. My hope was that the filmmakers would touch on these issues, no matter how inadequately, as a springboard to discussion. [Is Satan a real person that influences our world today? Is he affecting you? Answer]
There were allusions to what I had in mind. In an early scene on a plane, Carnby is startled awake by a nightmare from his past. “Did you have a nightmare?” a boy asks. The boy tells Carnby that there is nothing to be afraid of in the dark. Carnby replies: “Being afraid of the dark’s what keeps most of us alive.” There is something out there. There is something to fear. And there is One Who casts out all fear.
In a later scene Carnby says: “I’m here to protect you from the things you don’t believe.” This, in a vague and shallow way, gets at the fact that there are deeper realities that most of us overlook, or ignore, in this life. The Bible reveals that in our sinfulness we suppress the truth. The end result, most of us, in our suppression of truth, of the one True God, suppress the reality of all things spiritual and supernatural.
Uwe Boll is suppressing the truth and, therefore, does not have the ability (nor does he have the interest) to explore the deeper realities of the spiritual realm.
The only thing noteworthy is Uwe Boll’s uncanny ability to imitate the very best technical aspects of some very good films. This movie was, in the words of my friend Jarod, “made from parts of so many movies.” Two examples are a fight scene courtesy of “Bourne Supremacy” and demon monsters courtesy of “Alien.”
There are movies that warrant an R-rating because of contextual violence (“Braveheart” and “The Patriot” are prime examples), but this film is just plain violent. There are 4 impaling, 1 crushed body, 1 split skull, one appendage and upper torso torn from the body and a plethora of demon monsters and men killed in battle. There is also a gratuitous sex scene between Carnby and Aline Cedrac (Tara Reid). Slater is nude from the waist up and Reid’s undergarments remain on. The scene is shot partially under bed covers and in shadowed lighting. There are also 10 occurrences of the vilest profanity and 6 occurrences of our Lord’s name in connection with profane words.
I cannot, with clear conscience, no matter how many warnings and cautions, recommend that any rational human being spend the time and money to see this movie. And I definitely caution all parents to keep young children away. Parents, if for some strange reason your teen is planning a trip to the multiplex to see “Alone in the Dark,” please ask them why. Eight of the people at the theatre I attended were teens. I don’t know what brought them out, but we all left having gained nothing eternal for the effort.
Heed Edward Carnby’s warning: “There’s a price to pay for bringing darkness into the light.”
Note to Slater’s agent: No more Uwe Boll projects, please!
Violence: Heavy / Profanity: Heavy / Sex/Nudity: Moderate
Year of Release—2005 / Open: January 28, 2005 (USA nationwide)
Offensive / 1
—Albert Anthony Buonanno III, age 49