Alone In The Dark (2005)

Rating: **
Release Date: 1/28/05
Director: Uwe Boll
Cast: Christian Slater, Tara Reid, Stephen Dorff, Francoise Yip Fong Wah

Why do they keep letting Uwe Boll make bad video game movies? Or perhaps more importantly, why do I continue to watch them? Edward Carnby (Christian Slater) is a paranormal investigator, searching for relics belonging to the ancient Abkani tribe. Legend has it that the Abkani were a highly advanced civilization that was wiped out by the forces of darkness - the same forces that a secret government agency called 713 have been researching for the last twenty years. Seeking to bring darkness into the world of light, the slightly mad Dr. Hudgens opens the gate between light and dark, bringing about the annihilation of Man.

After seeing Uwe Boll's atrocious "House Of The Dead" (2003), I had no expections for this film at all. That said, with such a low bar already set, I actually found the laughable proceedings marginally entertaining. Christian Slater gives a convincing performance as Carnby, and is the only actor in the film who has a sense of "being there." Tara Reid is hopelessly miscast as Carnby's anthropologist girlfriend, but at least she's easy on the eyes. She's definitely no worse than seeing Denise Richards as a nuclear physicist in "The World Is Not Enough" (1999). And truth be told, the only reason I wanted to see the film was to see Ms. Reid with a gun, which she carries around all too briefly. At one point, she's armed with only a flashlight while Carnby has two guns. Wouldn't a nice boyfriend give her one of those guns to defend herself? (of course, why she was dragged along into a combat situation in the first place needs to be questioned...) Stephen Dorff is ridiculous as the cocky head of Agency 713, and once again the wonderful Francoise Yip is relegated to a thankless cameo. Is she ever going to get a substantial part that allows her to show off her talents? Production wise, the film clings to every B-movie convention in the book, as if it were trying to be bad on purpose. The dialog is painfully embarrassing, the continuity is laughably bad, the lapses of logic and reason are hilarious, and the whole thing makes very little sense. Knowing this, the film also features the obligatory three minute opening monologue to try and explain what's going on, since the audience is surely too stupid to figure it out for themselves. And of course there's the adsurdly pointless love scene, accompanied by rib-tickling porno jazz. Thankfully, Boll keeps it short and keeps everyone's clothes on, but it's anyone's guess why the scene is even there in the first place. While the action scenes are weak and suffer from poor editing, the visual effects are actually competent and effective for the most part. The soundtrack also does a good job of setting the tone of the film, and features some nice heavy metal offerings. All in all, as a horror film "Alone In The Dark" is no worse than any of the current direct-to-video crap that's available. How it fares as a video game adaptation, however, is another matter.

While Capcom's "Resident Evil" series defined the survival horror genre, Atari's "Alone In The Dark" is generally credited with inventing it. Having not played more than five minutes of the game, I can't comment on how good of an adaptation it is. However, I strongly suspect that the only thing the movie has in common with the game is the name of the main character (which is more than can be said about "House Of The Dead"). Which brings me to this: Why are video game adaptations always SO bad? It seems like they should be a cinch, as everything is already laid out for you. The story, characters, dialog, action, art direction, and overall tone are already well defined. The only thing that would be easier to adapt are comic books, which are already in storyboard form. And yet we inexplicably see those go horribly wrong all the time as well. Are screenwriters completely clueless, or do they just have no respect for the source material as well as the target audience? Or is it just a shrewd and dishonest marketing ploy, akin to putting a picture of a girl with a gun on a movie poster when there are no girls with guns in the film (a ploy I have fallen victim to more times than I can count). And Uwe Boll has secured even MORE video game licenses, including "BloodRayne," "Hunter: The Reckoning," and "Dungeon Siege." So far, it looks like "BloodRayne" has gotten the same disrespect as his other films, as it's actually a period piece! "Let's see, here we have a game about vampire assassins and Nazis, so let's turn it into a medieval costume drama instead!" It's madness I tell you! What horrors await for the "Dead Or Alive" movie? I can envision it becoming a police cadet training film punctuated by wacky hijinks and pillow fights. Oh, the horror, the horror... Then there's the "Doom" movie, which reportedly has nothing to do with Mars or demonic hellspawn. Huh?!? And god only knows what John Woo has in store for Samus Aran in "Metroid." A musical, perhaps? Dreamworks' "Fatal Frame" could have potential, but I fear that the rich Japanese flavor will be completely washed out of it. The only hope that I have for the entire video game genre is Christophe Gans' adaptation of "Silent Hill." I sincerely believe that he can pull it off, unless of course, he gets stuck with a terrible script. Let's all hope that he doesn't.