The good news: This might not be the worst movie of all time.
The bad news: That last statement was probably a lie.
So, why did I watch a Uwe Boll movie? After all, even with 261 movies to review, surely I could avoid subjecting myself to this fate, and it’s not like anyone needs to be warned to avoid his films, right?
Right. But the thing is, for all that I crack on Uwe in this journal, I’ve only actually seen one of his movies (the nigh-unwatchable House of the Dead). Now, Stephen Sommers has given us the perfectly watchable (if not actually good) Deep Rising and The Mummy to go with unbelievably bad travesties like Van Helsing; Brett Ratner’s cute first Rush Hour certainly didn’t augur how un-fucking-believably bad X-Men: The Last Stand would be. And directors like Walter Hill and James Cameron release at least one stinker for every masterpiece they put out.
The point is, I didn’t think I’d given Boll a fair chance, so I watched Alone in the Dark.
I’m now convinced that someone needs to slap Boll. Hard and often.
In describing this “film,” I was planning to note various reasons why this needs to happen*. But pretty much every second of screentime qualifies.
We start off with the first reason: The Scrolling Exposition Text of Doom.
You know the opening of Spaceballs? When we see the ship, and it just keeps going, and going, and going?
That’s what the opening text crawl (also stolen from Star Wars) is like. Only it’s not meant to be funny. In the expository text, which scrolls for approximately 27 minutes**, we learn that there was once an ancient race of people who opened up a gate to another world, where things are Really Really Bad. And they mostly closed that gate, although a few things slipped through. Oh, and then some government organization (“Bureau 713,” located right next to “Armoire 610”) started doing experiments, merging humans and these evil creatures. And then the experiments got shut down, because experimenting on humans is bad, mmmkay?
The best part about the scroll (which runs for at least five paragraphs) is that it’s also narrated, because Boll assumes that at least half his audience must be functionally illiterate (which would explain the fact that anyone saw this; presumably, they thought they were seeing something better, like Ernest Rises From the Dead).
We then finally start the movie, with a flashback scene showing Dr. Lionel Hudgens, the man who performed those experiments, conspiring with a nun to kidnap a bunch of kids. Turns out that those experiments were on children, and Hudgens worked out of an orphanage (thus playing right into the well-known history of the Catholic Church supporting genetic experiments involving evil creatures from other dimensions). Now that he’s been shut down, he wants to hide his creations from the government. However, one of the kids has escaped, and hides in a electrical shack, where, we soon learn, he grows up to become . . .
Christian Slater! Well, his name is actually Edward Carnby. He wakes up (that flashback was a dream, you see) on an airplane, where a Typical Annoying Kid is sitting in the seat next to him, and says he shouldn’t be afraid of the dark. Instead of pointing out that the airplane is well-lit, Carnby tells the kid that actually, you should be afraid of the dark. Things go downhill from here.
When Carnby gets off the plane, he commits an act of unspeakable evil: He narrates! Not that he says anything useful, other than telling us that he’s an amnesiac, and that he used to work for the government..
Carnby hops in a cab, and after a few minutes of bad dialogue, a car chase ensues (because nothing screams “horror movie” like a car chase, right?). The cab eventually crashes, and we get a chase scene and a fight scene, as the man chasing Carnby (whose name turns out to be James Pinkerton, one of those random moments of stupidity that’s never explained) recovers from little things like being shot in the chest***. Eventually, however, a pick through the chest does kill him, and Carnby gets away with his Ancient Abkani Artifact.
We cut to a museum, where a delivery guy and a security guard talk and provide most of the same exposition about the ancient Abkani race that we got in the text crawl. They eventually delivery something to Aline Cedrac, played by the real star of this movie: Tara Reid!
Now, I should take a moment here to note that I don’t hate Tara Reid. I think she was perfectly cast in flicks like The Big Lebowski, American Pie, and Urban Legends, and she was nothing short of brilliant in the criminally underrated Josie and the Pussycats. But casting Tara Reid as a museum curator is up there with casting Denise Richards as a nuclear technician in the Bad Casting Hall of Fame. Worse, Tara’s method of playing a “smart” character? Wearing glasses. Otherwise, she utters her lines so awkwardly, you’d think that she was reading them off a teleprompter for the first time.
Anyway, we get a little more exposition, as we learn that Tara’s boss, the evil Dr. Hudgens, is off on an expedition on a boat manned by criminals (yes, everything Boll knows about archaeology he learned from Indiana Jones movies), and that her boyfriend has been missing for months (any doubt who her boyfriend will turn out to be?).
We then cut to that boat, where we see Hudgens (who is played by Matthew Walker, the second worst actor in this movie, who proves incapable of not chewing scenery at every turn). He explains to the rough-looking sea-captain that he won’t open the solid-gold casket they just hauled up until the conditions are right, and the captain says, “you had me at solid-gold.” Hudgens is thrown into the hold, while the captain and his crew open the casket and are killed offscreen by something nasty. Fortunately, the nasty things leave the artifact that Hudgens needs behind.
The next few scenes establish the following: All the other orphans that Carnby knew when growing up (with whom he’s somehow in touch, even though he escaped and got amnesia, and they were all moved) have just upped and walked away from their daily lives. Carnby, also, has bad dreams (because he’s a tortured hero, you know), and meets with his ex-713 buddy Fischer to get some info. And over in Bureau 713 (which is run by Burke, played by Stephen Dorff in a rare movie where he’s not one of the five worst actors around), they’ve picked up “strange readings****.
After the slow build, things briefly start to escalate, as Slater and Reid have a tender reunion (she punches him because
Yes, it turns out that security at Bureau 713 is so lame that Carnby is able to get into their headquarters with just the ID card. No biometrics. Not even a guard to compare ID photos (of the guy who’s supposed to be the boss, even) to the person trying to get in.
Once inside the Bureau, Carnby and his buddy Fischer (played by Frank Turner in the single worst acting turn in the entire movie) examine the body of Pinkerton, where they discover that Pinkerton had a Worm of Evil grafted to his spine. An examination of Carnby shows that he’s got one as well, but the worm was disabled during a childhood accident. Attempting to remove it could be fatal.
Fischer next turns into Q, providing Carnby with not only a full description of what these things are (evil CGI with a fatal reaction to sunlight, the ability to disrupt electricity, and a weakness when shot by bullets coated with a “photon-accelerated luminescent resin.”). He even provides Carnby with bullets, a CGI-detector, and a special flashlight that can hurt them (because, you know, no one’s going to miss that stuff at a top-secret lab, right?).
Carnby then goes home, and we now get the scariest scene in the movie: Tara Reid and Christian Slater making love. To bad pop-meringue music.
If anyone ever doubted that Boll was capable of doing horror, this scene will convince them otherwise.
Over the next few scenes (while our lovebirds sleep in post-coital bliss), Carnby dreams about the accident that killed his parasite (he touched a transformer*****), Fischer is confronted by Burke, and Fischer then has an alien CGI creature shoved down his throat by Hudgens.
After waking up and talking briefly about the artifacts, Carnby and Aline are attacked by what appears to be zombified versions of three of the orphanage folks. They kill the orphans and a CGI creature, and then the Bureau 713 agents show up.
The next 45 minutes are pure clusterfuck, and Boll, who remains convinced the he’s got talent, cuts between multiple scenes during this. In spite of all the bombast, what happens is pretty straightforward:
First, we have a ten-minute firefight between the good guys and the CGI creatures and zombie/orphans at Carnby’s house. Then, they head to an abandoned mine where Hudgens is hiding. They do this at night because, naturally, you should always fight your enemy when they’re strongest. Bureau 713 brings in hundreds of soldiers to defend the mine while Carnby, Aline, Burke, and some redshirts head into the shaft. During the entire shaft sequence, these soldiers get massacred by the CGI creatures (not helped by the fact that Zombie Fischer blows himself up and destroys their generator). The massacre actually takes up the majority of the finale, as Boll gives almost every solider an individual line and death sequence. Do not assume, however, that the scene is in any way easy to follow, or that there's anything in the way of good f/x, gore, or action.
Down in the mine, one redshirt dies when he finds a hidden trapdoor and falls into a spike trap. Another one (played by Françoise Yip, whose talent is completely wasted here) dies when she’s bitten by the random poisonous sandworms lurking at the bottom. The final one is shot by Hudgens, who then grabs Carnby’s artifact at gunpoint and opens up the portal to the world of Pure Evil (which seems pointless, since these beings are already in our world and massacring the entire Bureau, but I guess he wants more of them).
Burke pulls a throwing knife from his ass and kills Carnby, and our heroes set a charge to destroy the gate. They’re almost out of the sewer and ready to blow up the gate, but the charges won’t go off! One of them is going to have to go back and sacrifice himself bravely to manually set them off.
This is a job for Stephen Fucking Dorff!
Burke does go back, in a scene filled with false tension and no fucking payoff whatsoever. The creatures from the other side of the gate are still miles away, and Burke has no problem setting the charges and blowing himself up.
Our two heroes make it above ground to find that the secret exit they found leads right to the orphanage! Gasp! And they go inside to find that Sister Clara, in proper Catholic tradition, has slit her wrists in repentance for what she did to the kids.
Our heroes walk off into the sunrise, and we get a first-person view of a presumed CGI creature swooping in for one attack on our heroes (even though it’s broad daylight), and then we fade to black. In a moment of pure existential bliss, we, the audience, are Alone in the Dark for a second before the credits start to roll.
Dear god, what a fucking mess. And I've skipped things, like the scene in which Hudgens injects himself with Demon DNA, or the banter with tech coordinator "Krash" (who gets more screentime than nearly anyone, and not only can't act, but just exists to yell into the microphone that there are bad guys nearby).
There’s nothing redeeming about this movie (other than the ability to MST3K it mercilessly). Boll (who finances his own movies, presumably from drug smuggling or man-whoring himself out to 80-year-old widows) knows nothing about movies. I don’t just mean that he can’t direct; he literally doesn’t understand enough about movies to even know what to strive for as a director. And to make matter worse, he actually finds people less talented than he is to write and star in his works.
The cast, on top of all the other no-talents mentioned above, also includes the always-terrible William Sanderson, who has been in every Boll movie ever. And the three-person team of writers include two of Boll’s pet writers (they’ve only worked for him,), and the guy who wrote MVP 2 (Most Vertical Primate).
My recommendation, needless to say, is to avoid this like the plague. If you do insist on seeing it out of a desire to MST3K it, at least record it off cable. Don’t do anything that gives Uwe Boll one fucking cent. What he does to movies borders on the criminal.
*Boll has famously challenged his critics to a boxing match. This, of course, is a perfect example of him completely missing the point. I don’t doubt that Boll could beat the crap out of me (I mean, he’s named “Uwe,” which sounds like the name of half the henchmen in James Bond movies, so of course he’s tough). But his ability to beat someone up does not make him a better director.
Conversely, my desire to see Boll bitchslapped into a bloody pulp is not out of a desire to prove anything to myself (I don’t have any need to be the one assaulting him; in fact, I don’t think I’ve thrown a punch at anyone since I got into a lame fight with Andy Tilzer in summer camp back when I was 14). It’s because his films are a crime against aesthetics, and the act of financing and creating them is something that should be punished. I’d be fine if he received a slap on the wrist. Especially if it was the wrist that he uses for filming.
** It should be noted that time warps when one watches a Uwe Boll flick. The entire movie seems to take three years to watch, yet I know it’s under two hours.
***How did Carnby get a gun? By swiping it from a cop as he ran by. Even though cop holsters are designed to make this nearly impossible (especially if you don’t want the cop to realize it).
**** Possibly the AitD screenplay.
***** The kind that zaps you with lots of electricity, not a robot in disguise.