Saying Uwe Boll’s Alone in the Dark is better than his 2003 American debut House of the Dead—possibly the worst horror film of the past decade—is akin to praising syphilis for not being HIV. The director’s second straight video-game-to-film misfire boasts slightly bigger stars and higher production values than his previous catastrophe, but neither comes close to obscuring the fact that Boll remains mainstream cinema’s most awesomely incompetent living filmmaker. One would have to list every facet of filmmaking basics to catalog Alone‘s innumerable shortcomings, but suffice it to say that jagged pacing, laughable use of slow-motion and bullet-time effects, seizure-inducing strobe lights, mismatched editing, ready-for-TV framing, a constantly unmoored camera, and jumbled audio mixing all rear their ugly heads at one point or another during this cataclysmic, cacophonous fiasco.
Writing the rest of this review in Chinese would prove an easier (and more pleasant) task than recounting the film’s unintelligible narrative, which has something to do with paranormal detective Edward Carnby (Christian Slater, squinting heavily and wearing a stupid duster even though it seems to be summer) and his quest to recover lost artifacts from an ancient Native American culture called the Abkani, regain his childhood memories spent at a bizarre orphanage, and battle light-sensitive demon creatures (lame amalgams of Predators, Aliens, and Ghostbusters’ terror dogs) from an alternate “dark” reality. Before the first 10 minutes are through, viewers have been treated to an astoundingly stupid and lengthy bit of introductory text that sets up the film’s pointless plot, Slater’s boneheaded narration about the values of fearing the dark, and an action sequence in which unnecessary special effects (ooh, look at the camera go right into the barrel of Slater’s revolver!) and a distinct lack of logic (why would you try to fistfight a bad guy who’s just shrugged off two gunshots to the heart?) provide what may be the world’s record for unintentional laughs. And then Tara Reid makes her first appearance as brainy museum curator Aline Cedrac.
The incomparably blank Reid’s “performance” consists of wearing her blond locks down when she’s ready for love—primarily in a sex scene that even late-night Cinemax would be embarrassed to air—and up (along with dark-rimmed glasses) when she’s doing science. Meanwhile, co-star Stephen Dorff (as a spook-killing soldier working for a paranormal government agency) graciously attempts to offset the actress’s expressionless banality by going manically wild-eyed during every shouting match he starts with Slater’s rogue agent Carnby. Confronted by the insane professor Hudgens (Mathew Walker)—who’s determined, for reasons unexplained, to open the doorway between the monsters’ world and ours—Slater’s Carnby can only muster, “Hudgens, don’t be insane!” But to be fair, there’s little reason to single out one line from Elan Mastai, Michael Roesch, and Peter Scheerer’s horror/science fiction film-cribbing script, which serves up inane scenarios at a superhuman clip. “I’m here to protect you from the things you don’t see,” is how the decidedly un-heroic Carnby describes his civic duty. With this review, I can only hope to accomplish the very same thing.