Slater not enough to save ‘Alone’ from sucking

“Alone In The Dark” was an amazing video game for its time. It was a horror game featuring a heavy atmosphere, problem solving and plenty of scares. It pretty much invented an entire genre of games, which came to be known as the survival horror genre. “Resident Evil” was a game of this genre that went on to inspire a semi-successful series of movies. Unfortunately, “Alone In The Dark” is nowhere near as good a movie as it was a game. It’s quite the opposite. It’s awful.

The video game version of “Alone In The Dark” featured a guy named Edward Carnaby who had an outrageous moustache and explored haunted houses. The movie version is a confusing mish-mash of ancient civilizations, monsters that dwell in darkness, secret government organizations and savage experiments conducted on orphans. Christian Slater plays Edward Carnby. Carnby is romantically involved with a woman researching the ancient civilizations (Tara Reid). He gets chased by the monsters, is a former member of the secret organization and was one of the orphans that was savagely experimented upon; therefore, when the monsters get loose, Carnby must fight them.

The plot of “Alone in the Dark” made little sense and changed several times. The movie starts out as a mystery and later tries to become a monster movie and doesn’t accomplish either. The characters are not really characters at all, but rather placeholders in a plot that exists only to move the audience from one monster scene to the next. If the monster scenes were well done and plentiful, this would be no cause for complaint, but the monster scenes are unimaginative and infrequent. The movie is about the fight with these monsters, but the monsters only show up during three sequences, and never for very long. When the monsters do show up, they just run at people as the people shoot back at them. Occasionally someone gets killed in an interesting way, but aside from that there is no variation in the action.

The monsters themselves are boring too. They are basically wolves with armor and scorpion tails. They do have the ability to become invisible for brief periods of time, which makes for some interesting visuals. That interesting trait, however, was never explained or utilized in an interesting way.

In spite of its awfulness, “Alone In The Dark” is unintentionally funny. It opens with a very long title crawl describing the aforementioned ancient civilization, monsters, organization and savage experimentation on orphans. Fifteen minutes into the movie all of the same exposition has been given by characters through dialogue, rendering the insanely long title crawl redundant. Similarly, the film contains intermittent voice-overs by Carnby that summarize information we’ve already been given and offer nothing new. This flaw grew funnier and funnier as the movie wore on. The extreme coincidences that drive the plot forward and Tara Reid’s portrayal of an assistant curator at a big museum added more laughs.

Surprisingly, the only thing in this movie I can honestly praise is Christian Slater’s portrayal of Carnby. Slater struggles valiantly to invest the one-dimensional character with depth, and occasionally succeeds. Carnby emerges as an embittered, haunted seeker for truth who nonetheless has a deep well of compassion for his fellow man. None of that was in the script anywhere; it all came from Slater’s nuanced performance. Slater has never been known as a good actor, but his presence in “Alone In The Dark” is the only thing that kept me from walking out of the theater in a state of anger.

There is no genre of movie I enjoy more than the monster movie. That said, I would not recommend “Alone In The Dark” to anyone. It fails utterly.