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Darkness falls
Leave Uwe Boll's latest video game adaptation Alone
BY MITCH KRPATA

Uwe Boll is a genius. That's the only way to explain it. How else could a filmmaker of such mind-boggling ineptitude an "artist" who displays all the storytelling finesse and visual mastery of a high-school junior making an action movie for Spanish class convince people to keep funding his movies? His first video-game adaptation, House of the Dead, was an unmitigated disaster the worst movie I've ever seen (see Game Culture for a look back), which according to the IMDB grossed only $11 million domestically. Boll's reward for such a grand failure was a bigger budget to make Alone in the Dark. Like I said, the man's a genius.

Boll does present a tantalizing challenge to critics, however: how to describe his films without using the F-word. I'll bet I can't make it the rest of the review without resorting to hard profanity.

Alone in the Dark, the movie, has very little to do with Alone in the Dark, the game. You may remember the game as a seminal PC-release from the early 1990s that can be pointed to as the strongest influence on Resident Evil (and thus the survival horror genre as a whole). But whereas the game drew on film noir and the faceless horrors of H.P. Lovecraft to create an ominous atmosphere, the movie seems primarily inspired by Boll's sense of self-satisfaction.

I would try to synopsize the plot, but to be honest with you, I'm not entirely sure there was one. Oblique references were made to an ancient civilization called the Abskani, and a world of light and dark, and unholy experiments conducted on orphans in the 1970s, but none of this really added up to anything except a horde of bland CGI monsters comprised of equal parts Alien and Starship Troopers (only without the charm). This is probably the first completely plotless movie I've seen.

Christian Slater plays Edward Carnby, a paranormal investigator who does very little investigating but displays a remarkable knack for jumpkicks. When he was a child, Carnby was one of the unlucky guinea pigs experimented on by a mad scientist who may or may not have had motives of some sort (I'm serious, this is never explained). As a result, Carnby is driven by an all-consuming desire to find out the truth about what happened to him, as well as wear the same trench coat and black tank top every day of his life. He teams up with a grossly miscast Tara Reid, who plays a museum curator, and only once do they digress for a love scene that had me attempting to swallow my own tongue in order to escape it.

The film's one bright spot comes from indie stalwart and astonishingly good sport Stephen Dorff. Dorff plays the leader of Bureau 713, an ultra-secret government agency whose stealth tactics include storming into population centers with helicopters, tanks, and spotlights. Bureau 713's combat gear makes its agents look as though their moms have just dressed them up to go roller-skating they wear black, plastic-looking elbow pads and helmets. But Dorff infuses his scenes with a manic energy and a laudable commitment to cheesiness. I found myself wishing he were onscreen every time he wasn't, and I'd frequently be rewarded when he'd suddenly crash through a window or a ceiling panel firing an assault rifle.

Reid gives a truly community theater-caliber performance. She doesn't say much or do much, but she sure looks pretty as she stood there nodding with her mouth hanging ever so slightly open. It was hard not to hope that the Screen Actors Guild will expel her for this. On the other hand, Slater's earnest-yet-helpless performance inspires only a feeling of pity, and a sincere hope that things will turn around for the guy.

Alone in the Dark is a movie in which things keep sort of happening until the final fade to black, but it's impossible to tell what things or why. This is filmmaking incompetence at its worst, even though it is an order of magnitude better than House of the Dead (if only because Alone in the Dark has some production value. Kinda).

Uwe Boll's reign of terror is not likely to end soon; he's also got film adaptations of BloodRayne, Hunter: The Reckoning, and Far Cry in the pipeline. And in addition to raising more and more money for his awful films, Boll also manages to con better and better actors into appearing in them. He's progressed from Clint Howard in House of the Dead to Slater in this film to Ben Kingsley in BloodRayne. Ben "Gandhi" Kingsley! A f**king Oscar winner!

Told you I couldn't do it.

For more on visionary filmmaker Uwe Boll, visit www.uweboll.com


Issue Date: February 4 - 10, 2005
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