In October 2003, Uwe Boll directed House of the Dead, easily one of the worst movies I've seen in the last five years. Fewer than two years later, Boll brings us Alone in the Dark, with a cast of recognizable, albeit fading stars (Tara Reid, Christian Slater, Stephen Dorff), and a nationwide release.
This is like getting a promotion after setting the boss's desk on fire. How does this happen?
Again, Boll (who has a doctorate in literature) has a video game as his source material. This time, he doesn't insert clips from the game in every available frame, which earns Alone in the Dark points. The movie follows the efforts of a "paranormal investigator" (Slater) in investigating the havoc being wreaked by the spirits of an ancient civilization.
I think that's what it was. Trying to rehash this plot is like trying to describe a Jackson Pollock painting while drunk. In Alone in the Dark, there are at least three separate plotlines that Boll throws out on the audience, hoping they'll be too distracted to notice that none of them actually connects.
Plot 1 has a deranged museum curator unearthing a tomb from an ancient civilization, which leads to some spirit being released. Plot 2 has a group of orphans, who were subject to said curator's bizarre experiments, becoming zombies out to kill Slater's character, who somehow escaped experimentation 20 years ago. Plot 3 has the curator going crazy and dispatching a host of spirits/goblins/natives to the orphanage.
While our heads spin like tops, we're given more information -- artifacts found all over the world, humans that are built as killing machines -- while trying to connect the lengthy introductory narration to the events. Seriously, there's so much material, Boll could have snuck in Natalie Portman's deleted nude scenes from Closer and I wouldn't have noticed. Way too much effort is asked of the audience, making what should be a fun movie a chore.
Emphasis on "should." The boredom factor remains firmly in place throughout, despite attempts to rouse us. Action scenes are filmed in tight frames or in the dark so you can't follow anything except the flash of bullets, and random characters we don't care about get extensive time facing off with apparitions/zombies/goblins. As with House of the Dead, three screenwriters can't create one compelling character. Not that it would make much of a difference. Reid, Dorff, and Slater act as if they're convinced their paychecks from the studio will bounce.
Alone in the Dark is still an improvement on House of the Dead. How you interpret that news depends on several things: Especially if you're a studio executive.
The DVD includes a trivia track (yes!), two making-of documentaries, and commentary from Boll (double yes!).
You'll be alone in the theater.