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Alone in the Dark

Dim-witted Doomsday Tale Can't End Soon Enough

The late critic Gene Siskel once devised a simple method of measuring a film's worth: "Is this film more interesting than a documentary of the same actors having lunch?"

Alone in the Dark doesn't come close to matching that standard, though it occasionally scores big on the unintentional comedy scale. With its second-team all-star cast featuring the notoriously hard-partying Christian Slater and Tara Reid matching wits with the quick-witted Stephen Dorff, who wouldn't want to check out an afternoon on that set? Perhaps the better question is -- who would want to check out this tired doomsday fable, which is as bleak as it is nonsensical?

Granted, it's tough to wring an engaging story from a video game -- past duds like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat are proof enough. (Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within remains the notable exception.) Judging from Alone in the Dark, based on a groundbreaking Atari title, it would seem damn near impossible. At its heart, the movie is a 90-minute special effects reel, with enough shattered glass, splattered blood and digitally enhanced beasts to satisfy undiscriminating horror fans. The story is of secondary concern, and it shows.

A brief summary: Professor Hudgens (Mathew Walker) discovers a tomb containing the evil, reptilian demons worshipped by an ancient culture called the Abskani. Naturally, he opens it and brings them to Vancouver where, with the help of a few zombified orphans, they attempt to annihilate the human race. All that stands in the way is a team of paranormal experts -- Edward (Slater), Aline (Reid) and Richards (Dorff) -- and their truckloads of shiny artillery. Hilarity ensues.

Or rather, it doesn't. If this material had been played for laughs, as it was so cleverly in Shaun of the Dead, it might have made for amusing satire. Instead, Alone in the Dark is a somber patchwork of scenes and ideas borrowed from better movies (Alien, Predator), rendered in such laughably lifeless fashion that one can't help but wonder if it's intentional.

It's not. There's no levity here, only stiff dialogue (Reid, in particular, sleepwalks through her role) and appropriately murky tones. It's an exercise in style by filmmakers with none to speak of; overall, a dreary death march in dire need of some comic relief.

Rating: 1 star out of 5