June 4, 2012

Alone in the Dark (1982)

"A quartet of murderous psychopaths break out of a mental hospital during a power blackout and lay siege to their doctor's house."

It was another gloomy, rainy Monday afternoon so I went in search of something not too involving to satisfy me. This time I found "Alone in the Dark" and not the crappy Uwe Boll version either.

Although "Alone in the Dark" was released back in 1982, I never saw it at the time. A lot of American horror movies never made it to Britain either due to their distributors or, more usually, because they were too crappy and the independent video rental stores wouldn't waste their money on them.

Whatever the case, I didn't really miss anything outstanding with "Alone in the Dark" except for the chance to talk about some more horror movie trivia such as the first use of a killer wearing a hockey mask before Jason Voorhees made it his trademark.

Since it was only another slasher in the "Halloween" and "Friday the 13th" mould, complete with the usual tropes, abundance of plaid shirts, and a couple of decent yet obviously cloned kills, "Alone in the Dark" was just a very average '80s horror.

Something which made it kind of ironic was having Dwight Schultz, known as "Mad Murdock" to fans of "The A Team", playing a psychiatrist in it. Well, I found it ironic anyway and nothing more than that since the character wasn't very well developed.

Donald Pleasence played yet another psychiatrist who was actually a little bit nicer than his famous Dr Loomis character and was certainly more naive. Of course, it wasn't much more than a cameo role but that could be said about all the big names who were involved in this project.

Jack Palance, Martin Landau, and even Erland van Lidth (later to be Dynamo in "The Running Man") each had their moments of glory as psychopaths. They didn't do a bad job considering that none of them were on screen for very long. Martin Landau stood out the most but that's nearly always the way with religious nutters. Erland van Lidth played a paedophile really well too though.

As for the story, it was basically "Halloween" with four lots of Michael Myers and less than a quarter of the scares. Only one scene around the 50 minute mark, which involved a very frightened (and very nice to look at) Carol Levy being menaced in the bedroom, had any real suspense to it. This also had a very early "meta" moment when it was announced that the noise in the closet couldn't possibly be a cat since nobody in the house had one.

Everything else just plodded along but mostly lagged. A couple of stand-outs in the little girl who played Dwight Shultze's daughter and Lee Taylor-Allan (who very nearly got nude at one point but, instead, provided a very weak jump scare with a Tom Savini created corpse) were the only highlights and they weren't quite as memorable as the characters themselves were irritating.

There was a surprise reveal of one psychopath known as "The Bleeder" who I'd completely forgotten about the existence of by the time it came to pass so I'm happy to raise the rating which I would have given "Alone in the Dark" by a point just for that.

Generally, however, this was all pretty weak in the horror department. Everything was telegraphed so far ahead that when things did happen they weren't a surprise. It was simply a very underwhelming, almost goreless, and badly paced slasher with some seemingly original touches which were actually borrowed from half a dozen better movies.

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