- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 26, 2005

It’s hard to tell which is the biggest harbinger of doom for “Alone in the Dark.”

Is it “based on a popular video game,” “starring Christian Slater” or “co-starring Tara Reid as an archaeologist?”

The latter is tempting. But the winner, hands down, is “directed by Uwe Boll.”

The German director’s previous film, 2003’s “House of the Dead,” stands as one of the worst mainstream releases in years, if not decades.

Even if Mr. Boll had shown modest growth with “Dark” he would have had serious stairs to climb, creatively speaking.

“Alone in the Dark” may have an Atari game as its roots, but even a Ph.D. would be hard-pressed to follow its Byzantine plot.

It all starts with a “Star Wars”-style crawl which manages to muddle the story before the first actor speaks.

We’re told something about a gateway holding back the forces of evil and a long dormant American Indian tribe connected to it all. The following 90-plus minutes hardly clarify matters.

Mr. Slater stars as Carnby, a supernatural detective who gets chased and nearly killed by a zombie in the film’s opening moments. The assault is tied to a mad scientist type trying to find an artifact from the aforementioned Indian culture.

We also learn Carnby was part of a bizarre orphanage incident years earlier in which he and a bunch of his fellow orphans were abducted and forced to undergo medical experiments.

Confused yet?

We soon see more zombie creatures chasing Carnby and his would-be gal pal Aline (Miss Reid), the museum curator who helps decipher the few artifacts in Carnby’s possession.

For what goal? Again, we have no idea.

Before you know it a super-military outfit designed to fight supernatural foes is on the case, led by a muscularly coifed Stephen Dorff. The grunts have their hands full battling creatures which appear out of nowhere and look like poor CGI cousins of “Alien’s” monsters.

Mr. Boll never has a firm grip on any aspect of his film, but he lets go entirely midway through for a bullets and bombshells sequence set to, what else, throbbing heavy metal.

If Mr. Boll has a signature move, it’s turning over at least part of his films to random violence meant to evoke a video game shootout. Except audiences pay a whole lot more than a quarter for the privilege.

It would be easy to pile on poor Miss Reid, whose blond locks are pulled back in a bun to signify “curator.” But it’s more interesting to ponder why Mr. Slater’s career has devolved to headlining such slop.

At least he gets a meaningless sex scene out of it all, which Mr. Boll strips of all erotic potential.

The only hope “Alone in the Dark” had for a modest box office tally was to lure in the pimply video game base, but with its R rating that crowd will be locked out.

Lucky them.

1/2*

WHAT: “Alone in the Dark”

RATING: R (Coarse language, bloody violence and sexual situations)

CREDITS: Directed by Uwe Boll. Screenplay by Michael Roesch, Elan Mastai and Peter Scheerer. Produced by Wolfgang Herold.

RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes

WEB SITE: www.aloneinthedarkthemovie.com

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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