Based on the popular series of video games of the same name, Uwe Boll's Alone In The Dark is widely considered one of the worst movies of the decade. That said, the film has found an odd following and Lionsgate, never one to look a double-dip opportunity in the mouth, has opted to release a new special edition DVD of the film containing Boll's director's cut along with a slew of new supplements which includes, among other things, another one of the director's infamous commentary tracks.
The film follows the exploits of Edward Carnby (Christian Slater), a paranormal investigator who has made it his life's work to track down some specific artifacts from an ancient civilization called the Abkani's. When he's not doing that, he's busy kicking ass and beating up bad guys. Why is Carnby so hung up on these trinkets of yore? Because when collected they possess great supernatural powers. Unfortunately for Carnby, another man is equally aware of what these artifacts can provide. Professor Lionel Hudgens (Matthew Walker), a meglomaniacal archeologist, wants these items just as bad as Carnby so that he can use them in his sinister experiments which he hopes will break down a barrier to the demon world and unleash upon the Earth all manner of nasty beasties.
Thankfully, Carnby isn't completely alone in his battle against Hudgens. Along for the ride are his girlfriend, an archeologist named Aline Cedrac (Tara Reid), and a man named Richard Burke (Stephen Dorff) who heads up Bureau 713, a secret X-Files type of government branch that deals with the paranormal and supernatural. The three of them will have to move quickly, however, as Hudgens is bound and determined to claim the missing pieces of his puzzle once and for all.
You know from the opening of the film, which starts off with a massive text scrawl explaining most of the story, that Alone In The Dark is not going to make much sense. When a film needs to spend as much time explaining the set up as this one does, there are obviously scripting problems and when even the lengthy scrawl does little to make sense of things, you know you're in for a bumpy ride. The vast majority of the incredibly inept film is simply the central characters wandering around in the dark shooting things - literally that makes up the bulk of the picture. That's not to say that people wandering around in the dark shooting things isn't cool, but when it goes on and on and on and ultimately takes you nowhere, a little more setup and a little more story can definitely help make a better picture. In the film's defense, some of the effects aren't half bad and Boll has the good sense to keep the creatures in the dark more often than not, but it's not enough to save the film. The monster scene towards the end of the film looks pretty bad, however.
As far as the performances go, Alone In The Dark is pretty bottom of the barrel material. Slater hams it up while Reid shows all the enthusiasm of someone reading the phone book and asking us to believe her as a scientist would be like casting Emo Phillips as Wolverine in an X-Men film - it flat out does not work. Dorff seems confused for most of the film but utters curse words with some notable enthusiasm while Walker just kind of wanders around pretending to be scarier than he could ever hope to be. In defense of the actors, when the script makes no sense and the dialogue is as awful as it is in this film, they can't really be expected to do much with the material.
That said, as big a failure as Alone In The Dark is, the film has a bizarre train wreck quality to it. It's bad, it's hard to sit through, and at times it is completely boring but you can't help but think during the movie - not about the subtle nuances of the story or about the intricacies of the script or the acting but about how the film got made in the first place and about what Boll and his writers were thinking. This isn't a film made by some high school kids with a camcorder, this is a film with some name actors and a reasonably large budget backed by a major studio. Even more puzzling is the fact that his films continue to be made - so in that regard, in as many ways that Alone In The Dark is a horrifying failure, it's also an unlikely triumph. Sort of.
NOTE (very mild spoilers): Okay, so does this director's cut of the film change much? No, not really. The only real differences are that some of the talkier bits, a good chunk of Tara Reid's screen time, and the love scene from the theatrical cut are gone and more action and violence has been reinserted. The theatrical version of the film runs approximately 96 minutes, this director's cut clocks in at roughly 98 meaning that Boll has removed roughly five minutes of talky bits and replaced them with about eight minutes of more action-intensive moments. This doesn't mean the film makes more sense, it just means that it's a little bloodier and that more things get shot.
This director's cut of Alone In The Dark is presented in an impressive 2.35.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that is clean, colorful and quite strong. Black levels are deep and while some fine detail disappears into the shadows from time to time the picture avoids falling into murkiness or looking overly dark. Flesh tones look good, color reproduction is accurate and there isn't much in the way of print damage to complain about. A little bit of grain shows up to remind us that this was actually shot on film and not on DV, and there's a little bit of aliasing present but no mpeg compression or edge enhancement issues to report. The film looks surprisingly good on this disc. Interestingly enough, the previous release from Lionsgate was 1.85.1 - the framing on this 2.35.1 transfer looks better indicating that it's probably the correct aspect ratio.
English language audio is provided in DTS-ES 6.1 Surround Sound and Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound with optional subtitles provided in English and Spanish. While the DTS has a bit more punch to it and the added rear channel that provides a bit more depth, both of these mixes are very good. Bullets whiz past you from all directions and the sound effects all pack a pretty serious wallop. Dialogue stays clear and there are no problems with hiss or distortion. Levels are properly balanced and the score sounds decent as well.
Some of us enjoy Uwe Boll's personality and, err, charms more so than his films and those who fall into that category will be pleased to know that the inimitable Mr. Boll has recorded another one of his infamous audio commentary tracks for this director's cut release. Boll slags Reid constantly and talks about many of his upcoming projects, which have nothing to do with this picture. He defends the film quite righteously and as such, comes across as an egomaniac living on his own planet - you've gotta love it. He talks about how with the film he tried to make more of an action creepy movie. He points out CGI airplanes and talks about the upcoming Alone In The Dark I, claiming it'll be closer to the spirit of the game. He talks about boxing his critics and mentions Bloodrayne as often as he does anything else for some reason. Boll is joined here by CGI producer Doug Oddy who chimes in and covers the effects from time to time. Boll discusses the changes made to this director's cut, talking about the added gore and about removing some of the 'boring scenes and boring cuts' from the movie. He then apologizes for not being able to completely cut Tara Reid out of the film.
If the commentary wasn't enough, Lionsgate has also provided three featurettes, the first of which Raging Boll: The Stuff Of Legends (10:06) allows the outspoken director and a few of his producers to defend his ubiquitous cinematic output on camera. It's a pretty amusing bit as it covers Boll's tendency to challenge his critics to boxing matches. He talks about how he started with a comedy debut in 1991 and then, after making a poorly received political film, he delved into genre films. It's here that he starts to discuss reaction to his movies and defend some of the more unusual aspects of his films.
The other two featurettes have been carried over from the last DVD release. Into The Dark - The Making Of Alone In The Dark (7:43) is a collection of interviews with Boll, Slater (who sums up his experiences on the film with 'It just doesn't get better than this!'), Reid and one of the writers that details the making of the film and how it was adapted from video game to film. The last featurette, Shedding A Light - The Visual Effects Of Alone In The Dark (9:27) is, as you could probably guess, a look at the effects used for the creatures in the movie.
Rounding out the supplements is a storyboard to film comparison, the film's original theatrical trailer, trailers for other Lionsgate DVDs, animated menus and a chapter selection sub-menu. The keepcase is housed inside a slipcase that features the same cover art.
Make no doubt about it, Alone In The Dark is a completely horrible film and this new director's cut does very little to change that. That said, Lionsgate has put together a very nice package here and the extras, which are fairly Boll-centric, are freakishly entertaining even if more often than not it's for all the wrong reasons. The film has its fans and they'll want to snap this one up for the commentary track alone. Those not accustomed to or fascinated with Boll's oeuvre, however, will want to skip this one.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.