Originally advertised as a straight slasher flick (when it clearly isn't) and long since forgotten by everyone but the most ardent gorehounds and horrorgeeks, Jack Sholder's Alone in the Dark feels a whole lot like a John Carpenter 2-for-1 rip-off. It's Halloween meets Assault on Precinct 13, with a lovable cast of kooks like Donald Pleasence, Martin Landau, and Jack Palance. One of the very first productions from an outfit called "New Line Cinema," Alone in the Dark might not classify as any sort of "underground classic," but it's more than entertaining enough to keep the genre fans drooling.
Dwight Schultz (yes, the lunatic from The A-Team) plays Dr. Dan Potter, newly arrived at the Haven Mental Institute and replacing one of the inmates' favorite caregivers. Now under the thumb of mild-mannered weirdo Dr. Leo Bain (Pleasence), the most outspoken asylum denizens believe that Dr. Potter has killed his predecessor -- and therefore they don't like him very much.
After a blackout allows the doors of the electrically-automated asylum to swing wide open, out fall four freaky maniacs. And all of 'em want Dr. Dan dead. There's "Preacher" (Landau), a bible-thumping arson-lover, "Fatty" (Erland van Lidth), who is described as "a 400-pound child molester," "The Bleeder," a savage brute who suffers nosebleeds after every homicide, and "Frank," who is Jack Palance at his most unsettlingly gravel-faced.
There's a whole lot of rigamarole set-up fodder before the enjoyably intense third act, but Alone in the Dark includes a few kitschy subplots just to keep things juicy. (A section involving the stalking of babysitters feels like it was ported in from Halloween 1.5.) Plus we get a solid fistful of colorful old pros, most of whom take numerous opportunities to chew the scenery with reckless enthusiasm. Palance, Pleasance, and Landau ensure that, while it might get a little dry and silly at times, Alone in the Dark sure isn't boring.
Director Jack Sholder would move from this project to A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy's Revenge before delivering the mini-classic The Hidden and then a whole career of generally forgettable junk. Co-screenwriter Bob Shaye, for his part, would go on to turn New Line Cinema into the resoundingly successful mini-major it is today. (He's not with New Line anymore, but if it weren't for Bob Shaye, Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy would never have happened.)
So yeah: The 1982 semi-favorite Alone in the Dark is now available on DVD, thanks to the folks at Image Entertainment. Those who remember the flick fondly should consider the DVD a worthwhile pick-up, and those horror nuts who've never seen it should absolutely consider it for a weekend rental. But for the love of god be careful. Do NOT rent the Uwe Boll Alone in the Dark by accident.
Video: The film is presented in an anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) aspect ratio. Picture quality is of the B+ variety, speckled only slightly with that vintage 1982 graininess.
Audio: Choose between Dolby Digital 5.1, 2.0 or DTS. Yes, there's a DTS track on Alone in the Dark. No subtitles to speak of, however, and that's not a good thing.
The central goodie is a feature-length audio commentary with writer/director Jack Sholder. Assisted by some informed prodding by an unnamed moderator, Mr. Sholder shares all sorts of production tales, trivial anecdotes, and low-budget war stories. (Hey, get this: Jack Palance was a tough guy to work with. Not a surprising revelation, but an interesting one.) All in all, a solid chat-track for fans of the film.
Other features include a 16-minute interview with New York's Punk Band "The Sic F*cks" (because they're a band that played in the movie), a 16-minute interview with actress Carol Levy (because she was also in the movie and had a knife jammed dangerously close to her crotch), a collection of poster art and lobby cards, the original Alone in the Dark theatrical trailer, which is of the "red-band" variety, and a foldout insert with liner notes from Fangoria's Michael Gingold and "Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film, 1978-1986" author Adam Rockoff.
Alone in the Dark isn't quite as creepy as I remember it being, and it certainly is just a little bit sillier than it was 20 years ago, but there's more than enough twists, turns, intensity, and graphic red meat to keep the horror fans happy. Plus, c'mon, how often will you get to see Martin Landau and Jack Palance as murderous psychos ... and Donald Pleasence as the normal person?