ALONE IN THE DARK (1982)
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This is an odd 80s movie directed and co-written by Jack Sholder, who went on to direct the lackluster ANOES 2: Freddy’s Revenge and the awesome The Hidden. The movie tells the twisted story of Dr. Dan Potter (The A-Team’s Dwight Schultz) who goes to work at the psychiatric clinic of the renown but, eccentric Dr. Leo Bain (Donald Pleasence). The most dangerous of Bain’s patients are resigned to the 3rd floor and consist of former priest and arsonist, Byron (Martin Landau), enormous child molester, Ronald (Running Man’s Erland van Lidth), “The Bleeder” (Phillip Clark), who never shows his face and former POW, Col. Frank Hawkes (Jack Palance). Unfortunately for Potter, Hawkes’ paranoid delusions make him come to believe the new doctor has killed their former handler, Dr. Merton. When a massive blackout neutralizes the institute’s security systems, Hawkes convinces his psychotic compatriots to escape and hunt down Potter and exact revenge. Now the four leave a trail of bodies as they head toward Potter’s house where he and his unsuspecting family sit “alone in the dark.”
While this movie has it’s entertainment value, I just expect more with a cast and premise such as this. The film has some odd moments…especially the last head-scratching scene…and just should have been either a lot more fun or a lot more frightening. Jack Sholder seems to take the middle road with his directing and script…co-written with Robert Shaye and Michael Harrpster…and delivers something more of a fairly tame slasher with some oddly humorous moments peppered throughout. Either he wasn’t sure which direction to go with the material, or wanted it both ways, which takes a deft hand to pull off. There are some effective moments and there are some uncomfortable giggles, such as the murder of a bicycle deliver man but, the film never really takes off with any horrific intensity or over-the-top lunacy. It could have used one, the other, or both! It’s body count is also remotely tame and the gore FX are average and simple. It just never fully takes advantage of the premise, or it’s great cast of veteran character actors whose loonies never really get to ‘cut’ loose. There are a few good kills and some disturbing moments but, not enough to make this unevenly toned film completely satisfying. I personally enjoyed the film to an extent but, ultimately still feel disappointed that it never lives up to it’s giddy potential. Palance and Landau were much more effective in similar roles in the 1980 Without Warning, where they were allowed to ham it up and give their roles some energy. There is some atmosphere, though and Joseph Mangine’s nice cinematography adds to that, as does Renato Serio’s very 80s score. There is also some added 80s nostalgia, now and despite being underutilized, it is still great to see all these character actors together. Too bad Sholder couldn’t have really taken this flick and run with it, one way or the other.
Alone In The Dark is an Ok flick but, one comes away feeling that it missed being something really special. It has a bit of a reputation and following and I can understand that but, I still feel with it’s story and the cast assembled to tell it, that it should have been so much more. If the Jack Sholder who directed the fast paced and over-the-top The Hidden had directed this one, it would have been a real treat and a true cult classic at this point. Not a complete failure but, not a complete success either.
2 and 1/2 delivery guy hats.