Alone in the Dark

You know “Alone in the Dark” is going to be bad just by looking at the cast list. Tara Reid as a museum curator/archeologist? Who do they think they’re kidding? The only role she’s equipped to play is that of a drunken whore, which she does regularly in the tabloids and on “Inside Edition.” Anything smarter or classier than that is a stretch for her.

The film, based on a video game (another bad sign) and directed by “House of the Dead” hack Uwe Boll (yet another bad sign), begins with confusing exposition spelled out in text that scrolls up the screen and that is also read by a narrator (in case we can’t read, I guess). The gist of it is that there was a highly advanced ancient people called the Abkani who opened the gate between the World of the Light and the World of the Dark, and that something evil slipped through before they could close it again. This begs the question of why they were opening the gate in the first place; couldn’t they have foreseen something evil slipping through as a potential consequence? You don’t even have to be a SMART ancient race to see that one coming.

Anyway, thousands of years after that, and 22 years before now, a mad scientist named Professor Hudgens (Mathew Walker) went to an orphanage and acquired 20 boys to use in his experiments. We see this in a flashback, and it is not clear whether he purchased the lads or simply took them. Either way, the nun in charge appears only mildly conflicted. I suspect she did not last long in the nun business after that.

One of the boys escaped and lost his memory and grew up to be Christian Slater, which you have to admit isn’t such a bad deal. His name is Edward Carnby, and he used to work for a top-secret government bureau of paranormal-investigators called 713 (named, apparently, after Houston’s area code). He still has a rivalry with a guy there named Commander Richards (Stephen Dorff) for reasons I don’t understand, and Edward himself freelances now, traveling the world in search of unusual phenomena and monsters and such.

But occasionally he comes back home to the museum to have sex with Tara Reid (when there’s not too much of a waiting list, I mean), whose character, Aline Cedrac, works there with the aforementioned insane Professor Hudgens. Hudgens has recently discovered an artifact that unleashed some sort of non-corporeal beasts on the world, things that look like the title character in “Alien.” Edward and Aline have to battle them in video-game fashion, complete with loud heavy metal songs blaring on the soundtrack.

But don’t forget, there’s also those experiments Hudgens did 22 years ago. His subjects, now well-adjusted grownups, become automatons when the monster-creating artifact is discovered, and subsequently they become the kind of automatons that try to kill people.

But also don’t forget the mystery of how Edward escaped and what he saw and what he doesn’t remember anymore! That’s an important part to not forget while you’re busy trying to pay attention to everything else.

For as busy as this movie is, you’d think it would have more going on. Instead, it’s just a big, chewy wad of badness where people say things like “I’ve never seen anything like it!” and “Where the hell’s our backup?” The acting, I need hardly tell you, is laughable, and the plot is confusing and convoluted, cramming far too many elements into far too small a space. Director Uwe Boll continues to believe that copying good movies is the same thing as BEING a good movie, and he fills “Alone in the Dark” with sloppy rip-offs from dozens of creature/horror/sci-fi/fantasy movies. The one thing he forgets is how to tell a coherent story, or even how to make an incoherent one entertaining.

F (1 hr., 33 min.; R, some harsh profanity, a ton of violence, some mild sexuality.)