JULY 15, 2010
I question why I do this to myself at least once a month, but the feeling was never as soul crushing as when I put on the commentary track for Alone In The Dark II, because they cut the movie’s audio out entirely, which meant that, on occasion, when the participants had nothing to say, I was sitting there watching Alone In The Dark II for a second time, only mute. It was seriously one of the most depressing moments in my life.
Part of the problem is that I have no idea why Alone in the Dark II even exists in the first place. The first was a colossal flop, earning only half of what Uwe Boll’s previous film (House of the Dead) made, despite costing twice as much. And the DVD didn’t seem to be very successful either; it was discounted to budget price only a few months after release. And while you can’t blame them for not wanting to get Tara Reid back, it’s not like Christian Slater is adverse to DTV movies, so replacing him (with an Asian guy at that) further makes the effort baffling, as their characters have the same name (Edward Carmby) but they are otherwise completely different (ironically, the race difference is the least jarring shift).
And worse, it’s a PG-13 sequel to an R rated film! Usually for DTV sequels to theatrical films they go the other way, as they don’t have to appeal to as wide of an audience. If nothing else, the original (one of my least favorite Boll films, for the record) had some violent action and macho talk (read: guys saying “fuck”) to give it that brain-dead, “what they show on Cinemax before switching to porn” appeal. But this one’s just a bore, most of the deaths are off-screen entirely, there are no monsters (keeping with the movie’s insistence on being as different from the original as possible), and the bulk of the “action” revolves around a witch that you can’t see trying to get into a room.
I mean, Christ, why hire a guy like Rick Yune if he’s not going to do anything? How the hell is it possible that Christian goddamn Slater had martial arts scenes but not Rick Yune, who qualified for the Olympics Tae Kwon Do team when he was just 19 (to be fair, Slater is also skilled in karate, but still). Despite being the film’s “hero”, he spends most of the movie laying in bed or crawling around trying to escape from said bed. They could have hired, fuck, ME, for all the physicality required of the role. And I bring in foreign market appeal from India, apparently (my 4th biggest reader location, after US, Canada, and the UK).
It’s also a needlessly confusing movie. I get the jist of it, but individual actions and character motivations went right over my head. Characters come and go with little to no explanation of where they went, and even Carmby comes across as something of an enigma - I guess you have to assume he’s important because he was in the game and he was the previously Caucasian guy from the first movie, but the movie doesn’t bother to give him any sort of re-introduction or offer a reason why anyone would be interested in him. If anything he comes off as sort of a pawn. Even James Bond gets some sort of audience refresher. And then there’s a whole bunch of mumbo jumbo that I gave up trying to follow (stabbing people to bring them back to life, not looking in mirror when you’re asleep, etc), because it didn’t matter what they said or what they were trying to do, as every horror scene came down to a ghost of a witch trying to get into a room.
On the plus side, the movie features Lance Henriksen and Bill Moseley, in their first appearance together, as far as I know. But even more interesting, they both play heroes! I’m so used to seeing them play villains (or at least, anti-heroes), it was a refreshing change of pace. Also, sorry to “spoil” it, but Lance actually survives the film! I cannot recall the last time I saw him survive a movie. Christ, even when he did a Disney film (Tarzan) he died.
In fact, the cast as a whole is pretty good, with Lance and Bill backed up with some of Boll’s regulars (Michael Paré, Ralf Moeller, Natassia Malthe, Zack Ward), plus almost impossibly brief turns by Danny Trejo (who in watching the film twice I’m still not sure when he died, he’s just suddenly gone) and PJ Soles. There are only like a dozen people in the entire movie, and I recognized all but two of them, which is a pretty good ratio.
Speaking of Boll, he did not direct this one. That was left to Michael Roesch and Peter Scheerer, the writer/director team who gave us Brotherhood of Blood. And they also wrote the first film, which makes its completely different tone, setting, etc all the more baffling. I mean, why call it 2? Why not “Alone in the Dark: Regeneration” or some shit? Or just something else entirely? Is there really a benefit of being associated to the first film? They could have called it anything else and no one would ever have suspected it was related, even with the name being the same.
Oddly, it DOES have some slight resemblance to the game this time (and someone is briefly alone in the dark, giving it one up on the original). The opening scene is very much like the one in the latest game (the only one I’ve played all the way through, to be honest), where a dying exposition-spewing character gives info and an artifact to our hero. Well, sub-hero. It’s actually Paré, who would actually make a fine Edward Carmby (and is dressed like him), but he just disappears from the movie and then Yune steps in. Sort of like Lost Highway, only no one will accuse this film of being really smart. Anyway, the finale of the film is also sort of like the last game, with our hero and the female tag-along going into underground caverns to battle the final monster, and Carmby has to choose whether or not to kill her in order to stop the evil. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the game, but it was mostly due to control issues and cheap game mechanics (that black fucking liquid!!), and I think with some good writers the game could be made into a pretty good supernatural action movie. Having the opening scene feel like it was from the game (albeit about 3 levels into it) got my hopes up, but the middle was just a big bore that didn’t connect to the game even remotely, at least not as far as I can remember.
This is briefly mentioned on the audio commentary, and they claim that budget restrictions kept them from tying too closely to the game events. Speaking of the budget, I must give them props to shooting on film (and scope at that!), as it probably would have saved them some dough. They might not be particularly good writers (though anyone who gives Lance Henriksen a line like “After all these years I’m immune to that witchcraft crap” deserves some sort of accolade), but they are decent enough directors - the movie LOOKS good and they got good performances out of their cast; even Moeller comes off as more than a mindless brute for once. But they’re not particularly good commentarians, which is why it’s a good thing Moseley joined them to ask questions and keep them talking. Mosely isn’t the best moderator in the world (“What exactly is an associate producer?”), but I suspect without him the track would be almost entirely dead air. Plus, it’s kind of amusing when you realize he is just as baffled by the movie’s plot as I was, constantly asking them what’s going on, where certain characters went, etc. It’s the type of track that I’d say to just listen to the first time you watch the film, but since they mute the movie (and there are no subtitle tracks), you can’t really do that.
Some behind the scenes footage and interviews are also included, but they’re not particularly essential. It’s kind of funny when Lance admits he hasn’t seen the first film, and defends it by saying that he “didn’t think it would help”. You are very correct, sir. Watching the first film helps no one, unless you love endless opening crawls (which I was disappointed that this film did not have, though the end credits run over 6 minutes long, which I assume is to get the film to a promised 90 minute run-time).
I can only hope that if they make a 3rd film that they go back to an R rating. I could honestly care less that the films had nothing in common, but the PG-13ness really threw me for a loop, since the R rated material is pretty much all these types of things have going for them. Also, I hope they replace Carmby again for part 3. I suggest Cuba Gooding Jr.
What say you?