Against The Dark (2009)

FEBRUARY 25, 2009


Last summer, I read Vern’s hilarious book "Seagalogy", which tackled each of Steven Seagal’s films one by one and pointed out the various recurring themes (CIA shenanigans being the most prominent) and character traits that the otherwise unrelated films shared. As someone who gave up on Seagal right around Glimmer Man, I hadn’t seen a good number of the films, but Vern’s prose actually made me want to watch his direct to video efforts. But doing HMAD eats up as much “watching bad movies on DVD” time as I have, so I was happy to see that Seagal had finally “stooped” to doing horror movies with Against The Dark, as it would finally give me a good (for lack of a better word) reason to introduce myself to latter day Seagal.

Well, as DTV nonsense goes, I’ve seen worse (including movies Sony saw fit to advertise on the disc, such as Boogeyman 3). I mean, if it was any good, it would probably go theatrical, given the presence of a couple name actors (Seagal, Keith David, and... well, Linden Ashby) and a popular premise, i.e. modern day vampires that can easily be mistaken for zombies. I guess 28 Days Later is to blame for this new phenomenon, in which I honestly can’t tell what the fuck the monsters are supposed to be. The DVD box claims vampires, but nothing about them suggests anything but zombies - they have a sick green glow, they don’t talk, and they are caused by a virus. They don’t even have pointy teeth, but this pays off in the film’s most horrific scene, in which a newly made zompire sharpens her teeth into points. The sound, the visual, the IDEA... I’m sure it’s been done before, but it doesn’t make it any less unnerving.

As for Seagal, well... he is what he is these days (fat, kind of lazy). In his book, Vern alludes to several occasions in these DTV movies where Seagal is being doubled, and/or another guy is doing the lines for him, but I see none of that type of stuff here. There’s a pretty hilarious dub early on where he says the same thing twice, but at least it’s his voice. However, he’s not really the star of the movie, top billing aside. It’s not even until the halfway point that he meets the people who are our REAL main characters, a ragtag group of survivors endlessly making their way through a hospital.

And it’s hilarious, because at this point, the requisite little girl of the group asks him his name, and Seagal says “My name is Tao!” It’s funny because we’re almost an hour into the movie and I’m pretty sure it’s the first time his name was mentioned. The music goes into overdrive here too, suggesting we just learned that he is one of Seagal’s most famous characters or something. Like you’re watching a lame Seagal movie and all of a sudden you find out that his character is actually Casey Ryback or maybe even Nico Toscani. Nope, Tao. He then ducks out of the movie’s epilogue (we see a guy in a leather coat walking around in the background, I guess it’s him), so the last time he appears on screen is when he starts to run for the exit before the building gets blown up. Instead we just get a pretty clear shot of the film crew reflected on the SUV that will take out actual heroes to safety.

But even when he’s actually in a scene, he doesn’t say much, often just sort of glaring his way around the movie. I believe Arnold had more lines in the original Terminator than Seagal does here. He does offer this reminder though: “We’re not here to judge who’s right or wrong; we’re here to decide who lives or dies!” Problem is: he says it after saving a small child from being eaten by vampires. I guess in this world, that sort of action exists in a moral gray area.

The main problem with the movie is that it’s so isolated. The opening scenes, likely assembled from stock footage, tell us that the outbreak already happened, that most people are infected, blah blah. Most people know that the initial panic/outbreak is the most interesting part of a zombie film, so presenting it as a 30 second montage before spending 85 minutes in a badly lit hospital was an unwise decision.

But the action is solid. Sometimes it’s strangely sans gore (a head will go flying off courtesy of Seagal’s blade, but no blood), but there’s still plenty of splatter, dismemberment, etc. Seagal even takes out a zompire kid, so there’s something. And to break things up a bit, Keith David (who never shares a scene with his Marked for Death co-star) more or less reprises his Armageddon role as “Army guy who wants to blow up our heroes to hopefully save other lives”, with Linden Ashby in the Billy Bob role of trying to stop him. Their scenes come and go out of nowhere, and I have to wonder if they were part of the plan all along or actually added in at the end of production when they realized that the rest of the movie featured vague people and a fat guy walking around a hospital and nothing else.

The DVD’s only feature is a making of in which everyone talks about how great everyone else is while the editor attempts to make Seagal’s role look more prominent. Sony also throws in all of their recent trailers, and, again, the Blu-ray ad that talks about how great it looks and yet it looks just as good/bad as the rest of the standard def footage on the DVD... BECAUSE ITS IN STANDARD DEF. Morons!

What say you?

And now, Horror Movie A Day and Happy Hour Comics would like to present the 2nd in an ongoing series of HMAD-inspired comic strips. I hope you enjoy!! (Click to enlarge)


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