Alone in the Dark (1982)

alone-in-the-dark-1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Psychopaths escape from hospital.

Dan Potter (Dwight Schulz) is a new doctor hired at a local mental hospital to oversee some of their more violent psychopaths. Unfortunately before he has any time to implement his new therapy techniques there is power failure, which allows three of the most dangerous ones (Jack Palance, Martin Landau, Erland van Lidth) to escape. They immediately track down the doctor at his residence and lurk outside while the frightened family stays trapped in their home and forced to somehow fight them off.

The story is dull and has a plot where you know exactly where it’s going right from the start. There are no unexpected twists and the gore is almost non-existent. The scares are sparse and not effective with several scenes that come off as unintentionally funny.

There is also never any explanation to what causes the power failure and the idea that it would last for two consecutive nights without some sort of major weather event being the factor is highly unlikely. The fact that the patients are housed inside an institution with electrical monitors and the people who ran the place had no backup plan implemented or considered if the power would ever go out is dumb and most likely an emergency generator would’ve been installed years earlier for just such a scenario, which would then make this whole stupid plot nonexistent from the get-go.

Landau gives a good performance, which makes this dumb thing slightly worth catching although overall the psycho characters are too cardboard and generic to be frightening. Hiring B-actors on the downside of their careers and who were most likely willing to accept any mindless dreck that was handed to them simply so they could keep the cash flowing in, was not a good idea as they approach the material in too much of a hammy way.

I actually came away liking Schulz’s performance best and was impressed how his character here was so much different from his most famous one in ‘The A-Team’ TV-show. It was also fun seeing Van Lidth, who is best remembered as Grossberger from Stir Crazy, with a full head of hair.

The film has only two scenes that are worth catching and even then it really isn’t much. However, I did like the part where the three crazies enter a sporting goods store during the blackout that is being raided by all the ‘sane’ people who act way more fringe than the actual lunatics. The scene where Palance attends a punk rock concert where the band The Sick Fucks is playing is pretty good too even though the atmosphere inside doesn’t effectively reflect a real mosh pit scene.

The overall scenario though dealing with these very clichéd psyhcos ominously lurking outside a home occupied by an equally clichéd All-American family that respond to everything with perpetual looks of fear is not interesting or intense. It also comes off as being too stagey and theatrical and might’ve worked better had it taken more of a modern day hand-held camera/ cinema vertite approach.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: November 12, 1982

Runtime: 1Hour 32Minutes

Rated R

Director: Jack Sholder

Studio: New Line Cinema

Available: DVD

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