I get sad when actors whose work I have admired turn up in movies that are dull, or worse. After I saw Karen Black as the cannibal matriarch in House of 1000 Corpses,I wanted to watch Five Easy Pieces forever, just to erase the memories. The sadness came as I watched Christian Slater in Alone in the Dark. Gen-Xers like me once admired Slater for his sly work in teen comedies such as Heathers and Pump Up the Volume,but Alone in the Dark is dispiriting, and so is Slater's performance.
Slater, looking hale in a gratuitous love scene, stars as Edward Carnby, a freelance paranormal expert on the trail of a big discovery. He is investigating the secrets of the Abkani, an ancient civilization that opened some sort of gateway to another reality, but also pursuing the Abkani is Bureau 713, the heavily armed government agency that once employed him. Carnby's interest is not strictly professional: We learn in flashbacks that when he was a child, he and other kids - orphans, of course - were the subject of experiments by the evil Professor Hudgens (Mathew Walker), a bureau scientist looking into Abkani technology. Joining Slater on his quest are Tara Reid, as one of cinema's most unlikely anthropologists; and Stephen Dorff as Bureau 713's commander, who loathes Carnby and then, for no reason I could discern, accepts and admires him. This trio dashes frantically through a feeble plot, rife with clichés, that has been cobbled together from bits of much better movies.
Alone in the Dark is, an end credit announces prominently, based on a videogame. You could call it a trend, if a small one: The videogame industry has apparently surpassed the movies in profits, and translations like this one seem designed to win back some of that cash. But the results have been mostly unpromising. The 2001 film based on the Final Fantasy games was lovely, but Alone in the Dark is more typical, with its confusing dialogue and random mayhem. The violence does indeed look just like a videogame's, but watching other people play videogames is, let's face it, surpassingly dull. Filmmakers involved in these projects should look to the 1982 television cartoon based on the Pac-Man franchise; that show, at least, had memorable characters. But compared to Alone in the Dark,breakfast cereal has memorable characters.