Saturday, March 1, 2014

ALONE IN THE DARK (1982) movie review

Alone in the Dark (1982) d. Jack Sholder (USA)

Slasher fans, why settle for just one crazed killer when you can have three or four? During a citywide blackout, inmates of an asylum for the criminally insane liberate themselves and proceed to have a high old time in the outside world. Top-billed Jack Palance and Martin Landau are two of the merry murderers (alongside gentle giant Erland van Lidth), while Donald Pleasence plays a head therapist as bonkers as his patients.

Dwight Schultz (soon to be cast as “Howling Mad” Murdock on TV’s The A-Team) holds the movie together as best he can as the bespectacled new psychiatrist in town, struggling to keep his family (a handful in and of themselves) safe.

Making his feature debut, writer/director Sholder’s dialogue is not the sharpest, nor does he do anything wildly creative behind the camera, choosing instead to simply give his cast of veterans the freedom to chew scenery to their hearts’ content.

There are several noteworthy scenes, including an under-the-bed menacing of nubile babysitter Carol Levy, the literal bumping off of a bicycle messenger, and a dramatic final showdown at Schultz’ family home, a la Straw Dogs.

If one was to lodge a complaint, it’s that much of the suspense is sucked out of the abundant array of “creative” deaths by Renato Serio’s heavy-handed musical score, which consistently tips off the scares much too far in advance.

Producer Robert Shaye quickly went on to much bigger things as producer of the Nightmare on Elm Street film series (and would hire Sholder to helm the much maligned first sequel).

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