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A 1982 horror film starring Martin Landau, Jack Palance and Donald Pleasence.

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Superior, suspenseful slasher with enough tension and intelligence to pass as good entertainment.

  • Nov 30, 2011
Rating:
+3
*** out of ****

Since it's such an overused concept, I've often found myself wondering whether tongue-in-cheek horror movies are even the best kind; or whether they're good at all. But of course, that last part is silly; there are horror movies that I love - "The Evil Dead", "Night of the Creeps", "The Evil Dead II" - and the thing that all three of those films have in common aside from their genre is a touch of comic inspiration. Each one is lovably goofy due to the equal shares of comedy and scares; creating a delightfully spooky ride. This approach doesn't work every time; but I'll be damned if it doesn't work on the best of days.

"Alone in the Dark" is another one of those 80's horror flicks that embraces the silly side of life; it understands that it doesn't have the best screenplay, or the best characters, or the best, well...anything; but it does know one thing, and that is how to balance two genres while successfully devoting itself to the one that ultimately takes over. It's a creepy, tense film that is, in small doses, kind of clever and endearing. One could certainly classify it as a slasher film, but don't let that label fool you; the film is more interested in creating an atmosphere and mood than exploiting gory kill scenes galore, and in a world where the less fair and opposing choice of style feels overused and unnecessary, I appreciated the direction that the film took.

So here's the plot in a nutshell; a gang of patients escape from a psychiatric hospital after a power outage shrouds the surrounding areas (the ward included) in darkness through night; while light shall only return by day. The team of psychopaths breaks up and goes their separate ways; only to meet again the house of a new doctor; whom they have been plotting to kill ever since he started as a replacement doctor to the one that they initially preferred. The time in which they remain on the streets, killing at random and sneaking into homes, spans about one day and a night; things especially get suspenseful during the latter.

You need not know more than that. "Alone in the Dark" is an almost intentionally formula slasher movie; with a sense of style - and a working brain - that most films in that sub-genre most certainly lack. I liked it because it accepts its flaws and tries its best to deliver the sarcastic with the serious; with some genuinely impressive and respectable results. It's nothing great, and it lacks depth, but as a film that cares about the audience's intelligence (and attention span) enough to take its time getting to the good stuff, I saw nothing wrong with what it was doing. I went along with it and found myself very entertained; and this is a good feeling, even nowadays where everyone seems inclined to please.

There are some good acting talents involved in the picture, some of which include: Donald Pleasence, Jack Palance, Martin Landau, and Dwight Schultz. A few movie-goers might be disappointed when they discover that each noted star isn't given the amount of screen-time that they rightfully deserve, but I didn't let that get in the way of my enjoyment. They do their jobs accordingly, lack the ability and excess to create memorable characters from their efforts, but hey; a job is a job, and each actor does a pretty good one. Pleasence, in particular, is a likable screen presence; a man who can make even the simplest of dialogue sound intelligent and rich. Perhaps that's just ol' Samuel Loomis creeping up on me.

I go to slasher films for all kinds of reasons; but two very key ones are to see the kills and to perhaps get a little surprise - something more. "Alone in the Dark" will intentionally disappoint those looking for the first thing alone, while those who - like myself - are looking for a more intelligent slasher movie will be pleasantly surprised by the time and craft put into the film. I don't think it quite achieves all-time classic status, even for its kind, but I think every horror fan should dig into it with much delight. Let's just say that if you're like me and you like your horror somewhat slow-moving, with much build-up, and with a sense of self-aware humor thrown in for extra measure; you will enjoy yourself. At this point, satisfaction is guaranteed; unless you're a grouch. And a grouch I am not.

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More Alone in the Dark (1982 movie) reviews
review by . July 14, 2009
Alone in the Dark  is an underrated horror classic. Where else can you find the great character actors Donald Pleasence, Martin Landau and Jack Palance in one movie? All three in their hammy glory chewing scenery and over acting to the Nth degree. The tale as about a new psych doctor (Animal from the A-Team) who must deal with his new "clients". Ever since their favorite doc disappeared, the natives have become restless. But during a freak weather storm, the three goons decide to …
About the reviewer
Ryan J. Marshall ()
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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A trio of mental patients tire of their new psychiatrist and decide to play a series of macabre games with him and his family.
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