Now THIS is more like it! Remember last week, when I talked about how fun the slashers used to be, before the 1990's? Well, this week's movie, Alone in the Dark, is a pretty good example of that. SPOILERS, of course, beyond this point...
The movie begins in a diner, during a cold winter night. A man named Preacher asks for "the usual", which turns out to be a plate of fish that a huge frog leaps onto. Hoo boy, it's gonna be one of those weeks, I have a feeling. Preacher, played by Martin Landau, hardly has time to be bewildered, though: the cook, played by Donald Pleasance, appears out of the blue, wielding a weird cleaver and quoting Bible verses.
The diner goes dark, and it starts to rain indoors. A pile of chains loop around Preacher's stool, and he falls to the floor, his legs raised up in the air by the chains. The cook raises the meat cleaver over his head and brings it down on Preacher's crotch, and he wakes up from the nightmare as the opening credits start to roll.
As the story resumes, we see a doctor, played by Dwight Schultz(old fogeys like me will remember him as "Howling Mad" Murdock on "The A-Team", or as Ensign Barclay on "Star Trek: TNG" and many of the spinoffs that followed. He plays Dr. Dan Potter, a nervous psychiatrist late for a job interview. He tries to talk his way past the receptionist, but she insists that her boss, Dr. Bain, can't be seen. She then explains that he's invisible. Allllll righty, then!
Dr. Potter finds a REAL employee, and she's nice enough to escort him to Bain's office. Bain's played by Dr. Loomis himself, the classy Donald Pleasance. When they first meet, Bain locks Potter in a massive bear hug. They talk about the "secretary", then the movie shifts to Potter's family unpacking their stuff. Potter gets into a brief argument with his daughter Lila, breaks a vase and kisses his wife. Talk about a full day!
Late that night, a mental patient named Hawkes makes a window alarm go off. The next morning, Bain explains the 3rd floor's extra security to Potter, then gets a report on the night's excitement. After that, we get properly introduced to our dangerous nutcases: there's Preacher, the guy who walked us through a nightmare; Hawkes, played by Jack Palance, who is prone to explosive outbursts of emotion; Ronald, a portly child molester; and John Skank, a man who hides his face because of some kind of disfigurement and spontaneous bleeding. After the introductions are made, the 2 docs start to leave, but Hawkes shout at them. Turns out he just wanted to say "Happy...trails..." Uh huh, that was not weird at all.
That night, as the dangerous psychotics lie awake in their beds, they discuss their general mistrust of Dr. Potter. They even go so far as to imagine that he murdered the shrink he replaced. Hawkes proposes that Potter wants them dead as well, so they begin to formulate an escape plan, in order to kill him first.
At the Potter house the next morning, the spouses discuss a relative who will be a houseguest for awhile, a woman named Toni. She had some sort of nervous breakdown, and is still getting her life back together. While meeting with Bain, Dr. Potter discusses his boss' form of therapy. It boils down to he's a drugged-out wackjob who shouldn't be in charge of a goldfish. Ray, the orderly that we met a few scenes ago warns Potter that the patients are paranoid about his presence. Then the orderly confesses that he's scared shitless by the patients.
They're interrupted by Preacher who demands a match. When both men refuse to give him one, he screams Bible verses at them both, then stomps away to find Bain. Bain is busy trying to calm down a woman with OCD, and gives Preacher an entire book of matches without giving it much thought. See what I mean about him? Wacko....
As expected, Preacher removes his shirt, lights it on fire, then starts to swing it around like a wild man. Bain rushes forward, then either begins whispering something or licking his ear, beats the heck outta me. Either way, Preacher looks as confused and horror-stricken as I feel. Bain tells Potter that he made a gruesome threat toward the mentally ill man. Nice doctor. As all of this is happening, Ronald sneaks into Potter's office and discovers a picture of the doctor's family, as well as an envelope with their address on it.
Toni arrives at the Potter house, and Mrs. Potter hugs her. Apparently, she and Toni are sisters. Lila's still at school, so the 2 women decide to gossip and catch up on old times. Toni's into reggae, which seems kinda random-ish, and she invites the Potters to a club. Boy, this thing is REALLY exciting!
Dr. Potter walks with Hawkes, and asks him about his previous doctor. The questions make Hawkes nervous, and he tells the doc not to listen to Ray. He also briefly explains why some of them are patients at the asylum: Preacher is an arsonist-murderer; as I mentioned before, Ronald molests kids, specifically girls; and Hawkes describes himself only as a person who enjoys "the social life".
On the way to the club that night, Toni and the wife make fun of all of Potter's psycho patients. The club is some kind of metal-punk hangout, where the singer sounds like a cat being microwaved. Fortunately, the power goes out, all over the town. Gee, I wonder if the patients will escape tonight?
Driving home, Dan and his family hear that the outage is the result of a power plant accident. At the hospital, Ray hears the dangerous patients moving around in his office. They find his hiding place, and Ronald threatens him with a knife while Preacher screams at him. Then Ronald kills Ray by picking him up and snapping his back, after Preacher kicks him in the face.
Outside, a motorist sees many patients wandering around, and as he tries to drive away, Ronald smashes the driver-side window and hits the guy with his fist. Then he literally throws him out of the car, and the loonies escape in the stolen vehicle.
The Potters get home, and find the babysitter asleep. Downtown,the stores are being looted, and fires are set everywhere. A cop finds Dr. Potter standing by his car, and fills him in on the murder of Ray and the escape of the dangerous group of men.
As the crazies join the looters, Preacher grabs a knife the size of my last car. Pointy pointy!! Ronald grabs a bat, Skank(the bleeder) puts on a hockey mask, and Hawkes grabs a gun. Then Lila grabs the scariest thing of all from the kitchen: a SPOOOOOOOON!!! *screams like a girl*
Toni and Lila talk about being afraid of the dark. Skank, meanwhile gets a van, by stabbing the surprised owner with a gardening tool. Ewwwwwww! I guess Skank has a RED thumb, huh? The others notice Skank bleeding through his mask, then they all take off in the van.
The next morning, after Lila goes off to school, the escapees frighten a bike messenger. He insults them, so they hit him with the van, hard enough to send his body flying several feet away. As they examine the body, Preacher takes the dead guy's hat.
Toni and Mrs. Potter are preparing to go to a nuclear energy protest, when Preacher shows up, pretending to be a messenger. He tries to see Dr. Potter, but is refused access to the house, so he promises to return. Both women agree that he is reallllllly creepy.
At the hospital, a head count is made, and the dangerous patients from the 3rd floor are listed as missing. Again, DUH. When Potter criticizes Dr. Bain's methods, the men have a brief, pointless debate. Oh, and Lila meets Ronald the Molesting Giant. Yayyyyyyyyyyyyyy!!!!
At the local jail, the two women argue with a cop about making a phone call after being arrested at the protest. Doc Potter calls a woman named either "Lucky" or "Bunky", and asks if she can go by the house to check on Lila. She gets there, but no one appears to be home, so she enters the house anyway.
Upstairs, Lucky/Bunky finds Lila fast asleep. She calls the doc back, then decides to invite her boyfriend over. Heh, he's gonna get Lucky! When he arrives, he follows a trail of her clothes upstairs, where he finds her in one of the beds, in her underwear. Both of them are bony, so it's like watching 2 scarecrows do it. Geez, if they rub together too much, they'll start a fire!
Lucky/Bunky gets scared by a noise, so her anorexic boyfriend checks the closet. As he saunters back to the bed, a hand under the bed grabs him by the ankle, then drags him underneath to murder him. Lucky/Bunky makes a face that definitely makes her "Un-Lucky". As she calls his name("Billy? BILLY???"), the blade of a knife tears through the mattress. A second stab gets dangerously close, and a third one goes between 2 fingers. She scurries off of the bed, and Ronald meets her as she opens the bedroom door, lifting her off the floor by her throat and letting her suffocate.
Mrs. Potter gets home, and finds the place crawling with cops. Dan tells his wife that one of his patients killed the babysitter, but didn't harm their daughter. Then, inexplicably, they invite one of the investigators to stay for dinner. Dr. Bain calls their house, and worries when no one answers the phone.
At dinner, everyone mumbles. Yay. As they eat and talk by candlelight, they hear a noise. The noises continue, so the cop decides to check it out. After checking the windows, he urges them to stay inside, then he leaves to investigate the porch and yard. As he makes his way around a tree, everyone in the house watches him get shot by a crossbow.
Toni's boyfriend Tom, who she literally met about 5 minutes ago, tries to take charge. He and Doc Potter start locking up the house, and Toni is asked to go check the rooms upstairs by herself. Yeah, THAT sounds safe! She freaks, Tom goes upstairs instead, then the cop's corpse vanishes.
The patients start to smash the windows, and when the men put up heavy furniture to barricade them, another arrow damages one of the barricades. Dr. Bain tries to call them at home, but a nasty operator tells him that the line is out. He hangs up, and starts to worry even more.
In the house, Tom and Dr. Potter argue over who is manly enough to start DOING SOMETHING!!!!, then Bain arrives. As they all try to shout warnings to him from a window, Bain tries to reason with the lunatics. Preacher approaches the house, and Bain tries to be cheerful, but Preacher appears to either cut his ear or the side of the head. Then Preacher says, "Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord," and cackles like a loon.
Dr. Potter checks a window, but he can't see anyone outside. He opens a window, then tells them that he didn't kill their previous doctor. He gives them the phone number where the guy works, but gets no response at all. In one of the funniest moments, Potter leans nearer to the window, and the rest of the group stand as far away as possible...then Lila waves bye-bye to Daddy. Classic!
The cop's body is flung through a window, and the household scurries to cover the window and/or hide. Toni, for no good reason, approaches a window, and Skank pops up, in all of his gory glory. Or maybe not, because Potter convinces her that she was hallucinating. Whatev.
A fire is set in the basement, and Lucky/Bunky and "BILLY!!!"'s corpses fall out of the closet where the fire extinguisher is kept. Preacher tries to stab Potter when he goes down to put out the fire, but the doc gets away.
Potter announces that he's going to try to get to the car, and then Ronald bursts in screaming like a banshee with diarrhea. Lila thrusts a knife out as he runs into the kitchen, stabbing him. Then Tom stabs him in the back when he falls. Ronald tries to get up, and Tom uses a bat to push the meat cleaver DEEPER into his back. Owwwww!!!!
Potter dashes to the car, but the damned heap won't start! He tries the car Bain came in, and it roars to life. As Toni is hugging Tom, he gets a nosebleed, which gushes all over her head. Oops, guess who Skank is!!!???? As they all scream like ninnies, Skank bites Toni in the face, and Potter rushes to the rescue. The family pries them apart, then Mrs. Potter stabs Skank in the stomach.
As they all take a moment to relax, Preacher comes crashing through the kitchen door, holding a knife over his head. Potter stabs him first, and they wrestle, before Preacher gets stabbed in the back. As the family breathes ANOTHER sigh of relief, Hawkes shows up! Sheesh. He aims the crossbow at them, delivering a speech about how even "sane" people are killers, then Potter begs for his family to be spared.
At that EXACT moment, the news comes on. They watch as a reporter interviews the very doctor that the inmates thought Potter had murdered, then Hawkes smashes the television. He walks away from the house as they all stand in the kitchen, blood-soaked and traumatized.
At the nightclub that Toni brought them to earlier, Hawkes beats up the doorman, then enters the dance floor. As Hawkes watches the dancers flail around, a bimbo tries to "flirt" with him. He pulls a gun on her, aims it under her chin, then just grins. THE END
Wow, this movie was crazy! It certainly wasn't the most gory or scary '80's horror film, but it sure was kooky! I'll give it 3-and-a-half killer trees out of five, just for not being entirely predictable, as well as having a pretty good group of actors. And for making me laugh and jump throughout.
Oh, and what did Alone in the Dark give me to contemplate this week?
-Well, apparently, shouting "HAPPY TRAILS!" isn’t always the best way to end a conversation...
-Chronic bleeding and disfigurement can apparently be turned on and off like a faucet.
-Mental hospitals are only effective during calm weather, and never have back-up generators. Good to know.
Next week, I’m watching something called Late Fee. Sounded like a slasher, so we’ll see how it goes. If not, then I get a week off! As Charlie Sheen would say, "WINNING!"