IMDB Rating: 6.2 / 10
It is pleasing to know that, despite tremendous pain and suffering, something good can come from any ordeal. That other Alone in the Dark was the epitome of suffering (if I had military secrets I would’ve talked if it meant I could get out of watching it), but thanks to that experience I found a hidden little gem of a slasher film. I’d never heard of this Alone in the Dark until I searched for the other, more malevolent one to get its IMDB rating for my review. From what I can gather it was largely ignored or forgotten when it released, being seen as either too similar or a bit inferior to the likes of Halloween and Friday the 13th. I can kind of see the argument, but if you like a good quality 80s slasher then you should go and dig up a copy of this anyway.
Dr Dan Potter has just taken up a job as the resident psychiatrist at Dr Leo Bain’s mental asylum. As you can guess from the asylum’s name, Haven, Dr Bain runs the place more on the principles of flowers having feelings than on good medicine. While this works fine for your run-of-the-mill lunatic who thinks their intestines are trying to strangle them, it’s perhaps not the best for the psychopaths on the third floor. The third floor houses Frank Hawkes (a paranoid schizophrenic), Byron Sutcliff (a former preacher with some issues to do with pyromania), Ronald Elster (a child rapist) and The Bleeder (a guy who either gets nosebleeds when he strangles people or strangles people when he gets nosebleeds – I didn’t quite catch which way round that went).
Dr Bain was only allowed to keep these four at Haven provided he install the necessary security measures to ensure they didn’t escape. What he installed instead was a system that relies on motion detection and heavy doors that activate either when one of the psychos trips one of the sensors or when one of the staff hits a panic button. All this does the trick until a very 80s fear-mongering blackout strikes the nearby nuclear power plant and plunges the town and Haven into darkness. And you know Haven doesn’t have a generator to keep the security measures up and running.
The town goes from 0 to 100 very quickly and rapidly descends into chaos as looters take advantage of the lights being off to steal as many fridges as they can get their hands on. Frank, Byron, Ronald and The Bleeder, believing that Dan murdered the doctor who used to treat them and who they were quite fond of, use the failed security measures and the growing mayhem to get out of Haven and acquire the necessary weapons to slice and dice Dan enough that you could serve him up at a sushi restaurant.
It’s up to Dan, who lacks the necessary life skills to spot the immediately obvious, and Leo, who keeps smoking something that isn’t tobacco out of an Indian smoking pipe, to round-up the maniacs and save Dan’s family from a paranoid, rapey, fiery, strangley end.
There’s not an awful lot to say here. As there are no horror elements to this movie it doesn’t require special effects beyond setting things on fire (which it does very well) and making people bleed (in that beautiful nearly-neon red colour that only people in the 80s seemed to have). Other than that the camera work is good and the sets are all nicely decorated and well-lit.
If for no other reason, watch this movie for the fashion. Whether it’s the holdovers from the 70s or the nascent 80s obsession with leather and side ponytails, this Alone in the Dark has it all!
The 80s churned out many a slasher, but finding the good ones among the bad is as tricky as it would be in the late 90s and early 2000s when the genre experienced a resurgence. Alone in the Dark is far more than just a competent little movie painting by numbers – it has good characters (and Donald Pleasence always did that hint of crazy so well), the maniacs are genuinely unnerving, and it serves up a nice little twist at the end that I didn’t see coming at all.
And, if I didn’t already mention it, the movie has side ponytails. If good scares and bad hair don’t convince you it’s a movie worth watching, then I don’t know what more I can do to help you.
My Final Rating: 7 / 10
Buy Alone in the Dark at Amazon.com