Friday, September 3, 2010

Alone in the Dark: Bad Donald

There are a lot of movies about the dark. This is probably because the dark can sometimes be very scary. Yes, in fact I'm positive that is why there are so many horror movies about the dark. In any case, with the ever growing presence of horror movies about the dark with the word "dark" in the title, a person can get easily confused. I for instance thought the movie I was watching was called Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, or maybe I thought it was Don't Go in the Basement, OR something else. But that's neither here or there. So anyways I read about Alone in the Dark and put it on my list of semi-rare movies from the 70s and 80s that I should probably see. I would also be lying if I told you that I didn't think Donald Sutherland was in this. This made me very excited because I like to think that every movie with Donald Sutherland in it, makes me a little bit happier on the inside.

And for real, how can one person not get a little bit happier when they see The Donald?

My thoughts exactly.

So yes, there I was all pumped and excited for The Donald and then.....

Mmmmmhmmmm. Donald fail.

Not that Donald Pleasence isn't a wonderful human being, but I'm used to THE Donald.

So where was I? Oh yes. After being disappointed, I sat back to watch a movie that seems to have influenced one of my favorite movies of all time. During a blackout, 3 patients on the third floor of a mental institution escape and kill people. Well, I guess that's pretty loose. 3 People with a grudge against the new doctor who believe he killed the old doctor, escape from the mental institution during the black out and hunt down the man and his family. Better? The mental institution retains the gentlemen on the third floor with the use of electricity. All doors and bars on the windows are controlled only by electricity. See the resemblance yet? No? Okay. So during a storm/ blackout the power goes out allowing what is behind the bars or fence to escape..................just like........

Jurassic Park. Genius.

The film as a whole is pretty effective in the creep department. Apparently this is deemed a slasher movie although for some reason I don't quite see it like that. I suppose it would be in the vein of the slasher movies that draw inspiration from Halloween--where we know the identity of the killer and additionally that we know the killer has some sort of mental illness. This goes above and beyond that by having there not be just one killer but three (well, four I guess...) These men are so dangerous and disturbed that they immediately start killing people as soon as they are released from their floor.

Unfortunately, this film also had me all stirred up and angry due to how these highly dangerous men on the third floor are labeled as insane and violent when their definitive illnesses do not correspond to their violent nature. In case you do not know by now, I work in the mental illness field. Movies like this follow a trend where mental illness was immediately met with negativity in the form of "highly dangerous". As it so happens there is a wide range of mental illnesses of which a small amount fall under the highly dangerous category that these men are put under. Child molester's while being very disturbing, would probably not seize a man and break his back upon suddenly realizing that he could escape.

Just saying. As it so happens this movie gave me great inspiration for an article I am in the process of writing so thank you, Alone in the Dark.

Aside from all my angsty feelings, I found the film to have its moments. I will say that it was incredibly slow starting off. Almost to the point where I contemplated reading a book until the action got started. I don't think anything noteworthy actually happened until....oooh....40 minutes? That's a long time especially for a film put under the Slasher category.

Once the blackout officially started however, things got underway. Starting with the biggest sale of the year---the Blackout Sale.

Because as most of us know the perfect day to buy that hutch that you've had your eye on, is during a blackout.

After this there was a fairly effective murder scene involving a man wearing a hockey mask, and a little gardening hand rake thing. It was pretty gross. Then, we get our 3 killers taunting a man on a bicycle for no reason, and the fat child molester "babysitting" the doctor's daughter. This made for a very creepy and uncomfortable moment. Fear not, apparently all he did was teach her how to make origami. I'm not sure if that is suppose to mean something else or whatever, but I find it odd that he is represented as innocent in that situation. Later the little girl is just found taking a nap, which doesn't make sense when given the fat child molester's past and his habit of breaking people's backs and throwing people across lawns.

Well anyways, there are a few decent kills, and then the whole family is holed up in the house once they realize that all three men are outside and trying to kill them. Windows and doors are boarded up ala Night of the Living Dead, and the 3 men force their way inside anyways. There is one big reveal at the end that is very disturbing and pretty well done I should add. It made me a little sick. Oh and there's an extremely effective jump-ish type scare that I'm sure is on more than one persons trauma list...

Word is Tom Savini was called in specifically to create this horrid beast that pops up.
One thing I do wish now that I'm thinking of it, is that the whole idea of the doctor's sister and her clouded past with her getting "sick" again is never fleshed out. She's come to visit them following a successful treatment of a mental breakdown but seeing this creature suggests much more darker things than a mental breakdown that was "easily treated". In fact I would say that overall, there is very little detail concerning plot at all. The whole jumping off point for the three men in their plan to kill the new doctor is because Frank decides it one night and says out loud to the others that "He killed Dr. Merton so now we must kill him". And that's that. That is how the entire plot gets going from that one simple statement alone. There's not much to it. Obviously one can make the case that an individual with mental illness lacks very little reasoning to begin with but still...for the story's sake I feel like that whole motivation could have been fleshed out a bit better.

There's a whole slew of stuff like that--the mother's nonchalant way of brushing off the fact that a dangerous child molester was with their daughter but that she's ok. And what's more the babysitter and her car is missing and no one really seems to be worried about it. Also, if you're not paying attention during the beginning and debating whether or not you should open your book--you could in fact miss the introduction of a fourth and very important character. Not that that wasn't my fault but I felt like he maybe should have been brought up more than that one time. Or maybe he was and I was just too bored to really notice it.

I will say that the nightmare in the opening sequence was amazing. It made me extremely excited for the film but unfortunately my high was brought back down until things started to heat up again 40 minutes later. Oh well.

Oh and I almost forgot. This has got to be the greatest band that ever lived. Look at their dedication! Meat cleavers made out of tin foil and cardboard, plus look at how much fun all of them are having.

Where can I get tickets? Note that this is a real band and I'm serious.

By the way, we can't forget this surprise cameo by....

The scary granny from 2001 Maniacs !!! Who actually is responsible for a very hysterical scene.

Overall I'm a little disappointed with this. Things got interesting off and on but for the most part kind of a snoozer with a lot of things that don't make sense. I'd have to give it another viewing before writing it off my list for good, but in the meantime, I'm moving on.

Oh and feel free to correct me and my 80s knowledge wrong, but if there is a blackout--why do all the phones still work?

Here is that random taunting of the biker scene which you should probably watch because it is quite hysterical.


Anonymous said...

Hi Andre!

Eddie said...

Hi Andre! Woo Hoo more beer..............................................more shots. This is the only horror blog i like.

Robert H. said...

History lesson - why do phones still work in a blackout?

*in old man voice*

"Way back when, most phones were in people's homes, and connected to something called a phone jack. Most of those phones didn't have an external power source, it came through the phone line, which was separate from the electric utility lines. Therefore, phones could still be working, even if there was a blackout with the rest of the electrical facilities out.

Phones were pretty tough, Back Then... usually, in movies, the phone line was cut in order to prevent people from calling out for help."

Andre Dumas said...

Ah finally, thank you Robert. I do remember a time when that was possible yet for some reason still remember not being able to use the phone when the power was out but maybe I'm just imagining that...Ah well.

Unknown said...

Fun Fact - Two of the band members you see in that movie are Tish and Snooky, whose names you may recognize as the creators of Manic Panic hair dye!