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Originally published Friday, January 28, 2005 at 12:00 AM

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Tara Reid as a scientist? These are "Dark" days

You know a movie's in trouble when an audience is laughing at it before the opening credits. Such was the case for "Alone in the Dark,"...

Special to The Seattle Times

You know a movie's in trouble when an audience is laughing at it before the opening credits. Such was the case for "Alone in the Dark," a dreadful, sci-fi horror film based on a video game and screened, pretty much at the last minute, for an incredulous and bemused local press.

A seemingly endless prologue, crawling its way up and up and up the screen and read aloud by a reverential male voice, was the source of much mirth. Perhaps a half-dozen, outrageous, take-it-on-faith plot points are introduced in that lengthy monologue, and by the time the movie is ready to, well, start, it's hard to remember what any of those details are or what they have to do with one another.

But let's have a go. Seems an ancient civilization that communed with demon types once lived in what is now the continental United States. (OK, so far.) A plot to revive contact with these creatures, using artifacts of that lost culture, was hatched some years ago by mysterious officials and scientists. (Sure, fine.) At the time, 20 young kids in an orphanage were somehow used as guinea pigs in that dubious effort. One of those kids escaped. (Hmm.) That kid is now paranormal investigator Edward Carnby (Christian Slater), who once belonged to a top-secret government agency called Bureau 713, or something like that. (Um.) Carnby is now an independent looking for clues about what happened to him in his childhood. (Right. Could you shut up now?)

Movie review

Showtimes and trailer 1 star

"Alone in the Dark," with Christian Slater, Stephen Dorff, Tara Reid, Matthew Walker. Directed by Uwe Boll, from a screenplay by Elan Mastai, Michael Roesch and Peter Scheerer. 96 minutes. Rated R for violence and language. Several theaters.

Remember, we learn all this before German-born, horror director Uwe Boll's unintentionally hilarious opening bit — a car chase involving two Yellow Cabs — and the not-unpleasant sight of Slater getting his butt kicked by a homicidal maniac. His character, Carnby, survives and brings his latest artifact findings to his scientist-girlfriend, Aline (Tara Reid). At the same time, Aline's freaky boss, Professor Hudgens (Matthew Walker), is turning himself into a Beastmaster who helps loose semivisible, flesh-ripping monsters onto the world.

All this and Stephen Dorff's top-to-bottom self-parody, playing (quite incredibly) the snarling boss of 713. It's hard to believe some of us once loved this guy for his performance as John Lennon's best friend in "Backbeat." Now he and Slater lock horns in a bush-league version of Robert Ryan and John Wayne going at it in "Flying Leathernecks."

Did I mention this is based on a video game? A plague on the house of Atari.

Tom Keogh:

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