Alone In The Dark!

They’re out…for blood! Don’t let them find you…


A quartet of murderous psychopaths escape from a mental institution (run by none other than Donald Pleasence!) during a blackout and soon afterwards lay siege to their doctor’s house. The leader of the pack is the fiercely intense Frank Hawks (played convincingly by the fiercely intense Jack Palance). His second in command is a pyromaniac with delusions of religious grandeur who calls himself Preacher (the late, great Martin Landau). The man muscle is provided by a tubby pedophile named Fatty (who would go on to play the Opera singing “Dynamo” in the Arnold Schwartzenegger epic “The Running Man”), and the fearsome foursome is rounded out by a creep nicknamed “The Bleeder” who likes to hide his face and is prone to violence and sudden nosebleeds.

The psychos have convinced themselves that their new doctor – the seemingly mild mannered Dr. Dan Potter (Dwight Schultz) must have killed the old doctor (who in reality had simply accepted a new job elsewhere) and upon breaking out of the asylum decide that the entire Potter family should suffer accordingly. The same power outage that frees the lunatics from the asylum also turns the nearby town into a madhouse, and the subsequent looting, nuclear power protests, and shitty punk rock gigs make a perfect playground for the psychos. The Potter family find themselves trapped inside their darkened home, slowly infiltrated by madmen who are out for their blood. When the lights go out, the terror begins.

“Alone In The Dark” is an absolute gem of an old school slasher film from writer/director Jack Sholder (Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge) and Robert Shaye of New Line. PLEASE do not confuse this flick with the crap Christian Slater/Tara Reid flick of the same name! This one is a must see for fans of Jack Palance, Martin Landau, and Donald Pleasence. Those three legends have a high time (especially Donald, who spends most of his time in the movie smoking grass and spouting some especially over the top dialogue!) chewing up the scenery. Every moment Jack Palance is on screen steals the show, and I think he deserved an Oscar nomination for his performance here. The performances from Dwight Schultz (soon to play a crazy guy himself on The A-Team) as the new doctor, and the rest of his on-screen family are also uniformly excellent. I have to say this is one of the best acted horror movies I’ve seen in recent memory. They really don’t make them like this anymore.

“Alone In The Dark” is not overtly gory, and not lightning quick in terms of pace, but is still well worth the effort regardless. I actually watched the film for the first time in a darkened room and soon found myself totally immersed in the proceedings. There are more than a few tense and uncomfortable moments along the way, and the death scenes, while infrequent compared to the many slasher flicks to immediately follow, are always brutally effective. The scene where the whorish and woodenly acted babysitter is trapped on a mattress while the killer stabs a giant knife up at her from below is incredibly tense and beautifully shot.

This flick is also notable for having the first hockey masked killer in horror history. “The Bleeder” dons the now legendary mask and rips flesh here a few years before Jason Vorhees did the same in “Friday The 13th Part 3.”  That interesting little factoid alone should make this flick more well known in my opinion. Also of note, this seminal horror flick contains a nifty plot device that was later stolen and reused (almost shot for shot) by writer/director Jamie Blanks for his lame post-“Scream” slasher effort “Valentine.” Despite the fact I had actually seen “Valentine” a few times before watching “Alone In The Dark,” I still did not pick up on the “twist” until it was finally revealed. This is another testament to how incredibly well made “Alone In The Dark” is. Even the more well known modern imitators are quickly forgotten once watching the original.

There’s also a wild air of camp to the proceedings. This flick effectively blends wild elements of pitch black humor into its creepy tale of nighttime terror. The end result is a wonderfully deranged little horror film. The hilariously twisted scene where Martin Landau picks up his new hat is a favorite of mine. The pedophile’s “date” and paper folding lessons are especially offbeat and creepy. The bizarre religious themed dream sequence opening and the memorable closing shot of Jack deep in the throes of insane delight both sum up the “fuck the world” attitude of this film a lot better than I can. All horror fans, and fans of clas-sick old school slasher flicks in particular, should consider this one a must see. Years later, I’m kicking myself for not seeking it out sooner.

ALONE IN THE DARK is available in a very nice special edition dvd from Image Entertainment. The bonus features include a commentary track with director Jack Sholder, interviews with stars Carol Levy and The Sick Fucks, the theatrical trailer, and an extensive gallery of rare artwork and lobby cards. Turn off the lights and watch…if you dare!



3 Responses to “Alone In The Dark!”

  1. It fascinates me to no end how this film has endured, even to find a following around the world. I painted the original 1983 poster for this movie when New Line Cinema was looking for their first big breakthrough horror movie. That would finally come a year later with Nightmare On Elm Street. For me, the poster itself is interesting in that first of all, it bills two Academy Award winners (and I assure you not for this effort), and, for lovers of ‘Alone’ trivia, if you look very closely, or are lucky enough to find an original poster (I have a couple), look closely at the bloody ax handle and you’ll find my fingerprints in the blood. I’ve left the world of illustration, and am now painting for the gallery….

    • Thank you very much Dave for commenting! I am a big fan of this film and your poster. Fantastic work!

      • Thank you Brian. At some point, I should really screen this film again. Always a movie fan, on seeing it again I will be interested to note how my own viewpoint may have changed after so many years. Best of luck with your site!

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