Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Alone in the Dark

(1982) ***1/2

I got this for a laugh, since it has the same title as the Boll movie and because it stars Dwight Schultz, the twitchy Lt. Barclay from STNG. This turned out to be really fun.

Barclay plays the world's most clueless shrink, newly assigned to Haven, an experimental mental health facility run by none other than Donald Pleasance. Donald is nothing less than outrageous in this, playing a sort of anti-Dr. Loomis, healing sick minds by reaching out to them. This includes lots of hugging, crapola pseudo-psychiatry, getting high in his office, and lending matches to patients.

Donald introduces the Third Floor men, the violent foursome held in check by an electronic alarm system. They include Jack Palance and Martin Landau, both playing crazy to the hilt, a big fat guy and the Bleeder, a face-hiding killer whose nose bleeds after he commits acts of violence. We've just met these dudes when Palance says "Barclay killed our old shrink...we have to kill Barclay." Ooookay. Soon there's a blackout and the four men escape. They head downtown (where as scene of ridiculous looting is taking place, considering this is somewhere in Connecticut) and the Bleeder puts on a hockey mask (!), but only for one scene.

The resultant siege involves a bit of stalking and planning, with Dwight doing a wonderful job of downplaying the problem. He tells his wife that an escaped violent criminal came to their house and hung out with their young daughter, but that it's "nothing to worry about honey." The fact that the babysitter is missing isn't concerning anyone, least of all the mellow detective on the scene. The cops find some footprints but lose them, shrug, and leave. Donald Pleasance calls from his office, pipe in hand. Incompetence reigns, and the siege begins.

This is definitely my sleeper/retro find for this year. It starts with a dream sequence you'll swear is David Lynch, and there's a couple of effective scaryish moments (the leering Martin Landau is particularly creepy). There's a darn strange-looking little girl who edges into annoying territory, but who won me over when, in a pinch, she holds up the kitchen knife saying "here Mom!" JPX, you especially need to check this out for the mangled psychology; you'll love it. This was entertaining through and through.

1 comment:

JPX said...

wow, I've never heard of this, it sounds really fun!