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‘Alone in the Dark’ is laughingly awful

Tara Reid stars as a ‘brilliant anthropologist’ — insert your own joke here. By Christy Lemire
/ Source: The Associated Press

Tara Reid plays a character in “Alone in the Dark” who’s described in the movie’s production notes as “a brilliant anthropologist.” And it’s not even a comedy!

At least, it’s not trying to be a comedy. It is, however, extremely funny at times — when it’s not muddled or deafening.

As movies based on video games go, “Alone in the Dark” almost makes you long for the quaint days of “Tron,” or at least hope that something more sophisticated is on the horizon. “Pong: The Musical,” perhaps.

For now, if we choose to accept it, we have this: a messy action flick that’s sort of an inept cross between the “Alien” movies and the Indiana Jones trilogy.

Reid, the “American Pie” star and Maxim magazine favorite who frequently provides tabloid fodder with her highly social antics, strives to be taken seriously here as Aline Cedrac by throwing her long platinum locks in a bun, donning dark-rimmed glasses and flatly regurgitating lines like, “It’s a fascinating piece, Dr. Hudgens. I started decoding the pictograms.”

But we shouldn’t hate on Tara alone. She gets help in the unintentional hilarity department from Christian Slater, playing a “paranormal investigator” named Edward Carnby who also happens to be Aline’s ex-boyfriend.

Edward is a former agent for the top-secret Bureau 713 — and everyone in the movie is either a former 713 agent or current 713 agent or they’re the subject of a 713 investigation. (Why it’s named for the area code in Houston is unclear.)

The bureau — we learn in a complicated on-screen prologue that features enough copy to fill a TelePrompTer for a half-hour network newscast — was created to close the gate between the good and evil which was ripped open when an ancient tribe was ... oh, never mind. There was a quiz afterward. We all copied off each other’s papers.

Anyway, some evil experiments were conducted on a bunch of the kids with whom Edward grew up in an orphanage. Edward managed to escape. Twenty-two years later, all those kids have grown up and disappeared, but seem to have been turned into crude “Alien”-esque monsters that make Ray Harryhausen’s creations look lifelike.

The troops from 713, led by Commander Burke (Stephen Dorff), try to help Edward and Aline fight off these monsters with heavy-duty firepower when they storm the museum where the ancient tribe’s artifacts are being held. This is where the video game element comes in. (German director Uwe Boll previously directed another movie based on a video game, 2003’s “House of the Dead,” which was just as agonizing to sit through.)

Edward happens to keep an assault rifle next to his bed; Aline has clearly been practicing at the gun range. But it’s not enough. “I don’t care what you have to do!” Burke barks. “We need more bodies down here now!”

All we can do is sit and numbly watch the carnage — and count the days until the 2005 Razzie nominations are announced.