• Alone In The Dark (Shout! Factory) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Released on: September 14th, 2021.
    Director: Jack Sholder
    Cast: Jack Palance, Donald Pleasance, Martin Landau, Dwight Schultz, Elizabeth Ward, Carol Levy, Lee Taylor-Allan
    Year: 1982
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    Alone In The Dark – Movie Review:

    Jack Sholder’s 1982 New Line production has long been a fan favorite thanks to the casting of genre favorites Martin Landau (of Ed Wood), Donald Pleasance (of Halloween) and Jack Palance (of Violent City) in lead roles. Almost forty years later, it remains a pretty fun watch.

    The film follows the story of one Dr. Dan Potter (Dwight Schulz), a psychiatrist who, along with his wife Nell (Deborah Hedwall) and daughter Lyla (Elizabeth Ward), has recently relocated to a small town. The reason for this movie is that he’s accepted a position at The Haven Hospital, which is, in all reality, an insane asylum. When Potter arrives, he meets his boss, Dr. Leo Bain (Pleasence) and it would seem that he’s spent a little too much time with the patients as some of their traits seem to be rubbing off on the poor old guy. He’s also got a penchant for smoking Oregon sensimilla.

    Early on, Potter is told of the top floor of the hospital where the four most notorious and unstable of the patients reside. These four are made up of Colonel Hawks (Palance) is a maniacal veteran who has taken the war home with him, Byron Sutcliff (Landau) is a preacher who feels the need to dole out the wrath of God on his own terms, Frank Elridge (Erland Van Lidth) is a repeat child molester, and a masked man known only as The Bleeder who bleeds from his nose every time he kills someone. The floor that these four maniacs live on is protected by a series of electronic doors and security gates – so in theory they should be safely locked away up there.

    A short time later, Dan’s sister Toni (Lee Taylor-Allan) arrives. She insists that Dan and Nell accompany her on a night out. They go to a club and check out a live set from The Sick Fucks, and Potter is pretty much repulsed by the music. Things are going well enough, despite the fact that his sister’s taste in music is not his own, until the lights go off. When Potter realizes that there’s been a black out, it doesn’t take him long to figure out that the inmates behind the electric doors are now going to be able to escape, and that’s exactly what they do, even going so far as to kill off the poor babysitter, Bunky (Carol Levy). The four of them jack a car, kill a couple of people, and head off to Potter’s house to get revenge for the perceived killing of the man who was in Potter’s position before he came on board.

    While Alone In The Dark takes a while to get going, once the blackout hits, the movie really picks up nicely. Sholder does an effective job of building suspense and watching the interplay between Pleasance, Landau and Palance makes for a lot of fun. Anytime these three are on screen together, the movie is firing on all cylinders, and Landau in particular steals quite a few scenes here, his insanely toothy grin really doing a great job of making him look absolutely insane.

    While Schulz doesn’t make for the most inspired lead (it’s hard to watch him and not think of his role on The A-Team) the bad guys make up for it once they surround Potter and his family at their home. Pleasence isn’t in the movie as much you might hope but he is definitely entertaining to watch when he is on camera. Lee Taylor-Allan is likeable here and also pretty convincing at playing scared, and both Deborah Hedwall and Elizabeth Ward are fine in their roles.

    Production values are decent and the score is pretty solid. The editing is fine despite the pacing issues early on. There are a couple of decent murder set pieces in the film, complemented by believable gore effects. The story is a bit on the predictable side, however, and it doesn’t really try anything new with the material, instead relying on more than a couple of tired clichés in the plot. Ultimately, however, this is offset by the fun performances and a very solid finale.

    Alone In The Dark – Blu-ray Review:

    Shout! Factory brings Alone In The Dark to region free Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.85.1 widescreen with the feature taking up 27.3GBs of space on the 50GB disc. Taken from a new 2k scan of the interpositive, the picture quality here is very good. There’s really strong detail throughout the presentation and virtually no print damage to note. Colors look really good, black levels are strong and the image is devoid of any obvious noise reduction or edge enhancement issues. All in all, this is quite a nice upgrade over the previous DVD release from years back with stronger colors, better detail and considerably stronger depth and texture.

    The 24-bit English language DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo track on this disc, which comes with optional English SDH subtitles, sounds very good. Dialogue is clean and clear and the score sounds really nice, demonstrating some good depth throughout. Sound effects, gun shots in particular, have a nice punch to them. Levels are fine and there are no issues with any hiss or distortion.

    There are quite a few new extras included here, starting with an audio commentary with genre film critic Justin Kerswell and film historian Amanda Reyes. They cover the unique opening scene that gets the film started before then discussing how the film is an anomaly in the slasher movie genre, the state of mental health in America at the time that the movie was made due to government cut backs, details on some of the characters and what makes them unique, details on the cast and crew involved with the production, the importance of Robert Shaye and New Line Cinema to genre and cult films, thoughts on The Sick Fucks, the coincidental appearance of the hockey mask in the film, the influence of Carpenter's Halloween on aspects of the film and plenty more.

    Out Of The Dark is a new interview with director/co-writer Jack Sholder that clocks in at forty minutes. He starts by talking about the social commentary in the film and how it aimed to be something bigger than a slasher film. He talks about how he got into filmmaking after wanting to be a trumpet player, connecting with New Line Cinema and working with them on Alone In The Dark, how the film was originally meant to take place in New York City and involve the mafia, budgetary restraints, how Tom Savini wound up working on the picture, the locations that were used, working with the cast and crew on the picture, getting The Sick Fucks in the movie and quite a bit more.

    Mother Choppers: The Sic F*cks Remember Alone In The Dark is a new ten minute featurette with the band that play in the club scene. They talk here about how they came to appear in the film, what it was like seeing it in the theater when it debuted (with one of the members’ mothers, a mental health nurse, along for the ride!), their career playing clubs like CBGB and more.

    Also new to this disc is the twelve minute Sites In The Dark: The Locations Of Alone In The Dark, which is a featurette hosted by Mike Gingold that shows off some of the New Jersey locations that were used in the film and compares them with how they appear now versus how they looked in the movie back in 1982.

    Shout! Factory has also carried over the extras from the long out of print Image Entertainment DVD. First up is a full length commentary track with director and co-writer of the film, Jack Sholder. This production wasn’t an easy one for him to manage as he ran into multiple working problems with Jack Palance and a few of the crew members, and this track is very interesting in that it details how they ended up overcoming a lot of those problems. Aside from the more gossipy part, he also discusses what an honor it was for him to finally work with Donald Pleasence, he covers casting decisions, certain aspects of the cinematography and provides plenty of details about the set. When it’s all said and done, this is a very interesting discussion and even if you weren’t into the movie, it’s completely worth sitting through as Sholder has a lot of great stories about his time spent on this film.

    Two interview featurettes are also carried over here, the first one with The Sic Fucks. The band discusses not only their work on the film but what they’ve done since calling it quits in the music business. There’s also a lengthy interview with actress Carol Levy who follows a similar pattern by talking about her stunt work, her time on the set, and finally where life has taken her since hanging up her acting hat.

    Rounding out the extra features is a trailer for the film, a large still gallery of promotional artwork and behind the scenes photographs, menus and chapter selection. Shout! Factory packages this release with some reversible cover art and, with the first pressing, a slipcover.

    Alone In The Dark – The Final Word:

    Alone In The Dark holds up well. If it isn’t a perfect film, it’s a very good one highlighted by some great work from Landau ,Palance and Pleasence and some memorable set pieces. Shout! Factory has done a really nice job bringing the film to Blu-ray with a really strong presentation and a nice selection of extras both old and new. Recommended!

    Click on the images below for full-sized Alone In The Dark screen caps!