A favorite of mine since the early days of VHS. Alone in the Dark is a quirky little slasher opus from 1982. It was only the third in-house production from New Line Cinema. The company had previously seen success in distribution. Midnight movies like Reefer Madness, arthouse pictures, and exploitation shockers were their bread and butter. New Line re-released The Texas Chainsaw Massacre years after its initial theatrical run, which is how I first saw it. Twice! They brought The Evil Dead to screens and even had the guts to wreak Pink Flamingos and other early John Waters cinematrocities to the world.

It was a few short steps from Alone in the Dark to A Nightmare on Elm Street to Hairspray, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and on to the company's greatest success, The Lord of the Rings. New Line Cinema is now owned by Warner Brothers. The good old days of low budget horror and foreign movies are long over. Robert Shaye, the visionary behind the company, seems to be retired from the movie business.

Alone in the Dark is a derivative slasher with elements of Halloween and other horror movies.

You have a mental institution with dangerous escaped inmates. Donald Pleasance is a nutty shrink with unconventional techniques and a penchant for sinsemilla.

Two of the maniacs are played by Hollywood mainstays Martin Landau and Jack Palance. No one chewed scenery like Palance. This isn't the hammiest role he's ever done. After all, I have seen Jess Franco's Justine. Fans of his over-the-top cheesy acting won't be disappointed. Landau is actually pretty creepy in Alone in the Dark.

A new Doctor at the asylum is trapped in his home with his family and has to barricade the house from the marauding psychos like in Night of the Living Dead.

This movie is more anarchic than most other slashers. There's the previously mentioned dope-smoking psychiatrist, chaotic rioting and looting during a blackout, and delirious scenes in a punk-goth club with The Sic F*cks performing "Chop Up Your Mother".

Jack Sholder, who helmed the blatantly out of place A Nightmare on Elm Street 2, wrote and directed. Sholder also made the superior SF-action thriller The Hidden.

All in all Alone in the Dark is a lively, well-made slice of slasher fun. Maybe there could have been a few more death scenes, and the bloody effects are kind of weak. Tom Savini created one cool piece, when a young woman hallucinates a ghoulish creep.

The best part is the end, when Jumping Jack Palance crashes the bar to party with the punk rockers. Oi oi.

Written by Mark Sieber

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