Against the Dark (DVD)
Reviewed by The Foywonder
Starring Steven Seagal, Tanaoi Reed, Jenna Harrison, Danny Midwinter, Skye Bennett, Keith David, Linden Ashby
Directed by Richard Crudo
Distributed by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Steven Seagal has been notorious for shying away from appearing in genre films his whole career so when it was announced that he'd be starring as a vampire slayer in Against the Dark many suddenly got excited despite the fact that Seagal hasn't made a halfway entertaining film in a decade. I did my own part trying to lower people's expectations after reading on a Seagal fansite that he only appears in the film briefly and did so as a favor to the film's producer-director in order to help sell the film. Alas, that has turned out to be the case. Without the novel marketing of Steven Seagal slaying vampires this movie would by rightfully dismissed as just another lame retread of "of the dead" style horror filmmaking.
First off, there are no vampires in Against the Dark. The infected are just that. Whatever this infection is has turned most of the human race into zombies of the 28 Days Later variety but with a thirst for blood and an aversion to sunlight. That's where the vampire comparisons come from even though they're not really vampires as we know them. We'll get numerous shots of them tearing out organs and biting to infect people as you'd expect in a zombie movie. What we never get is a scene where one of the infected gets exposed to daylight so we see why it is they shy away from it.
As noted, Steven Seagal's role is relatively minor despite his being billed as the star. He plays Tao, the bloated leader of a small band of civilian "hunters" that merely walk around slaying the infected with surprising ease given these things have supposedly decimated humanity. Seagal does the bare minimum of swordplay to make his character look like a bad ass while the other hunters around him do the more physical action sequences, primarily a dude best known as "Toa" on the recently cancelled revamping of "American Gladiators". Even Seagal's dialogue is bare minimum; he speaks in such a dispassionate, one sentence at a time manner that I began watching to see if I could spot his eyes reading cue cards off-camera.
It's not even a movie about the hunters going around saving the day, either. Against the Dark is just another zombie movie with characters trapped in a singular location trying to stay alive against an onslaught of the undead. "Onslaught" probably isn't the right word considering they generally only attack one at a time and never in numbers more than three or four at a time. The hospital setting and their being stalked by "infected" that mindlessly charge at them growling brought to mind the game Left 4 Dead. Although in this case, it would be Left 6 Dead, and instead of an old military man, a burly biker, a mild-mannered African-American, and a young woman we get a half dozen blank slates that fail to give us one reason to give a damn about them one way or another. There might have been another person or two; I forget and don't care. Not one of them had as much personality as any of the principal characters in Left 4 Dead and keep in mind for those of you who haven't played the game - there really isn't any character depth in that game.
One thing the hunters and the survivors have in common: they absolutely love to slowly walk around hallways, alleyways, and random rooms while waiting for something to jump out at them. In the case of the survivors, so they can scream and scramble to escape. In the case of the hunters, so that they can make quick work of them with some form of swordplay or blade-wielding kung fu. For the most part it's all staged fairly competently while still playing out in as perfunctory a manner as possible. That pretty much describes the movie overall. It's just no fun, not even campy fun.
While the characters trapped in the hospital contemplate whether or not there is even any rescue out there awaiting them, going so far as to make incomprehensible statements about how in this new world they the uninfected might be the monsters now, the military is standing around talking about "sterilizing" the area where the hospital is located. David Keith (playing pretty much the exact same character I just saw him play in another even lamer direct-to-DVD release Behind Enemy Lines: Colombia) and Mortal Kombat's Linden Ashby are shown hunkered down in a cramped command bunker bickering back and forth about obliterating this area knowing full well that there might be uninfected survivors and hunters inside the hospital.
If you're looking for special features, don't look too hard. There's nothing here except for a brief behind-the-scenes featurette and some previews. Yay.
The uninspired script occasionally throws out ideas that there's something more to this infection than just mindless zombification. Like when one of the survivors encounters a mad scientist living in the hospital working to evolve the infected. No sooner is this madman introduced and gives a grandiose speech that could potentially add an entirely new dynamic to the plot, in walks Steven Seagal to blast him dead with a shotgun. That was pointless. So's the movie.
2 out of 5
1 1/2 out of 5
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