‘Alone in the Dark’ Blu-ray Review: A Killer Cast, But Not Much Else

Alone in the Dark

There was a real clamor back in the early days of DVD collecting to have director Jack Sholder’s Alone in the Dark (1982) released, with many citing it as their favorite slasher. It was one I, a slasher fan, had never heard of let alone seen. Image finally put it out in a loaded special edition in 2005 and I can remember being less than impressed after watching it. Flash-forward to my second viewing, this past week, and it still plays like an average-at-best slasher.

My hunch is most of the love this film gets is due to the casting because it is jam-packed with highly acclaimed actors – Donald Pleasence, Jack Palance, Martin Landau. There’s also Dwight Schultz, best known as Murdock on The A-Team (1983-1987). Plus, one of the psych patients, Erland Van Lidth, is familiar to genre fans as Dynamo in The Running Man (1987); he only made four films before dying at the age of 34. So, plenty of recognizable faces to be seen; but as far as the film goes? Alone in the Dark is a mess.

Dr. Leo Bain (Donald Pleasence) runs Haven, a psychiatric hospital in the countryside of New Jersey. When Dr. Merton, one of his resident doctors, leaves for another position in PA, Dr. Bain recruits Dr. Dan Potter (Dwight Shultz) to take over Merton’s role. Unfortunately for Dr. Potter, four of Merton’s patients– Frank Hawkes (Jack Palance), “Preacher” (Martin Landau), “Fatty” (Erland Van Lidth), and “Bleeder” (Phillip Clark)–assume Merton has been killed by Potter so he could take his job, and the men decide they must avenge Merton’s assumed death by killing his successor.

Luckily for them, Haven runs entirely on electricity (duh, but also it’s the main security feature). So when the power goes out one night the men find a way to escape their confines and head straight for Dr. Potter’s home. The outage also inspires the town’s residents to go wild, with looting and riots breaking out almost immediately. While the melee rages in town the four escaped lunatics head to Dr. Potter’s home, intent on killing the man and anyone else inside or in their way.

The frustrating thing about Alone in the Dark is that it seems like it should get this right. There are so many capable names attached, both in front of and behind the camera. Pleasence, Palance, Landau, Schultz – all give strong performances. But outside of Schultz’s Dr. Potter, and to a lesser extent Dr. Bain, none of the characters gets any level of development – and even Potter doesn’t get much. For example, the four psychos upon which the film is centered have zero depth outside of the Bleeder, and that’s only because we need to know his nose bleeds when he kills. Otherwise, they’re just famous faces in empty roles. Palance is almost totally absent from the final siege though he does help to end the film on a strange note.

That third act siege is so painfully, awkwardly, sloppily directed, too. Every single character turns full moron and practically stands still, waiting to die. That’s a constant frustration for me in horror–characters with absolutely no agency, standing and screaming as something walks up to kill them. Everything about the finale is a mess–and this is where most of the action occurs.

On the subject of amusing coincidences and ironies in the film: seeing Dwight Schultz play a doctor working in a sanitarium, just one year prior to when he’d famously play a patient in one on The A-Team, is pretty funny. During the riots downtown Bleeder briefly dons a hockey mask before running off to wreak havoc; this, just two months after Jason first got his hockey mask in Friday the 13th Part 3-D (1982). The town of Springwood is mentioned twice, two years before the man who “built” New Line Cinema, Freddy Krueger, appeared in A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). Alone in the Dark’s director, Jack Sholder, went on to direct the first sequel in that series. Finally, fans of Tom Savini, whose FX work contributions are touted on this film, know that he created a nightmare demon that appears on screen for about 1.5 seconds.

A 2K scan from the inter-positive provides the 1.85:1 1080p image. This is one of the stronger catalog efforts from Scream Factory, offering a refined image that is an immediately apparent upgrade over the old DVD. The picture is clean and beautiful, with sharp detailing and a filmic image. Black levels are inky and rich. Colors are well suffused and appear natural. Everything appears crisp right from the start.

Audio is supplied via an English DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo track. I love composer Renato Serio’s main theme; it’s the kind of lush early ‘80s synth-driven score many composers are now trying to replicate. Dialogue is always prioritized in the mix. There’s a slight hiss to some scenes though it isn’t persistent. The action picks up considerably in the third act and with it comes a dramatic uptick in volume. Subtitles are available in English.

Special Features:

  • Out of the Dark – an interview with director and co-writer Jack Sholder [NEW]
  • Mother Choppers: The Sic F*cks Remember Alone in the Dark [NEW]
  • Sites in the Dark: The Locations of Alone in the Dark [NEW]
  • Audio Commentary with genre film critic Justin Kerswell and film historian Amanda Reyes [NEW]
  • Audio Commentary with director Jack Sholder
  • Bunky Lives! – an interview with actress Carol Levy
  • Still F*cking Sick – Catching up with the The Sic F*cks
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • TV Spot
  • Radio Spots
  • Still Gallery
  • Optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature
  • Alone in the Dark
  • Special Features


Not nearly as good as its reputation suggests, Alone in the Dark is notable for having a stellar cast but there isn’t much more beyond that. Scream Factory have given this a substantial special edition, however, featuring new content alongside legacy material from the old DVD.

User Rating 1 (1 vote)
Comments Rating 0 (0 reviews)


Sign up for The Harbinger a Dread Central Newsletter