Alone in the Dark would see another slasher come to life with an all-star cast headed up by Donald Pleasence, Jack Palance, Martin Landau and Dwight Schultz. Packed with these veterans of the horror genre, aside from Schultz that is, they would deliver a picture slightly disturbing at times, frightening during others and all around, a very solid movie that never failed to keep its audience entertained. Rounding out the cast would be Erland van Lidth and Phillip Clark as the final two killers who were just as imposing as Landau and Palance, and though being supporting characters, they ended up being just as scary.
The story would find Pleasence as Dr. Bain – the head of a psychiatric hospital of sorts and in need of a new assistant fulfilled by Dr. Potter as portrayed by Schultz who arrives just in time to replace the man who used to have his position. To say that Potter is a little shocked at how Bain runs the place is putting it lightly as he believes that security among other things could be just a little bit better. On the flipside, some of the inmates do not like Potter, believing that the man has done away with his predecessor and now they are going to get rid of him. After a blackout hits the area, it is the perfect time for them to put things in motion and it is not too long after that the bodies begin to drop.
What really sets this film above most in the genre is the amount of characterization given to both the good guys and bad. Most of the time whenever it comes to the victims in one of these movies, the audience cares little for them, the girls or guys merely being cannon fodder for the killer on the loose. That is the complete opposite here, at least for the most part, as the killers are after Dr. Potter whose family just so happens to be in the way. A lot of time is given to the family to flesh out their characters so that when the time comes, one cannot help but hope to see them come out the other side alive. There are of course, a few bodies thrown in the way of the murderers, a little blood and gore needed to sate those who love horror films and to expound upon the viewers that these are indeed, dangerous men. At the same time though, there is also some time and devotion granted towards the lunatics, especially Palance who heads up the motley group of madmen and while feeling bad for their victims is fine, there is enough sympathy to go around for these ‘voyagers’ as well. Not a lot, but a little as they are truly mad and cannot help what they
Jack Sholder brings all of these personalities together and while it might have seemed like Pleasence would be the draw, it is Palance who really makes the show his own, his personality and his character demanding the viewer’s attention. The man is bold and big as life and he quickly overshadows all those he might share a scene with. One almost believes that Pleasence should be a patient as well as things progress, the man obviously having a screw loose, but one could boil it down to the man being eccentric more than anything else. Landau is extremely creepy and one of the scariest aspects of the entire movie, the man perfectly cast and he over anyone else would be the killer to give a person nightmares.
As it is, the movie is a joy to watch, mainly for the fact that whenever a number of big names get together like they do here, one never knows what is going to happen. There may not be the same kind of magic that was present in a Cushing and Lee vehicle, but seeing Palance interact with Pleasence, Landau and more, cast a spell of its own and Alone in the Dark is sure to entrance anyone that gives it a go.
4 out of 5