Labor Day Weekend Special: Alone in the Dark (1982)

I've been searching for this in Youtube at a near-weekly basis for about four years now, ever since I started the Movie of the Week feature on this dumb blog. And now, for this Labor Day weekend, the fruit of my labors is finally here, to remind me (a) to cancel my Netflix subscription, and (b) that I have great affinity for some things that I can't begin to explain to myself.

Why does it have such strange appeal? Outwardly, it's a formulaic early 80's slasher/thriller, but in many other ways it's like nothing else. There's a certain honesty here; the kind that makes the audience feel complicit, for better or worse. "You're really there.... you know? You're really there...." I find this moral ambiguity to be both disturbing and funny. I'm having a hard time validating it, but it sure is entertaining.

With star turns from Jack Palance, Donald Pleasence and Martin Landau. Plus we get the massive mountain of a man who stole the show in Stir Crazy, The Wanderers and The Running Man, and a very special and pivotal role by punk-novelty band The Sic F*cks, performing, among others, their Solid Gold hit "Chop Up Your Mother". One of the killers wears a hockey mask, a year before Jason started doing it in the Friday the 13th movies, but who cares. Filmed entirely in New Jersey.

SPECIAL PRELIMINARY FEATURETTE: Also from 1982, the seven-minute cable TV classic must-see short  The Dummy (not embeddable).


pupating said...

As always, I tune in carefully to the movie of the week recommendation. I watched this one and was really drawn in. Palance and Landau are spectacular.

stexe said...

Thanks for regularly tuning in to this dusty old corner of the internet. I re-watched it yesterday for the first time in many years and it still holds up. The execution is a little creaky, but it was the writer/director's first film. and yes, the casting of Palance and Landau give it lots of momentum.

pupating said...

Why do you suppose this film vanished from mass memory and recognition? The hockey mask predating Jason is actually pretty fascinating.

I like the image of navigating a dusty corner of the internet... suggesting to an entomologist that I might uncover the tens of thousands of dust mites per ounce of internet!

stexe said...

Timing, maybe. By '82, audiences were getting tired of pessimistic slasher movies, and there was a big backlash by film critics, the moral majority and (understandably) feminists.

This movie has some of those slasher tropes, so it got lost in the glut of genre movies. but I'd barely call it a horror film; it's more like a social satire. It doesn't belong in the politically conservative 80's, it's more similar to a Wes Craven movie from the 70's; more philosophically arbitrary, an allegory for the collapse of society.

Craven said his early movies were about Vietnam, and Here Jack Palance is a shell-shocked Vietnam Vet. There's no hard line between protagonists or antagonists, or between the sane and insane. Everyone is on the edge of losing it, or living in their own world (Donald Pleasence). It's a dark view of the world in general; the whole city starts looting and vandalizing as soon as the power goes out, and when Palance beats a club bouncer unconscious, everybody cheers him on. And then you have the Sic F*cks. I take back what I said in the post; I'm pretty sure I know why I like this film.

pupating said...

This is exactly what I enjoyed most-- the nearly indistinguishable line between the grounds of the insane asylum and the outer world. Most people on the brink or beyond.

and, of course, Jack Palance's presence. oh, and the dream sequence at the beginning. I'm a sucker for dream sequences.