Dan Potter (Dwight Shultz) is a new doctor at an asylum run by the wacky Dr. Leo Bain (Donald Pleasence). Inmates Hawkes (Jack Palance), Preacher (Martin Landau), Fatty ( the late Erland van Lidth), and the Bleeder (Phil Clark) believe Potter killed their old doctor and vow revenge. The gang escapes when a massive blackout strikes New Jersey. As the Potter family prepare for a quiet candle lit dinner with friends, the psychopaths move in for the kill.
In Alone In The Dark, director Jack Sholder, who cut his slasher teeth while editing The Burning, creates a great deal of suspense, tension, and action in this off-beat slasher. All of the characters are either oddballs, lunatics, or both. The script (written by Sholder, Robert Shaye, and Mike Harpster) is filled with funny dialogue and a few twists.
The incredible cast contributes a large portion of the goofy charm surrounding this slasher. Most of the acting is completely over the top, but Palance and Landau still manage to bring menace to their characters. One wonders if Pleasence is really acting in his scenes involving a pipe and “exotic herbs”. Slasher fans won’t mistake Dr. Bain for Dr. Loomis. Dwight Schultz, who later became famous as a member of the A-Team, is good as the young doctor who learns violence is the only way to deal with some threats.
The lack of serious gore in Alone In The Dark is due to a “falling out” between Sholder and the special fx guy. One death is never really resolved due to this, but Sholder was able to bring in some guy named Savini for one of the better jump scares. Of historical note, Alone In The Dark featured a killer in a hockey mask before that guy in the franchise picked one up. Slasher fans who enjoy cameos by rock bands will enjoy seeing The Sic Fucks perform “Chop Up Your Mother”.
One can tell the lasting impact of a slasher film by the number of times other films “borrow” elements. The ending to Valentine is a direct rip-off of a key sequence in Alone In The Dark. Jason Voorhees wore a potato sack over his head until this film hit theaters. Don’t believe the old “Steve Minor was a hockey fan” line. Alone In The Dark is definitely a must have for slasher fans. See it before Hollywood gives it the remake treatment.