Alone in the Dark (1982)

Alone in the Dark (1982)

“I told him that if he does not stop this nonsense immediately, I shall hang him up by his heels and chop him in half.”

Several psychotic criminals (including Martin Landau and Jack Palance) escape from an experimental insane asylum run by Donald Pleasence, and terrorize the house of a doctor (Dwight Schultz) and his family.


  • Donald Pleasence Films
  • Escape
  • Horror
  • Jack Palance Films
  • Martin Landau Films
  • Mental Illness
  • Psychopaths

Response to Peary’s Review:
As Peary notes, this cult horror flick starts off with an interesting premise but loses its momentum and originality about halfway through, giving way to “ugly violence” and “stupidity”. Nonetheless, it’s fun watching Martin Landau and Jack Palance together in a film, and Donald Pleasence is excellent as the well-meaning but gravely clueless asylum director. The moral of the story: never, ever assume that all psychopathic criminals need is someone to “understand them”.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Martin Landau’s creepy portrayal as The Preacher
  • Donald Pleasence as the fatally naive asylum director
  • Jack Palance as the one “redeemable madman” in the bunch
  • Atmospheric cinematography

Must See?
No, unless you’re a fan of slasher flicks and/or “insane asylum” movies.


2 thoughts on “Alone in the Dark (1982)

  1. I’d not seen this til now but must agree with both you and Peary on this one: not a must.

    To be fair, though…
    I don’t think writer/director Sholder (whose ‘The Hidden’ I recall as being not so bad) set out here to make one to stand the test of time but, instead, one to stand the test of its opening weekend. It’s very much a straight-out popcorn flick designed to maybe give ya a couple jolts. It’s not particularly innovative. Still, if you give over to it, there is one genuine surprise as things get wrapped up.

    As well, though it’s unique to have Pleasance, Palance and Landau in one film, none of them are really given much to work with – except their sense of professionalism. (And even that rather fails Landau, as he is mostly called on to laugh maniacally. Who can really pull that off repeatedly? And, by the way, the opening scene – which features Landau and is terrifically set at ‘Mom’s Diner’ – is maybe the film’s best scene, but it’s something of a cheat.)

    Sidebar: the scene in which the town has a blackout, and the townsfolk start looting, is very reminiscent of the behavior of New Yorkers during the blackout there in 1977 (and Sholder admits to that as inspiration). That was my first year living in New York, and I remember being taken that night from downtown to uptown in a cab. Sholder captures the creepiness of such a blackout.

  2. Forgot to make special note of the appearance of the club band that figures in a prominent sequence: The Sick Fucks (!), who perform a lively if, yes, sick rendition of a little ditty called ‘Chop Chop’.

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