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For the 2005 film directed by Uwe Boll and based on the video game, see Alone in the Dark (2005 film)
Alone in the Dark

Promotional movie poster for the film
Directed by Jack Sholder
Produced by Robert Shaye,
Benni Korzen
Written by Jack Sholder,
Robert Shaye,
Michael Harrpster
Starring Jack Palance,
Donald Pleasence,
Dwight Schultz
Music by Renato Serio
Cinematography Joseph Mangine
Editing by Arline Garson
Distributed by New Line Cinema
Release date(s) November 12, 1982
Running time 92 min.
Country  United States
Language English

Alone in the Dark is a 1982 horror film directed by Jack Sholder. It was the director's debut film and was the first motion picture to be released by New Line Cinema. The film's tagline is: "They're out... for blood! Don't let them find you!"



Dr. Dan Potter is the replacement for Dr. Harry Merton, a psychiatrist at Dr. Leo Bain's psychiatric haven. Dr. Bain operates the haven through very lenient methods. He calls the patients "voyagers" and treats them kindly; he keeps the most dangerous voyagers on the 3rd floor contained with electrically-activated security mechanisms instead of bars, and only keeps one guard on duty.

The aforementioned 3rd floor patients (paranoid former POW Frank Hawkes, pyromaniac preacher Byron Sutcliff, obese child molester Ronald Elster, and homicidal maniac John "Bleeder" Skaggs) initially treat Dr. Potter with mixed hostility. At their first meeting, Hawkes nearly explodes at Dr. Potter as he leaves, but calms down before giving a reason for his outburst.

At night, however, Hawkes states to the others that "the new doctor killed Harry Merton, and now he wants to kill us". The others believe him (aside from Skaggs, who hides his face throughout the film, this time burying his head in his pillow), and agree to help him kill Dr. Potter. They plan to do this on the outside.

Ray Curtis, the sole guard on the 3rd floor, overhears the foursome's scheme and tells Dr. Potter about it, but Dr. Potter dismisses Curtis' fears as unwarranted. However, Curtis remains convinced of the danger.

One day, in the hospital's courtyard where Dr. Bain is counseling his patients, Sutcliff sets his coat on fire (using matches Dr. Bain gave him during his treatment) and Dr. Bain manages to quell Sutcliff's fit by threatening to "split him down the middle."

Meanwhile, Dr. Potter tries to talk with Frank Hawkes about his connection to Dr. Harry Merton, and about the plan Ray Curtis overheard. Hawkes reminds Dr. Potter that he shouldn't take Curtis' warnings seriously.

Another day, while waiting in Dr. Potter's office, Elster looks through the Dr. Potter's unopened mail to find his home address and sees a picture of the doctor's young daughter.

At the Dr. Potter household, Dan Potter lives with his free-spirited wife Nell and their precocious daughter Lila, as well as his sister Toni, who comes to visit following a successful treatment for a mental breakdown.

Toni takes Dan and Nell to see The Sick Fucks at a nightclub, much to Dan's displeasure. As they play the city's power shuts down. Dan at the time is glad. Meanwhile, the men on the 3rd floor wake up and begin to carry out their plan. Sutcliffe and Elster kill Curtis and the four escape in a night doctor's car. They drive to a store in the middle of a raid to pick up new clothes and weapons. Skaggs kills an innocent bystander and runs away, the others take the murdered man's van and drive off.


Actor Role
Jack Palance Frank Hawkes
Donald Pleasence Dr. Leo Bain
Martin Landau Byron 'Preacher' Sutcliff
Dwight Schultz Dr. Dan Potter
Erland van Lidth Ronald 'Fatty' Elster
Deborah Hedwall Nell Potter
Lee Taylor-Allan Toni Potter
Phillip Clark Tom Smith
Elizabeth Ward I Lyla Potter
Brent Jennings Ray Curtis
Frederick Coffin Jim Gable
Phillip Clark Skaggs aka The Bleeder


While writing the screenplay for Alone in the Dark, Jack Sholder was inspired by the writings of R.D. Lang, who theorized that 'psychotics' were actually people having difficulty adapting to an already psychotic world. The character of Dr. Leo Bain was supposed to be something of a parody of Lang. Jack Sholder's original idea for the film was to have the story be about mental patients escaping during a blackout in NYC and the mafia being used to stop them. Due to the low budget it was re-envisioned to take place on a smaller scale outside of New York. It was producer Robert Shaye that actually came up with the idea of the character of 'The Bleeder'. Shaye liked the idea of a crazed murderer who always hid his face and was revealed later in the film.

The scene where Ronald Elster grabs Bunky by the throat and lifts her off the floor was done without any special effect. Erland Van Lidth (Elster) was an incredible weight lifter and actually seized Carol Levy by the neck and lifted her for the shot. Makeup effects artist Tom Savini was brought in specifically to create the horrific monster apparition that Toni has. Savini achieved the startling effect by covering an actor in a concoction of soap and rice krispies.

In the script Jack Palance's character was supposed to kill the driver outside the Haven. However Palance refused to do the scene saying it wasn't necessary for him to be seen killing someone for the audience to know that he was a dangerous character. The scene was never shot.

The film was one of the first horror films to be made with Dolby Stereo sound. The advanced sound level would often blow out the speaker systems in older theaters while the movie was being screened.


In the original script the punk band that Toni drags Dan and Nell to see was named Nicky Nothing and the Hives. When The Sick F*cks, an actual punk group, landed the gig as the punk band for the film their real name was liked so much that they kept it for the film. The first scene at Stumps with The Sick F*cks performing was shot silently without the music. The band and audience had to mimic their performances during the filming and the song 'Chop Up Your Mother' had to be dubbed in later on.

One of the members of The Sick F*cks ran into star Jack Palance years later in the streets of New York. He said to Palance that he was one of The Sick F*cks in the film and Palance replied 'we were all sick fucks in that movie'.


The film came and went quietly upon theatrical release. It was dismissed as merely another slasher flick following the trend created by Halloween and Friday the 13th. However since then the film has gained notoriety as being one of the more intelligent slasher-themed films of the 80's.

The film was banned in the UK for a time.

The film was released on DVD by Image Entertainment for the first time in 2005.

In 2008 the indie rock band Lithium Walkers did a tribute song to the film entitled "Alone in the Dark". The groups drummer cites this as one of his favorite films. The song is part of an upcoming album called Midnite Matinee, a series of songs named after 80's horror films.

External links



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