There are few names that as easily bring about a chuckle within the stacks of your local video rental shop as Steven Seagal. Take pretty much any film trend and you'll find a Steven Seagal direct to DVD film treading that same ground — except romantic comedies, I mean, come on — vengeance flicks a-la "Taken" are his stock in trade so those don't even warrant mention, but robots, ninjas, yakuza, jail breaks, car theft, all of those elements have made their way through his particular brand of inept Bulgarian Action Crapola, so I'm actually surprised it took this long for the great tide of vampire/zombie plots to find their way into Seagal's orbit.
What we get from first time director Richard Crudo and third time writer Matthew Klickstein is a hodgepodge of tropes borrowed (stolen) lock stock and barrel from as far back as Night of the Living Dead all the way up to Blade 3 (you know, the one where Wesley Snipes put a wooden stake through his career so he could devote more time to shooting Total Gym commercials and avoiding income taxes?), 28 Days Later, and all of the Dmitry Badfilmova knock-offs of those films. The real problem with Against the Dark is that it doesn't take any specific element and just make an inferior copy a-la Asylum Home Entertainment, Klickstein's script doesn't even bother to make a distinction between the sort of monsters who plague the cast.
Plague, now there's a funny word.
We begin with a definition of the word "infection" and some scenes of Bulgarian hands ravaging some latex organs. Finally a narrator's voice explains that the no one was immune to "the virus" and civilization has broken down. We get a requisite montage of society breaking down imagery, cops with riot shields, an SUV on fire, people running to and fro in the street. The narrator continues to explain that infected people hunt non-infected people who in turn move by day and hide in secure buildings at night. Meanwhile, some survivors have formed bands of vigilantes to prowl the night and use swords to kill the infected. There is no logical reason for them to use swords other than to remind us of other vampire movies where swords were important props. This does not work in the favor of Against the Dark.
So, all of the narration suggests that we're dealing with vampires, while the imagery shows what appears to be sort of trademark Romero type zombies feeding on corpses in daylight. I know, you're thinking, "Big, this is a Steven Seagal movie, for God's sake we don't care that the monsters are inconsistent, we just like to watch him kick Aikido-ass!" Well I've got bad news for you, there's as much of his trademark Aikido in Against the Dark as there is in Julie and Julia, instead we're treated easily the worst sword fighting sequences to grace a DVD in several decades. Worse still (at least for those of you who love the morbidly obese Akidoka) Seagal is really only in about 10 minutes of the movie. In fact, as we watched this there was a very lively debate that Against the Dark, like many Godfrey Ho ninja movies was a pastiche of terrible actors in a Bulgarian hospital for most of the movie and some peripheral scenes of Steven Seagal and his vigilante squad stitched on for scene transitions and he wasn't actually in the movie.
Once the credits roll we follow a little boy as he's running through the dark alley behind the hospital where we're spend the next 90 minutes of our lives. He's being chased by a whole mess of monsters. Fortunately for him, Steven Seagal and the vigilante squad are coming the other way and before they can reach the kid, make quick work of the monsters using their awesome sword-fu. You'll notice that the group is made up of four people, Tao (Steven Seagal), another guy about as big as Steven Seagal who we immediately dubbed Steven Seagal's Stuntman (Tanoai Reed), and two women; Ersatz Kate Bekinsale from Underworld and Ersatz Jessica Biel from Blade Trinity. They are listed at the IMDB as "Attendant #1 and Attendant #2. Neither woman speaks a single line of dialogue for the entire length of the film.
Once The Vigilantes vanquish the monsters (who run, jump, and apparently fly) Tao mutters "get the kid someplace safe. We don't decide what's right or wrong. We decide who lives or dies."
Huh? What? As if that makes any sort of fucking sense at all. It's not hard to imagine this film being made like a Christopher Guest mocumentary wherein the characters ad lib some generalized scene based on a plot outline because 90% of the dialogue in this movie not only feels like it's made up, it feels like it's made up on the spot by Steven Seagal.
Cut to the interior of a hospital corridor where a female voice is alerting no one in particular that they must leave the building in an orderly fashion as the power generators are about to start.
See what I mean about the dialogue? Hospitals have generators to keep their patients on life support alive, and sure it'll eventually run out, but there seems to be at least enough power to light the sign of the place, sort of a weird blood-red Dodge Ram logo Photoshopped onto the face of a Bulgarian hospital. We're about to meet the rest of the cast now, and you'll find them all eerily familiar if not completely annoying. The first four of them come in through a window shoddily barricaded with chrome chairs and other sort of hospital-ly stuff. They are Amelia (Emma Catherwood) and her little sister Charlotte (Skye Bennet) , Ricky (Steven Hagen) the stoner character, and Dylan (Daniel Percival)
Our cast are on the ground floor, as far as we can tell, because they come in through the window. I realize that the previous sentence seems obvious and stupid, but 90% of the plot of this movie revolves around the main characters inability to find their way out of the hospital.
We get a nice long look at this hallway too, which is great because we can identify it the other 100 times it's used and we're expected to believe it's a different part of this labyrinthine hospital. To accomplish this major cinematic trickery, Richard Crudo moves around a few of the things in the hallway between uses so the blood pressure cuff on the floor by the door to the left in this shot, will appear closer to the far corner in the next. As Dmitry Badfilmova would no doubt say, "you can't even really tell if you don't look!"
Cut to a blond girl tossing and turning on a cot. This is Dorothy (Jenna Harrison) She's suffering from a zombie nightmare (no really) and only wakes up when her companion, Morgan (Danny Midwinter) — who we immediately nicknamed "Ersatz Gerard Butler" — shakes her back to consciousness. He explains that they have to get going, it's time for them to find a new place to hole up for a few nights because the food is gone and the hospital will be compromised soon.
Cut to Steven Seagal's Stuntman talking to "base" on his walkie talkie. Wait? What? He informs someone in fatigues that he and the others are approaching a "hospital complex." Wait? The hell? These vigilantes are military? What the hell is going on here? Doesn't matter because we're cutting back to the interior of the hospital.
Cut to the interior of the hospital (see how I did that there?) where the first four we met meet the second two we met and exchange expository dialogue. Amelia says that Charlotte is sick and they are just there for the medication. Ricky asks if they are alone. Dorothy then inexplicably states that she was a student intern at this hospital before the quarantine (appearing in another movie apparently) then says that all of the medication was looted months ago. Ersatz Gerard Butler reminds her that they don't know Amelia or her friends.
Dorothy is clearly the one who isn't completely freaked out by the state of the world. Every end of the world movie needs a character like this for the audience to relate to, they are the optimist character who believes against all evidence to the contrary, that the end of the world is temporary thing and can be waited out.
Dorothy explains that the hospital is a pretty safe and secure place, which is odd as she's talking to four people who managed to break in by pushing over a waiting-room chair in front of an open window on the ground floor. Before Amelia can ask how much crack Dorothy smokes or if she understands the vocabulary word "secure", the hospital lights flicker and everyone heads for the pharmacy to see if there are any drugs left.
Cut to the corpulent silhouette of Tao and the Tao-en-ators walking in slow motion. Tao, explains that they are to clear each building one at a time and kill everyone who looks infected. It's funny how they only test they tend to perform on people to see if they are infected is visual, which reminds me of Lawman and Steven Seagal's "crime sense".
He tells them to save survivors if they "look strong enough". I don't know what he means by this qualifier. Strong enough for what? Strong enough for arm wrestling? To change a tire? To lift up to 50 pounds? And if they don't I guess they get the blade same as if they were infected.
Also, funny credits bit here, Alin Otineau provides Tao's voice. I am guessing he's a Steven Seagal sound-alike who did the post production looping. This sort of makes sense as Against the Dark was filmed either right before or right after Seagal did his stint on "Lawman" where he sniffed out criminals as a reserve deputy sheriff in Jefferson Parrish, Louisiana, for real, using his "crime sense". During this idiotic show, he had developed a "crawdad and cuzzinfuckin'" accent that was sort of like a cross between a Cajun swamp moonshiner and a robot Sheriff Lobo. So, no doubt when he showed up in Bulgaria to say things like, "we don't decide what's right or wrong. We decide who lives or dies," and it comes out like "weeooo doggie, what we got chay-ah is a fail-ee-yuh to bip-bappin johnnycakes lordy-me squeel like a piggy!" And that wouldn't fly with the audience for his films who still hears his voice as the Italian character from New York City, Nico Toscani not Uncle Remus performing a dramatic reading of Born on the Bayou by Creedence Clearwater Revival.
We cut away to the ONLY interesting, innovative, and good scene in the film. Remember, this is ostensibly meant to be a horror movie (and not the sort of horror you usually get from spending 90 minutes with Steven Seagal in a Bulgarian settiing). The camera pans over body parts, a queer squeaking and scraping fills the background noise, the camera pans up to show a girl filing her teeth into sharp points. It's icky and great and over in a second.
There, now you can turn the movie off because there's nothing else new here.
Actually, as much as I like the visual in this scene it just ads to the confusing nature of the monsters. Clearly a brainless flesh eating zombie isn't going to be thinking about sharpening her teeth, and a vampire as we're led to believe gets the sharp fangs when they are converted to the night side. So what the hell is this?
We cut back Our Hallway, now there's a stack of file cabinet drawers piled at the end. The pharmacy, Dorothy says, is behind that makeshift wall. Rather than, oh I don't know, take down the drawers, they abandon this iteration of Our Hallway and try to find another way to the pharmacy. Because, you know, that's so much easier than moving a few drawers. This also sets up the maddeningly stupid plot device of them all being lost in what is essentially a small hospital. Dylan says that maybe they should just try and get out the same way they came in and find another place to hunker down. (Yeah, why don't you do that??). But Amelia explains that they are safer inside. Whatever.
Cut back to our tooth filing friend. She finishes her amateur dentistry and walks over to a body suspended upside down from the ceiling. She slices the man's throat and catches the blood in an "I'm Allergic to Mondays" coffee cup.
Okay. Why go through the trouble of filing your teeth if your GOING TO USE A GODDAMN CUP!?
We cut back Our Hallway where Dorothy explains that when the generators stop all of the hospital doors will — er — lock, especially the "security door" where Dorothy and ersatz Gerard Butler parked their truck a few weeks ago.
Huh? What the hell kind of building locks up tighter than a drum when the power goes out? None, that's what kind! And why the hell would a hospital need this sort of feature in the first place? Secondly, why is security door the only way out? Every hospital I've ever been too (and that's a whole lot) has glass in and out doors in every wing. Just break one of those to get out. Better yet, just climb out the fucking window in through which you came?!
Ersatz Gerard Butler also mentions that they can take the truck to get to "one of the camps", those four words completely baffle the other four characters. I have no idea how fast the flow of information would ebb during a worldwide zombampire plague but I'd guess that word of safeguarded camps would be, if not common knowledge, at least suspected. And, even if they weren't, the characters would have at least had to think that there might be such things. Right? Am I the only one who sees the flaws in this ridiculous script?
I must be.
Dorothy invites the four others to come to the safe camp with them.
Cut to Tao and the Tao-en-ators again walking in almost pitch dark so Tao's post production voice can say "Tagart, kill everyone in there. Understand?" Before you can ask, "wait, what?" we return to out cast now in the sub basement of the hospital. This is evident from the painted and dingy concrete walls. In fact, were I a skeptical man I would suggest that this the underground garage of our hospital. But I'm not skeptical, am I?
The cast is still arguing about whether there are actually real people still out in the world who aren't infected. Amelia actually says that the stories of vigilantes and military squads are "urban legends". I don't think she knows that those two words mean when used in sequence like that.
Anyway, we round the corner and are back in Our Hallway, and it's decorated almost the same as when Amelia and her friends climbed in through the window. In fact, the window is there again with the same heap of wiry chairs piled by the window. Only to differentiate this from the earlier scene, the glass has been replaced in the bit where the cast climbed through. Also, someone has written "abandon hope all ye who enter here" above the window frame. You'll also notice another "you are here/in case of emergency exit this way" map of the hospital on the wall. None of the characters ever look at this map. Ever.
Dorothy intones that this used to be the entrance to the chapel. Now, she and Ersatz Gerard Butler (EGB) have, by their own admission, lived in the hospital where she used to work as an intern, for a couple of months. Yet she's surprised to see the Chapel blocked off and bloody graffiti smeared across the wall? Did she and EGB never wander anywhere and just assume that since they hadn't been eaten, that the hospital was secure? For months?
But why dwell on such a logical question when we can watch in horror as Matthew Klickstein's script tries to imbue one of this ensemble with a critical half-dimension. See, when Amelia notices the graffiti (a minute after everyone else does — I dunno, maybe she had to sound it out or something) she mutters "Jesus" and Dylan rebukes her. She then argues that taking "the Lord's name in vain" doesn't matter anymore because it's just "us and them" (and after all, we're only ordinary men).
Dylan's religious character trait is NEVER brought up again in the film.
Now we get to spend a little more time with Ricky, the stoner. He's popping pills and when questioned by Charlotte, WHO HAS BEEN TRAVELING WITH HIM FOR WEEKS, tells her they are "papa's little helper."
Like she hasn't watched him take a shitload of drugs already? And like in every ABC After School Special ever (including Requiem for a Dream) we can now expect the drugs to play a part in Ricky's demise later in the film. Now Amelia jumps all over him about the drugs.
Amelia, for those who haven't been paying attention, is a bitch.
The gang decide to follow Dylan this time and tear down the wall of chairs. Something in the Chapel smells, but they push on towards the security door anyway. Before you can say "inventory clearance sale at Halloween R Us!" Our Hallway is festooned with all manner of bloody corpses, but the lighting is so bad it's impossible to see anything really gross. I guess this was supposed to engage my "imagination", you know, suggesting things are super-gross then letting my brain fill in the details.
But movie, I ask you — Is it not evident that simply by watching a Steven Seagal fights Vampombies movie that I am demonstrating the complete lack of imagination?
The cast gags and coughs their way through the corpses until they reach — more corpses! This time though they hang from the ceiling. Oh good, does this mean we'll get to see the "Tooth-filing Monday Hater" again? Amazingly, all of the upside down corpses wear shirts and sweaters that defy gravity and haven't dropped down over their arms or faces or anything else. In fact they look really recently killed, which ads even more weirdness to Dorothy and ERB having been in the hospital for two months.
Back in our now corpse free hallway (where Dorothy literally LEANS HER HEAD ON A MAP) Dylan barfs and everyone notices more graffiti, this time I says "god forgive us all."
By now Amelia and her friends should rightfully be eyeing Dorothy and ERB as possible killers. Do they though? Nope.
Cut to Tao and the Tao-en-ators. Now, they are supposed to be in a hospital complex, and yet the walls behind them are made of corrugated metal the same sort you'd find in a complex of warehouses.
Steven Seagal's Stuntman is sent in to a nondescript door to "clear out that area". So now we get our second action set piece of the film. This time instead of all the Tao-en-ators only Tagart is sent in to fight. Also, he's got a gun. Where did he get that? Inside we can glimpse a man in scrubs leaning against a swinging door (the reason for this becomes evident in a second), further in a woman lays on the floor and sobs. Many monster noises pollute the soundtrack. Tagart sneaks up behind the swinging door and, after shattering the little window there, pulls the guy in scrubs half way through where he stabs him and breaks his neck.
No one else seems to notice this event as it occurs. In fact, Tagart manages to report in (again with the military stuff?) that he has a survivor. The man who receives this information is Cross (Linden Ashby), who we all nicknamed Ersatz Matthew McConaughey (or more simply, EMM) because he looks almost exactly like someone trying to look like Matthew McConaughey. He also wears a fake mustache purchased from the back of a comic book.
For some unknown reason the radio connection between Tagart and base is lousy and neither can hear the other. Cross tries to tell Tagart that they have to be out of Zone 7 (wherever that is) by sun up. Tagart approaches the woman, and it is indeed the "Tooth-filing Monday Hater". There's no reason why she didn't see, or react to, the death of guy in scrubs. I mean, Tagart pulled him halfway through the window only 3 feet away from where she's curled up on the floor. Yet, she doesn't.
This is another ham-handed attempt to build suspense, but it fails in execution. It's more important for Crudo to show us that he's seen other horror movies where characters aren't what they seem, but can't manage to make it fit in any sort of continuity with the scene that came before it in this one.
As the "Tooth-filing Monday Hater" scraps with Tagart, two more Vampombies drop from the suspended ceiling and enter the fray.
Wait, these guys were up in the suspended ceiling?
Tagart kills them all and we cut back to the other cast in a stairwell. This is the part of the film where the script tries desperately to make us give a shit about/relate to the morons who make up this cast of characters. The gang knows they only have a few hours until Morning and are in a building loaded with rooms that can be defended by sealing up and guarding one door, yet they all sort of camp out in this stairwell. Enemies can come from above and below, they can sneak below them and listen to plans, etc — These are the stupidest survivors ever.
Charlotte goes first and reveals that she knows that grownups can't protect her (gee thanks, the rest of the cast thinks.). She's supposed to be the sick one, too. But since that fact was first revealed it's never come up again.
Ricky heads off to the bathroom alone but EGB follows. They make a loosly worded truce to get to the security door then go their own ways. How Ricky came to be the spokesman for the others is never suggested. Of course, one of the infected is hiding in one of the bathroom stalls. No explanation is ever given for the infected's uncanny ability to entertain themselves in very strange and out of the way places while waiting for a meal to walk by. First is the couple of guys in the suspended ceiling. You ever see a suspended ceiling? They can barely hold up the ceiling tiles, let alone a couple of Bulgarian stuntmen. Second is the girl in the bathroom stall. How would she know that a few survivors would show up there?
Also, these infected people are all over the hospital and Dorothy and EGB said they lived here for months in safety. There's a whole paranoia plotline that Matthew Klickstein has completed missed here. We cut back and for the between the stairs and bathroom where both groups collected there are having variations on the same conversation, namely, classifying the monsters that have apparently overrun the world. Dylan says they aren't monsters and there is a scientific explanation for their condition (we know that already, Dylan, thanks). Also, isn't he the fundamentalist here? In the bathroom ERB describes the scenes at the hospital when the ourbreak first occurred.
Neither conversation is remotely interesting and has been had in virtually ever other movie like this ever made. It's just more clumsy here. We can't necessarily care about the future of this world because the present of this world is so indefined. Sure, the infection will probably run its course, and that means civilization will have to rebuild or die. Yeah, we get that. Let's move on, shall we?
The monster in the bathroom stall attacks Ricky and it requires both he and EGB to subdue the infected and barricade it in the bathroom.
We cut to Tao and the Tao-en-ators so that Alin Otineau can intone "We better get going now." We then cut back to the other cast walking down Our Hallway complaining about being hungry. Dorothy says that the cafeteria is right there and they should try and find something to eat to keep their strength up.
Er? Wasn't there a time limit to this exploration? Something about the security door and generator? Also, where are Tao and his band of merry military vigilantes?
The cast raids a store-room and finds a shitload of unlabeled cans. Maybe the other survivors ignored these because without labels you can't tell if the contents are Chunky Soup or Alpo Dog Food. Well, actually, since this is Bulgaria, it's to hide the fact that the labels are all Cyrillic. Again we're treated for a gaggle of characters that are almost impossibly to like. Charlotte doesn't get enough screen time to develop her as an innocent, and the others are so broadly drawn and familiar that watching them only serves to remind you of better movies where these same characters archetypes appear. Again they discuss the world at large, but someone restates the time limit, or a variation of it, they have 3 hours to dawn.
Amazingly, Dorothy says it might take that long to get to the security door. What? Wait? WHAT? Amelia and her friends came in through a window on one of the floors above where the cast is now. How big is the fucking hospital anyway, and, how can it take three hours to get out of any building that isn't The Pentagon?
Oh, Ricky finds booze and we learn that he was injured during his fight in the restroom. We also learn that the infected are inescapably drawn to the smell of blood, even a little blood. Everyone argues for a second before we cut to —
Tao and the Tao-en-ators walking either obscured by frosted glass or in near pitch dark. These are the scenes that led to such a spirited debate as to whether Steven Seagal actually participated in the making of this film or was little more than a morbidly obese Godfrey Ho ninja.
We cut immediately back to the other cast in Our Hallway and again EGB and Ricky leave the group, this time to get medicine for Ricky's cut. This leaves the rest to rehash their angst for us again.
But now I was actively wishing the monsters would show up and eat me.
Then, as if them-checking Matheson's "The Last Man on Earth", Dorothy says that maybe they, the uninfected, are the monsters now and the world doesn't belong to them anymore. EGB and Ricky return with penicillin and hand it to Charlotte. Before the gang can head down Our Hallway, a man crawls out from the far end and is dragged back off by his ankles.
Now, to make things even more confusing, we cut to some stock footage of military choppers. It's time to spend a few more minutes with our stupid armyman plot. But at least we get to see what's become of Keith David over the last few years. Now, this isn't the first time Kieth David worked with Steven Seagal, if you go back into when Seagal was actually making films that saw the inside of cinemas in the United States, Keith David was his pal in Marked for Death.
In Against the Dark, though, they never interact. It's as if the military scenes were shot in a completely different location and stitched in Godfrey Ho style — because they were.
In essence this scene is here to introduce another time limiter, dawn, when Lt Waters (that's Keith David) gets a briefing on the plot so far from EMM. However, he's already called in an air strike to sterilize Sector 7 (where our cast are hiding out). EMM explains the whole relationship with the hunters, Waters doesn't care (and frankly neither did I).
All these scenes do is further muddy the plot, and make the naval-gazing by the cast that much more idiotic. I mean, if there's an organized military response to the plague then they should know about it. If the area where Lt. Waters' men are set up with nothing but tents to protect them from the zompires, then great. Seems like things are under control, right? So does this mean Amelia and the other can stop comparing notes about safe camps that none of them really believe in?
God I hope so.
Back in Our Hallway, the gang stumbles into the morgue where they are, not surprisingly attacked by Zompires. They can't get the door open from the inside easily and while several fights rumble around the room, EGB and Dorothy manage to sneak out with Charlotte. EGB barricades the door leaving Amelia, Dylan, and Ricky trapped and still fighting. Amazingly, they find another door and escape through that. Now, you'd think that a room with two doors would have the doors close enough for someone leaving one to find the other in about ten steps. Not in this movie though. Apparently the doors exist the morgue through a wormhole or something as Amelia, Ricky, and Dylan are immediately lost as soon as they escape. Amelia remembers that Dorothy said all the hallways ended up in the same place anyway so they can just pick a direction and walk.
What the hell is wrong with these people? Maybe the Vampombies should be allowed to chow on them at will. How can you leave a room and be lost?
We cut very briefly to Tao and the Tao-en-ators in Our Hallway (I'm sure it was flattered) as they appear to be following the same path through Escher Hospital as the other cast. They move through the upside down hanging bodies and into, Our Hallway (now decorated differently) where they are attacked by some Vampombies. The Tao-en-ators slaughter them with swords and knives. You'd think in a scene like this we'd get to see some trademark Steven Seagal grandmaster Aikido ass-kickery here. Instead we are treated to a bunch of stunt people, dressed in black leather, in a poorly lit hallway, shuffling with other stunt-people also in dark colors. We break off here and there to see Steven Seagal's Stuntman use his blade-things, another time to see Steven Seagal use his sword.
With the Zombpires dead Tao and the Tao-en-ators walk off the set. I actually expected to hear another confusing sentence from Tao like "The Trisquits in my pantaloons, judge them all to hell." But alas, he doesn't get a voiceover this time.
Cut back to Dylan, Amelia, and Ricky. Dylan is having a plot-convenient psychotic episode and demands to wash his hands because he has blood on them. Ricky and Amelia stand around as he heads into one of the bathrooms. Inside of which is a Bulgarian Harvey Keitel! He's not infected. He asks if Dylan is alone. When told no, he says "that's good, there's safety in numbers!" He then asks if he can join Dylan's group.
Cut away to EGB, Dorothy, and Charlotte. Charlotte, for what it's worth, seems completely non-plussed that EGB left her sister and friends that she's been relying on since the infection started, to die. She's like an adopted cat I guess, and doesn't give a shit who opens the 9-Lives as long as the can gets opened on time.
I have cats. This is how cats think.
We cut after no dialogue, back to Amelia and Ricky who are now looking for Dylan. But the bathroom is empty. Ricky spies that a hole has been cut in the wall but it hidden behind some very short lockers. He and Amelia leave the bathroom.
Cut to Bulgarian Harvey Keitel dragging Dylan down Our Hallway.
Cut again to EGB, Dorothy, and Charlotte in Our Hallway (again). They hear some grunty noises and EGB tells the others to wait and act as lookouts while he investigates. Inside the room with the swinging doors he finds three Zombpires (who look like 1970s hard rock icons Black Oak Arkansas) eating a woman on a gurney. Crudo uses the same technique and style as any Romero (and Romero knock off) to show the feast. That is, the monsters brings fists-full of entrails to their chins and pretend to chew.
As he backs away from the door, EGB is attacked by Pee Wee Herman from Buffy the Vampire Slayer (the film), or at least someone who looks exactly like him. Nice job on lookout, there, ladies.
Everyone scatters as the fight draws out the rest of Black Oak Arkansas away from their feast. EGB fights off a couple of monsters until he's about to be eaten when Tao and the Tao-en-ators, finally meet up with the cast and effect a rescue by killing the Vampombies.
EGB joins with The Tao-en-ators and they head off to find Dorothy and Charlotte. Again with the wormholes? Charlotte and Dorothy appear to have run almost ten whole feet from where the original fight took place yet they are completely lost and now cut off from the rest of the cast.
Cut to stock footage of a helicopter flying over an empty city that fades into EMM receiving information that the chopper pilot can't see any movement. Back in the hospital, Charlotte and Dorothy walk through the basement boiler room until they are attacked. We actually cut back and forth here between Dorothy fighting off one Zombpire and Tao and the Tao-en-ators killing several. Dorothy stomps the head of her attacker into mush, but during the fight Charlotte disappears.
Maybe she was trying to find a way off the set.
By now we're well over a decade into this movie and no doubt the editor noticed too that his life was slipping away. Scenes get more choppy and urgent (finally) though nothing new happens. Dylan wakes up, Dorothy walks around lost, Charlotte finds bodies then inexplicably lays down on the floor to take a nap so that she can be inspected by one of the infected (who looks like Jeffrey Tamboor as "Oscar" in Arrested Development) until Tao and the Tao-en-ators arrive and rescue her.
Cut to Ricky and Amelia who decide to split up so that Amelia can search for Dylan. Yeah, splitting up is always a good plan.
Cut to Bulgarian Harvey Keitel who monologues to Dylan who is still tied to a table. Bulgarian Harvey Keitel explains even more redundant information about the plague that all of the characters would know, then reveals himself to be a mad scientist with daughter who is both infected but rational. Shades of "Last Man on Earth". Bulgarian Harvey Keitel plans to feed Dylan to his daughter.
Cut to Amelia who finds Tao and the Tao-en-ators, then to Dorothy who finds Ricky, who stumble into a store room just as Ricky has a pschobilly freakout from the pills. Ricky gets eaten while Dorothy looks on, emotionless. Tao sends some of the Tao-en-ators off with Amelia and EGB and Charlotte while he goes "a hunting".
Cut to Amelia wondering if the Tao-en-ators know the way to the security door. And if that wasn't a ham-handed enough way to get us back to the urgency of this so-called plot, we cut to Dorothy in the generator room discovering that only 29 minutes remain before the generator stop and something bad happens to the doors.
We're in the big denouement now so all of these scenes are like 5 seconds each. We go back to the military tents so Lt. Waters gets an update from EMM about the situation on the ground. He doesn't care that a team of hunters might have found survivors. He argues with someone else over the radio that he want the survivors found and extracted but doesn't have a choice.
Hmmm. I think a scene might have been misplaced, either that or the continuity editor got into Ricky's pills.
Cut to Dylan wriggling against his bounds as Bulgarian Harvey Keitel lords over him with a bone saw. The saw is so loud he doesn't hear Tao and one of his "attendants" enter until he is almost under Seagal's mumu-like leather coat. Bulgarian Harvey Keitel demands to know who Tao is, and is shot in the belly for his trouble. Where Tao managed to hid a shotgun is anyone's guess. He then leaves Attendant to deal with Bulgarian Harvey Keitel's little daughter.
Cut back to Dylan, fleeing, then to Dorothy still in the basement. She gets stalked briefly, then chased by, one of the infected until she locks herself in a closet. The infected guy actually talks to her and tells her to give up and accept being infected because they are the new things in charge, they've evolved. When this carefully worded linguistic ploy fails he smashes through the door.
Cut to the Tao-en-ators who bump into Dylan, and reconnect with Tao and Attendant #1. Amelia muses that they really are the monsters now (roll eyes). Dorothy, with a Zombpire in pursuit, runs into frame and Tao shoots the monster. Now the cast is finally all together again.
Cut to EMM and the military arguing over whether or not to obey an order to scramble jet fighters. Stock footage of several jets takes off. I'd belabor the continuity issues with all of the jet scenes but it's not worth the effort suffice to say they alternate between being F18s and F16s with alarming regularity.
Back inside the hospital everyone is trying to get to the security door, but instead they have to fight their way through Our Hallway, and the original room where Steven Seagal's Stuntman fought way back in 1945 — er — 90 minutes ago. And, in keeping with the bafflingly incoherent narrative of the film, Steven Seagal's Stuntman is sent in alone to kill, like, 100 Vampombies. And he does it.
By now we've invested a significant portion of our adult lives in this idiocy. So you'd think that Matthew Crudo would realize this and simply let us watch as Seagal himself brings the Aikido beat down to the monsters, but he's so horrifically out of shape, so fat and flabby and slow, that he can't. That leaves us with Tagart doing all of the action heavy lifting, which is all well and good except that we don't care if he lives or dies for any of this film. Even the other Tao-en-ators sit this scene out. Not surprising as I'm sure that Steven Seagal's translator (if there was one) couldn't put into words what he wanted the two non-speaking Attendants to do (at least as far as a complex fight sequence is concerned, nudge nudge wink wink.)
It also serves to remind us that Steven Seagal has done fuck-all for all of this fucking film and how much more fun it would have been if this was made when he was in his prime.
With everyone together we discuss the power failure again (ugh, kill me please). The gang climbs into an elevator where a corpse sits in a wheel chair. Rather than, oh I don't know, check to see if the guy is just pretending to be dead so he can bit someone, they just wheel him out. So it's not much of a surprise when, as the doors close, Attendant #1 is snatched.
The non-Tao-en-ator cast screams. Tao says there is nothing they can do now.
The elevator descends but snarls up before reaching the bottom floor. Tao opens the floor-hatch and EGB volunteers to climb down the one flight and check to see if it's safe. We cut to what is supposed to be the bottom of the elevator but there is an iron handrail ladder that, if this were an actual elevator shaft, would had been sheared off the very first time the car went either up or down. Even sillier, the whole bottom is flooded with brown water, like sewage.
What the hell? Why would the elevator be flooded with anything?
Before you can say, "who'd put an elevator to the septic tank?" a Vampombie splashes up and drags and EGB down. Buh-bye Morgan, we hardly knew yee…
Tao shoots the monster is it scrabbles up the ladder.
Cut to the stock footage of jets preparing to entire the theater of operations.
Cut back to the cast walking through another basement hallway. Tao gives Dylan a pistol and tell him to take the girls out and south to a safe camp. As soon as they leave, Tao and the Tao-en-ators are attacked again. The fight scenes in this film are all completely interchangeable so there's no drama or excitement to any of them. They simply alternate between being 1 minute long and four minutes long. The people, moves, deaths, are all the same.
Attendant #2 gets bitten during the melee. Tao checks her would (a small bit on her neck) then stabs her to death. Now that's medicine!
Of course, Dylan and the girls also get attacked but escape after Dylan shoots the guy.
Now the cast is again lost in the hospital and they find their way back to Our Hallway (welcome back old friend). Inexplicably, Dylan, the only guy with the gun, goes off alone to see where a far off light comes from. He gets attacked and shoots the Zombpire. The girls run off.
Ugh, one more minute of this and I'm going to go mental, I swear.
Cut back to Tao and Tagart killing ore Vampombies.
The jets are still coming.
The girls are together now lost in the basement again and they stumble across the little boy from way back at the beginning of the movie. I guess the "take him someplace safe" order didn't stick. Amelia checks the boy over and declares that he isn't infected just before the boy bites here on the hand.
Ok. Why would people at the end of the world (as we know it and I feel fine) trust an ill-glimpsed shape in the dark basement of a Bulgarian hospital to not be one of the overwhelming number of infected who have, by virtue of their savagery, overrun civilization?
Oh, right, because these characters are idiots who can't find their way out of a hospital.
Dorothy and Charlotte (who is surprisingly unmoved by the infection of Amelia, a girl with whom she's traveled since the outbreak began) are attacked by the little infected kid. Dylan, drawn no doubt by the sounds of the fracas (or buy the smell of the craft services table out of frame) intervenes but he's such a wuss that the 10 year old infected kid nearly kills him. This fight is loud enough to draw in Steven Seagal and his Novelty Scimitar of Doom to come and stab the child to death.
Way to go Steven.
We cut alternatively between three scenes, now, Steven Seagal and Tagart fighting Vampombies, Amelia giving a crazy-talk monologue to Dylan about how great it is to be infected, and stock footage of various jets over the desert. The fight scene is livened up only in that the Novelty Scimitar of Doom breaks and forces Steven Seagal to fight using his trademarked Aikido skills — except he doesn't. He just punches people and flings them through drywall.
The cast arrives at the security door (it's a garage door) and opens it. Daylight pours in. Charlotte and Dorothy smile but Zombie Amelia breaks up the mood by continuing her monologue about how awesome it is to be undead. Tao shows up, as does Dylan, who shoots Amelia.
Thank you Dylan.
The cast leaves just as the jets release their payload (the computer imagery of the target shows them shooting at the top of a mountain). A flood of Vampombies streams into the parking garage and to the security door which is now closing (I guess this is the end result of the generator being off, or not, because it's never talked about again after the last mention like 60 minutes ago.)
The hospital is destroyed by the bombs. Dylan, Dorothy, and Charlotte leave in Dorothy and EGB's truck while Tao walks off along a wooded road. This scene is clearly nowhere near any hospital anywhere on earth, it's back where the first scenes were shot in a warehouse complex or old railroad depot in the Bulgarian forest.
Look, I realize that Steven Seagal movies are pretty much their own animal by now, and there's no way you can even pretend to maintain quality if you're attached to, and shooting scenes for, ten movies over three months. I get that. But there still has to be a reasonable amount of care taken to make those ten movies at least partially watchable. Right? Am I asking too much?
There is the germ of an okay idea here, and sure it's been done before a million times, but if the spate of remakes of classic horror films has taught us anything it's that a new director or new writer can take familiar material and make it somewhat fresh. Here though, the writer and director barely pay lip service to the tropes of the genre and continuously remind the audience of other, much better films, from which Against the Dark draws the bulk of its scenes.
It also helps if the characters don't appear to have given up on the film from one minute after the opening credits vanish from the screen. Dorothy watches Ricky die and not only doesn't react, doesn't bother to tell anyone else, but that's okay because none of them ask where he is anyway. Same with Ersatz Gerard Butler. Same with Amelia. Same with all of the Tao-en-Ators who don't make it out. Like Tagart. He just freaking vanishes in the last two minutes of the film. No explanation is given for him not making to the security door. I guess that Richard Crudo figured no one in their right mind would be watching this far into the film anyway.
And he's probably right.