Sunday, 7 June 2009

Seagal Slays 'Em Dead

Against The Dark
‘‘We’re not here to decide who’s right or wrong, we’re here to decide who lives and who dies !’’

The worlds turned against humanity in the form of natures population cleanser, a virulent virus with no known cure. A disease that turns people into creatures of the night, with a thirst for blood. Living off the uninfected, killing for their blood like vampires. A cancerous infection that needs to be put down, and who better to serve last rights than the Ebola enema that is Steven Seagal !.
Pockets of survivors forage for food and supplies during the day, when the infected hide away from the daylight, to role reverse at night as they seek sanctuary away from the darkness that shadows the world that once was. One small band of adults with a young girl hold up in a multi storey medical facility, seemingly safe from the hordes of creatures intent on taking their lives. From dusk till dawn they must traverse down through the facility in order to seek exit from the only way out of the secured complex. They have only until the morning to get out through the lower floor security lock down gate, as they believe the power to engage it will diminish with the buildings back up generator at any time. Their haven of safety soon turns into a tomb of terror as the farther they descend the more apparent it becomes that they are not alone !.
On the outside the army prepare for an air strike at the city and the medical facility is part of their destructive objective. Lieutenant Waters, played with military clout once again by Keith David, is under higher order to cleanse the city of its diseased before the dawn but the survivors need the cover of day to best escape their predators. Where the soldiers fear to go by foot, renegade bands of professionals calling themselves Hunters tread with intent on assisting those that desperately need their help. One such band of Hunters is headed up by Steven Seagal, as team leader Commander Tao along with mighty man mountain sidekick Tagart, and two hot to trot femme fatales, the Hunters enter the medical facility to cleanse the way for the group of survivors and terminate the terminally affected.

Sartorial elegance aside the Hunters dress code is black and predominantly leather. Steven Seagal pads the paunch with his requisite long black coat and sports a sword for a sidearm that he wields with swift aplomb to despatch any ill begot that even dares breach his personal radar within stepping distance. His two bodacious babes could strut the Milan walkways modelling designer underwear but in this time zone they slice flesh rather than show it. Only the super charged, multi muscled fighting machine Tagart displays more emotion than sombre in this elitist group, as his energy is channelled into not only slicing, dicing and bullet blasting his way through diseased dudes and dudets, but adding an injection of oh hell yea reaction whenever he does. One of TV’s American Gladiators, Tanoai Reed plays Seagal’s younger protégé Tagart. Reed is also cousin to one time WWE wrestling legend Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, the similarity is evident for all to behold once Tagart gets to use all his combo moves, taking down the neo Zombies when all he has are his hands and feet to get him out of a scrape or two. This guy has a big future in ‘B’ movie Action roles as a lead player, if he wants to add to his resume of being stunt double for Dwayne Johnson and choreographing stunts.

The main story actually follows the small group of survivors brought together in the medical centre and their fight for freedom. They encounter all manner of nastiness and ghoulish creatures diminished of their humanity along the route to their objective. What they are completely unaware of is that the creatures are evolving, and where initially all form of cognitive processes were missing, beyond the base instinct to kill and feed, now awareness of a new race is prevailing and with it are the signs of hierarchy.

This is a definite change of genre for Steven Seagal and one that, although not perhaps as realistically violent as some of his earlier and best films, certainly is the goriest of all that he has made. The level of blood, gore and dismembered body parts on display is more associated with an all out horror movie from the like of Clive Barker. One scene shows a body deli of all you can eat for free of human buffet entrails, spewing out from ripped open guts of several unfortunates, strung up from a ceiling by their feet and left in grisly ignominy. The vampire like creatures equipping themselves for the feast fray by actually filing down their own teeth into razor sharp butchers knives, to more easily rip apart the flesh to gorge upon the warm blood that they crave from human hosts. It’s like happy hour at the burger bar but with all natural ingredients and no free gift for going extra large.

All the Action and real ‘B’ movie pleasure comes from when the Hunters are doing the business, and more specifically when Tagart is let loose to lock and unload his arsenal upon the nefarious Nosferatu’s. The gorgeous gal duo get to hold their own in nifty knife close combat, and who wouldn’t want these babes to hold their own !?. It’s take down or be toe tagged, and pretty much with Steven Seagal serving last rites to the creatures it’s a one way stretch to them being ‘Tao’ tagged !.

Keeping most of the movie to the confines of the close quartered complex, with its low lit corridors and darkened rooms, maintains the threat of the besieged survivors from their stalkers that may lurk around any corner, or lay in wait amidst the shadows. It’s a cross between Blade Trinity (2004) and The Omega Man (1971), a combination that works in its favour as a pretty well done ‘B’ movie hybrid.

Steven Seagal is the star name that sells the movie to his fans and direct to video Action patrons seeking ninety minutes of entertainment, not even coming close to challenging anything remotely synonymous with a Shakespearian text. This is then perfect for its intended audience of mid budget Action with more than enough going on to engage from start to finish, and indeed enjoyably genre crossing into horror with a large degree of entertainment value. It is perhaps ironic that with Seagal appearing on screen for only around one third of the movies duration he manages to deliver one of his most watch-able screen performances in quite a while. Suitably stoic and effortlessly nonchalant, but quirkily imposing. It is worth stating that whatever many may now think of Steven Seagal, without his name attached to this it is a movie that would go completely unnoticed. Genre hopping may be the way for Seagal to go, beyond shaping up to do Under Siege 3, as without a doubt, here kicking crusty creature butt crack, who else but Steven Seagal could win Against The Dark !?.

Review Paul Cooke / Source DVD NTSC Region 1

Against The Dark (2009)
Director Richard Crudo
With Steven Seagal, Tanoai Reed, Jenna Harrison,
Danny Midwinter, Emma Catherwood, Stephen Hagan,
Daniel Percival, Skye Bennett & Keith David


  1. Hey Paul: I think yours is the first write-up I've seen on ATD. I'm a huge Seagal fan but even I think that's he's exhhausted all the "shadowy ex-govt operative seeks revenge/fights conspiracy" storylines. Glad to see him crossing genre lines a bit and embracing some horror and gore. I'm looking forward to checking this one out.

  2. Hi Dan, great to have you stop by :) . I'm also a big Seagal fan, but I hear you with the tired scripts. Some of his movies have been sloppy with obvious dialogue over dubbing that isn't even Seagal's voice !. Still, he eats up the screen even at half pace & still delivers watchable direct to video entertainment above most else DTV out there. I'd still love to see him get into better shape & deliver one more 'A' list flick.
    On the genre theme, have you checked out Attack Force (2006) ?. I think its thta one that half way through decides its a super soldier / Vampire type movie. Maybe on the back of that Seagal thought, hey let's play with the whole Vampire theme in a later flick, and so Against The Dark came to be.