On paper, Against the Dark should be the ideal Steven Seagal movie. It features an outlandish plot and it passes the lion’s share of the action off to a more capable co-star. It finds the ponytailed one with little to say and less to do. There are vampires and Seagal carries a samurai sword while he slow-motion struts around in a long leather coat.
Yet somehow Against the Dark winds up on the weak side, thanks in large part to a fleet of characters that are impossible to care about and a scattered approach that certainly doesn’t prioritize cohesive storytelling. The 2009 direct-to-DVD flick is directed by Richard Crudo, who is actually the president of the American Society of Cinematographers. The screenplay is by Matthew Klickstein.
Against the Dark takes place in the future where a disease has nearly wiped out humanity. Many have been turned into vampire-like creatures and there’s no cure. Seagal is Tao, one of the Hunters. He leads a unit that includes the tough guy Tagart (Tanoai Reed) among the fighters. They track down these creatures and kill them.
The main plot concerns a group of survivors making their way through a hospital and trying to find their way out. There’s a lot of infighting and they run into various vampire-like creatures along the way. Among them is Dorothy (Jenna Harrison) and Morgan (Danny Midwinter). As the survivors mosey around, there’s also the threat of a bombing raid on the hospital to destroy the creatures.
As mentioned, Seagal’s role is wisely minimized. Nothing is known about his character apart from the fact that he leads a particular group of Hunters and wields a samurai sword. His lines are limited to directional commands like “Let’s go over there” or “Can someone get me a hamburger?” and he certainly seems to fit the “diminished” role because it plays to his strengths.
‘Tis Reed who wrangles most of the action and he’s fun to watch. He’s the cousin of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and has doubled for the former professional wrestler in several films, including The Scorpion King and Doom. This gives him the physical pedigree he needs, even if he lacks the Rock’s charisma. He still delivers lines with aplomb and is easily the best part of Against the Dark.
Unfortunately, Crudo lets things pretty much fall apart following the aforementioned components. The plot is a basic “get the people from here to there” construct, so it theoretically should be easy enough to handle. But the action volleys around so habitually between groups and it becomes apparent that the main characters have little to do beyond argue.
This is problematic because the audience knows next to nothing about them. There are men and there are women. That’s about the extent of it. They are frequently suspicious of one another and for good reason, but so little is known about the vampire-like creatures and the way the world has changed since the “disease” hit that it’s difficult to muster any interest on the subject.
There’s also a third plot strand involving the bombing of the hospital, which is a cliché found in just about every zombie-oriented horror movie in existence. Handling the duties for this picture is Keith David, who gets the burden of not giving much of a crap about any survivors and instilling Against the Dark with its superfluous “race against time” element.
The real discovery with this movie is Tanoai Reed and his capabilities as a solid B-movie action star, as mentioned. But overall Against the Dark tries but stumbles as a horror movie, which is disappointing consider its potential. It’s not fun enough to function as tacky trash, either, and is consequently just another unremarkable entry in the Seagal canon.