Steven Seagal vs. the Vampire/Zombie Monsters: “Against the Dark” (For Kassandra)

February 24, 2009

51p-vaugrjl_sl500_aa240_Among Kassandra the Work Wife’s more disturbing idiosyncrasies—even above her pathological fear of the Internet and bone-deep hatred of Billie Piper (“I just want to bust my knuckles on her teeth…I dunno why.”)—is her fervent, almost religious, belief in the perfection of Steven Seagal. I learned about this when we were still sharing an office in D.C. She made me take the desk by the door, so she could use me as a human shield in the event of a siege situation, but I was used to talking to her over my shoulder. For the first six months we worked together, she didn’t let me face her directly (“You have to earn it, noob!”)

“Hey,” her voice came from behind me. “Wanna hear something?”

“It’s not another ten-minute voicemail message from one of your stalker ex-boyfriends?”

“He wasn’t a stalker. I explained this to you. He must have left something in my underwear drawer, so he came back to get it. But he lost his key, which is why he had to rappel down the building onto the balcony. It’s all perfectly innocent. And, by the way, we’ve not yet established that the digital camera installed in the light fixture above the bed wasn’t there when I moved in.”

“What about the diorama he left on the kitchen table with Gumby and the nude Barbie doll?”

“Admittedly that was somewhat disturbing—particularly the way he posed Pokey—but, no I was just going to play you this track off of Steven Seagal’s new CD?”

“Steven Seagal? The craptastic actor? That buffoon is a singer, too?”

The next couple minutes are a bit hazy—the doctors reassured me that this is perfectly natural after sustaining a concave skull-fracture caused by an airborne stapler—but when I was able to understand words again I heard her shouting, “Impurator! You will not blaspheme The Seagal! The Seagal is good! The Seagal is awesome! The Seagal is the bringer of light and warmth to the Universe! He could snap your neck like a rabbit! And you sometimes smell like curry.” And it went on this way another forty improbable minutes.

So you understand that I have to tread lightly when I review this film. Not that there’s the potential for grievous bodily injury if insult Seagal…no, it’s pretty much a given. So believe me when I say that The Seagal is easily the best thing in this film. Really. There is nothing in this film better than Seagal. Not the special effects. Not the acting. Not the budget. Nope, Steven Seagal is the best thing about this movie.

Okay, so Against the Dark begins with the definition of the word “infected.” on the screen. This is already an ill-omen. If your target audience is spotty on the meaning of “infected,” you may not be in for the most intellectually-stimulating 93 minutes of your life.

As it turns out the infection refers to some sort of contagion that has transformed humans into blood-thirsty monsters akin to the rage zombies of 28 Days/Weeks Later, and as the film begins a young kid is being cornered by a group of monsters near a corrugated steel wall. But before they can tear him apart and feast upon his entrails (which is what the monsters do, the movie explains by showing us the same gory flashback of a woman being eaten alive over and over again throughout the movie) they’re handily dispatched by The Seagal and his team of lather-clad, Katana-sword wielding assassins. Soon enough, we learn that The Seagal is named Tao, and his people are freelance monster-killer known only as “hunters.”

But lest our retinas be damaged by extended exposure to the awesomeness that is The Seagal, the focus shifts to a small band of survivors that breaks into a hospital to take refuge. In it they link up with a couple that’s already been holed up in the hospital for a while. The Johnny-come-latelys have a little kid with them, which is probably supposed to ratchet up the tension, but I genuinely don’t care if a kid gets eaten by monsters—man, woman, adult, kid, it’s all the same to me. Just don’t hurt any kittens or baby seals.

Anyway, the hospital folks run around the blood-drenched, body-part-strewn corridors of the hospital to find the “security doors.” Why? I dunno. I think they explained it, but I missed the explanation, so enraptured was I by the awesomeness of The Seagal. Anyhoo, I guess it doesn’t really matter. The whiny survivors and their token kid have to make it to the security doors before they lock down and trap everyone inside. Because apparently this hospital is built along the same principles as a nuclear submarine.

While this is going on The Seagal and his team of hunters swagger back and forth in front of the same corrugated steel wall. The Seagal is obviously so awesome he doesn’t have to, like, go different places for stuff to happen…unlike us mere mortals.

At the same time on a military base someplace outside the city, a State Department guy is arguing with an Army Lieutenant on the best way to handle the infected city. The Army guy wants to bomb it (naturally), but the State Department guy turns out to be the one running Tao and his team and wants the Army to hold off until they can get Tao out and ascertain whether or not there are any survivors. Naturally, the State Department guy gets steamrolled by the military. Now, while it’s nice to see to see the State Department as something other than a bunch of obstructionist pinheads, I have to wonder what kind of jurisdiction the Foreign Service has over zombie/monster/cannibals. I’m pretty sure that’d be a Department of Health thing. And what’s up with the State Department hiring freelance teams of warriors? That’s just crazy talk.

So while the survivors screw around inside the hospital and get kicked off one by one, Tao and his team get tired of walking in front of the corrugated wall and make their way into the hospital. Soon enough, they link up with the survivors and fight their way out of the place. This leads to much ass-kickery—mostly by The Seagal, who never even breaks a sweat in the face of overwhelming monster attacks. When he confronts a mad scientist who’s been feeding humans to the monsters to ensure his own survival, he doesn’t raise his voice—or even inflect—when he says, “I’m gonna do you what you did them.” He’s so cool he doesn’t even need to use the word “to.”

Well, things play out the way you’d expect: The group gets winnowed down, but Tao and his team get the survivors (which naturally include the kid) out of the hospital and to a nice safe farm house before the bombs fall. Tao and the remnants of his team go forth to slay more monsters and swagger off into the light of a new day (though light that could never be as dazzling as the awesomeness as The Seagal). And the survivors go off to…uh, I don’t know—whatever the hell they were doing before.

Now looking past the sheer magnificence of The Seagal is a little like squinting at the distance past a Red Giant sun, but if you can, you notice this movie has some eensy-weensy flaws—nothing terrible, and certainly certainly not The Seagal’s fault. First off, the fight sequences are pretty disappointing. The Seagal is easily twice as wide as his costars—all muscle, I’m sure—but the way the fight scenes are shot, he doesn’t look very mobile. I understand that the filmmaker probably don’t want to show any of The Seagal’s moves, because they’re probably classified by the government. Still, then way its shot, it looks like he’s just standing there swinging a sword around spastically.

Also, there are some basic continuity gaffes. Like when the Army guy arrives in a helicopter shown to be a Black Hawk in an establishing shot, then a Vietnam-era UH-1 in the close-up. Now, ordinarily I’d say this indicative of sloppy filmmaking, but in this instance you’ll probably agree that the likelier scenario is that The Seagal needed the Black Hawk to rescue the President or something, so the filmmakers had to scramble to find another helo. I’m pretty sure this is the same reason that the bomber jets go from being F-15 Eagles, to F-14 Tomcats, to F-16 Fighting Falcons to F-18 Hornets, then back to F-16s.

So, while I can’t say Against the Dark is a good film, let me be perfectly clear: none of it was The Seagal’s fault. Did you hear me Kass?

UNEXPECTED IMPROVEMENT OF THE WEEK: I watched my bootleg copy with the subtitles on. They weren’t terribly accurate having, most likely, been hurriedly typed in by a 16 year-old Thai kid. Anyway, in one scene after one of the hunters takes down a huge zombie he sneers, “You ain’t so big now, are ya?” which the subtitles translated as “That will be all.” Which is really a better line, when you think about it.


  1. FAM 12.8.Z addresses all outbreaks of the undead. Actually, isn’t each A100 class really an outbreak of the undead?

  2. I kind of feel like if I comment on this one, Kass might pistol whip me next time I see her.

  3. If you insult The Seagal she just might.

  4. Spot on, GunMonkey. I was a little dissapointed that the violence didn’t escalate. And we didn’t see ‘sword through a kid head’ shot a la “What Just Happened”.

    I just wish Steven never took to guns..

  5. the actress that portrayed Chun Li is super beautiful, she really fits the role `–

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