Your attention, please. There is a disease of unknown origin sweeping through the populace. It is highly contagious, usually fatal, and completely incurable. There is no immunity. Man, that sucks! Oh yeah…if you should happen catch it and survive, you will develop an uncontrollable hankering for the taste of your friends and neighbors, or anyone else you should encounter. No, this is not “28 Days (weeks, months, or whatever) Later” or the next Romero tale. None of those movies have a pony-tailed, sword-wielding Aikido-Master that will rescue your worthless, uninfected hide from ghouls gone wild.
“Against the Dark”, starring, of course, Steven Seagal, is a vampire movie that is heavy on the action and atmosphere. Seagal is Commander Tao, leader of a team of civilian vigilante ‘hunters’ who are “…not here to decide who’s right or wrong.” They are “…here to decide who lives and dies.” This is a major difference between his character and that of Robert Neville of “I Am Legend”. Neville, though trying to find a cure, was mainly about keeping himself alive. Tao is not going to curl up in a bathtub every night waiting for the bogeymen to slink away when the sun arrives. He is going to be facing them down and exterminating them while he searches for virus-free humans to save.
Tao’s team is on a mission to clear sector 7 before daybreak. One of their goals is to scout out a ruined hospital, which has various pockets of survivors and infected. The people inside know that the generator is failing and decide to try to make their way down several floors to the security doors before the power fails and the doors seal shut. How many rooms and corridors are there in most big-city hospitals? Plenty, right? They will be navigating past dozens of ravenous fiends who lurk behind corners and doors, drop from ceilings, and sometimes crawl to keep out of sight before attacking.
Some of the survivors also have personal agendas beyond escaping. One of the characters has a drug addiction. Getting high is higher priority than getting out. Why should he want to leave a place where he can become his own pharmacist? There is also a crazed and creepy doctor who could have been an extraordinary character, right up there with Dr. Logan from “Day of the Dead” or Herbert West from “Re-Animator” if only they had given him a bigger part. I would seriously have liked to see more of his story.
There is another danger that all of the groups are unaware of. Tao and his people have been supplied and supported by the state department, but the military is stepping in and taking command. Lt. Waters (Keith David, famed cult favorite for such movies as “The Thing”, “They Live”, “The Puppet Masters”, and the Riddick films) is ready to sterilize the sector and clear it in one massive assault. He reluctantly agrees, through the persistent arguments of Mr. Cross (Linden Ashby), who has been guiding the hunters until an accident caused them to lose communication, to give the team until dawn to finish up and get to safety. Any later than that, and it might be sayonara for Seagal.
The monsters in “Against the Dark” are categorized by some of the survivors as vampires, but they are often shown eating humans, as well as drinking blood (and some even file their teeth to create fangs). There are bodies and body parts strung and flung all about, as well as frequent flashes of the infected feasting on flesh. Though it is stated in the very beginning of the film that there is no immunity, at least one survivor claims to be immune. The survivors often warn each other to avoid the blood (in case of contagion), but will then tromp straight through the gore to reach their next destination.
Most of the best action scenes in the film involve Tanoai Reed, a veteran stunt actor from as far back as the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” series (he is also the personal stunt double for his cousin Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson). His character, Taggart, is the go-get-‘em guy of the hunters, meaning he often gets sent to fight the infected alone while the rest presumably wait for him to clear the area. There are not enough employee benefits in the world to make that job appealing.
My biggest nitpick with the film is the seeming lack of reason often demonstrated by the survivors. They spend most of the film with the goal of reaching the security door without trying to find another exit (why don’t they get out the way they got in?). They don’t take many precautions despite being in mortal peril. They walk through the halls and into whatever rooms they are interested in without being overly cautious or quiet, though there are an amazing amount of freshly killed people, and some still alive for a few more minutes, in almost every area they enter. They are lucky that most of the infected are lousy fighters.
“Against the Dark” will never be considered one of Seagal’s crowning achievements. I would compare it to “Blade 3” meets every ‘infected’ movie, with a Romero style carnage factor. The plot leaves much to be desired but gore hounds or hard core Seagal fans should like it. He heroically, and sometimes amusingly, chops and shoots his way through the creatures and still manages to share some words of wisdom when necessary. Unlike Neville, Tao is not the guy with the cure, but he is a guy you can count on when the world has gone to Hell.