Another review here
I have a confession to make: I love all of the David Ellis movies I’ve seen. Final Destination 2 was probably the best entry in the series, having the best deaths and humor of the trilogy. Snakes On A Plane was a fun throwback to the Z-grade action films of the 80’s. And while I’ve never seen Cellular (or Homeward Bound II, though I’m not exactly chomping at the bit to watch it), I hear its at the very least, a decent time waster.
Late in 2007, Ellis quietly snuck out ASYLUM to a handful of theatres. And by a handful, I mean three towns, none of which are New York or L.A., the normal limited release cities. Luckily, or unluckily, enough for me, it managed to get released in Orlando of all places. From what I’ve been told, the marketing scheme of the film is very old school. They’re traveling with prints, only picking two or three cities at a time and hoping to drum up word-of-mouth interest. Unfortunately, that only works if you have a good film, which this isn’t.
Sarah Roemer (Disturbia, Wristcutters: A Love Story) stars as Madison, a college coed whose family has a history of mental illness and suicidal tendencies. Moving into a newly opened dorm at Richard Miller University, she acts mopey and distant as every male in the building hits on her, while she laments over the recent suicide of her brother. After warming up to a few of her fellow students, they explore the half-renovated building, have a few shots of whiskey and indulge each other with their stories of childhood trauma.
Madison suspects theres something wrong with the building after she experiences a few haunting visions. After a little investigating, she discovers that the dorm used to be an asylum for troubled teens, headed up by a deranged doctor who tortured his patients instead of curing them. There are these black and white flashback sequences, scattered throughout the film, which serve as the exposition to what actually happened. Well, they’re all in black and white except for one. And I honestly think someone just forgot to tell the film lab to change that one. It makes sense since there was basically no thought put into any other aspect of the film.
The rest of the movie is pretty standard: Doctor ghost finds student, kills student and moves on. Lather, rinse, repeat. We’ve seen it all before. Except, we’ve seen it done much better. Does the plot seem familiar to you? That’s because its a mixture of The House on Haunted Hill remake and A Nightmare on Elm Street. And as you get further and further into the movie, you realize how much ASYLUM rips off from both of these films.
It even gets to the point where the villain talks and maneuvers like Krueger, to terrible results. The students are all killed in a dream-like hallucinatory trance, with each of their deaths focusing on their past and fears. I guess that’s pretty convenient for one student named “Strings”, who gets in the exact way you’re probably thinking. The doctor has that all-to-familiar cackle, accompanied by puns that sound like they came out of a rejecting Tales from the Crypt episode.
Screenwriter Ethan Lawrence, which to the best of my knowledge has only written some TV scripts, doesn’t know what he’s doing. He seems to just throw stuff up on the wall and see if it sticks or not. The dialogue is far beyond the point of so-bad-its-good territory, leaving you wanting to put the film on mute and add your own dialogue. Because, quite honestly, you could make something better up on the spot. When you have a character answer yes to “Are you a bottle blonde or just naturally stupid?”, you know it’s gone beyond the point of return. I could even forgive a couple of bad lines but its the whole movie.
The acting, much like the script, is pretty dire. It ranges from awful… to more awful. Sarah Roemer must’ve filmed this before Disturbia, because there’s no way her agent would have even suggested this heaping pile of garbage. The characters are written very stereotypically, on top of the story being a half-assed rip-off, so its not surprising that no one could give a good performance.
Too bad to be funny and not gruesome enough to be disturbing, ASYLUM manages to be a late contender for worst film of the year. But, it just might pull it off.