Reviewed by Patrick Cooper
Having to sit through DTV found footage movies is starting to get painful. What stings even more is when one of America’s greatest filmmakers stamps his approval on one of these pieces of crap. Written, directed, and starring Sean Stone, son of revered director Oliver Stone, The Asylum Tapes (aka Greystone Park) is an exercise in patience. In a world blemished with countless Paranormal Activity and [Rec] biters, Sean Stone’s film offers up nothing remotely fresh for the audience to sink its teeth into. Instead, it’s another throwaway for the bargain bin.
The film begins with a dinner party in which Oliver Stone, his son, and others are smoking from a hookah and telling ghost stories. Mr. Stone seems really chill. He recounts a time in which he was in the woods and a female apparition scared the hell out of him. Alex, a friend of Stone’s, is really into ghost and urban legends and he suggests they all go to Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital to sneak around and try to catch some juicy supernatural goods on camera. Greystone is an actual former psych hospital located in Hanover Township, New Jersey, which I’m vaguely familiar with from growing up in nearby Sussex County. The funniest part is when Oliver Stone apologizes for not being able to go along, like he would ever really consider it.
Staging it at this infamous hospital sounds interesting, but I couldn’t find any info on whether it was actually filmed there – guerilla style or otherwise. So Alex, Sean, and a woman named Antonella venture into Greystone under cloak of night and start snooping around. Sean is apprehensive and ready to bounce after a few minutes of exploration. Alex, on the other hand, is perversely determined to find this ghost, who sports a gas mask and lugs chains around. The trio then endures a series of cliché found-footage scenarios while becoming gradually possessed by the asylum’s former patients – sometimes with unintentionally comical results.
A number of TV ghost-hunting show tropes also run rampant across the screen. There are quick cuts to doll heads, dark corners, flickering lights – it’s like the title sequence of Are You Afraid of the Dark?. The cinematography is miserable and filled with eye-watering shaky cam, inexplicable cuts, and embarrassingly awkward fade-in, fade-out transitions. The film is painfully unoriginal in content and editing. It’s just a bad film. There are no characters to relate to, no engaging relationship between said characters, nothing. It honestly pains me to say considering Sean Stone’s pedigree, but The Asylum Tapes feels like the work of some teenagers who borrowed their dad’s camera.
Oliver Stone did a few horror films in his early years as a filmmaker: 1974’s Seizure and 1981’s The Hand. I haven’t seen either, but maybe they’re just as bad as Sean Stone’s The Asylum Tapes and he just needs time to blossom into a groundbreaking filmmaker. I sincerely hope that’s the case and this film was just a learning experience and minor stain on his future career.
The Asylum Tapes is presented in 1.77:1 widescreen with 5.1 audio. There’s lots of night-vision, which never looks particularly good. Overall it’s an average looking and sounding film.
Alternate ending with additional robed ghouls.