Asylum of Terror

Director: George Demick

USA - 1998

Hoff! Hoff! Hoff! Hoff!

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I usually watch my bad movies alone, but on the rare occasion when a friend partakes in a screening, I always like to make sure that I "Just a little off the top...d'oh!"pick a real treat for us to enjoy. David, who joined me for this feature, is my only friend (locally) who knows more about b-movies than myself. Actually, to be quite honest, he's probably my only friend who gives a damn about b-movies, but that's beside the point. Anyway, I wanted to choose something that I knew neither of us had seen. Living in Nashville, my selection for quality video stores is limited, and for the most part, I end up just picking the lesser of two evils -- meaning, Hollywood over Blockbuster.

Most Hollywood Videos feature at least three or four rows of horror films (which, if you look at most of my reviews, is naturally the first section I head for). Unfortunately, their selections are limited to video store staples -- lots of Full Moon and TromaNo expense was spared on these lavish props!, a couple choice selections from the Friday the 13th saga (as well as all those other sagas -- Nightmare on Elm Street, Hellraiser, etc and so forth), and perhaps one or two Hammer films. Though this is adequate for the average horror buff, I lean more towards obscure gems (obscure meaning I haven't heard of them; and the term "gem" is relative). And like I said before, I wanted to pick up something unique for David. That's when I came across Asylum of Terror.

For one thing, I've never heard of Asylum. For another, it was filmed in Nashville! Though we have an abundance of country bumpkins out here, our horror community, as I'm sure you can imagine, is little to none. And dammit, it's my obligation to support local talent! So I picked it up, and headed out to David's. After grabHey! They're taking their teeth out! That *really* destroys the illusion...bing a quick bite and buying some ice cream, we headed back to my friend's swank bachelor pad to start the film. I tossed my dessert into the freezer (it had melted a bit) and David kicked in the movie. It took approximately ten minutes for me to discover that our locals just aren't talented.

Our films starts off with a group of crazy teenagers arriving at Death Row, a former prison/asylum for the criminally insane that's been transformed into a Haunted House. They make out in the parking lot, pull pranks on one another -- all that wacky stuff that a group of unruly teens do (at least in movies). Finally, they get in line for tickets.Gaze into the face of a bad actor...er, I mean -- a MADMAN!

We then cut to a shot of the full moon looming over the prison, and a maniacal voice-over proclaiming, "Beware!" Followed by the mandatory maniacal laugh.

I guess this was intended for the viewing audience, because no one in line acknowledges this ominous warning. Anyway, the kids are in line, fooling around and such, when a man in front of them suddenly turns around and, for some reason or another, explains his fascination with Haunted Houses. What if a psycho had escaped the local sanitarium and was hiding out in the building, killing the patrons one by one? Nobody would ever know! Ahh, foreshadowing, the subtle stroke of genius.

Moving on, we are then introduced to the rest of our pathetic cast of characters: a blind woman -- who likes the sounds of a Haunted House (?!Could it be...SATAN?!) -- and her boyfriend, two pre-adolescent boys and their mother (who is too scared to go in, but will wait for them outside), and a guy who works for the Haunted House in the midst of giving a tour to a new employee. I didn't catch any of their names; Heck, I'm not sure if they were actually given any names. It doesn't really matter, though -- it's not like there was anything resembling character development in this crap anyway.

We then cut to yet another shot of the full moon looming over the prison. And once again, cue that maniacal laugh! I suppose this was just in case we missed it the first time.

Meanwhile, First, we rip-off Michael Myers....inside the prison, one of the employees is on break, enjoying a frosty beverage and listening to the news on the radio. Can you guess what he hears? Yup, a lunatic had escaped from an asylum earlier that evening, and was running loose in the general proximity. Who would've thought?

Finally, our heroes are led into the funhouse, where they are greeted by Satan, and given the rules of the establishment. Once educated in the ways of Death Row, our lambs are let loose in the maze. We then cut back to the guy on break, who, naturally, is immediately met by the aforementioned escaped lunatic and killed. The killer then steals a hockey mask (a la Jason), and makes his way into the prison.

Can you see where this is going? Shall I draw a map? ...and then we steal from Jason....

The maniac then proceeds to knock-off all the characters one-by-one. By drill, by hammer, by knife, by chainsaw -- you know the drill. The drill! Ha! Sorry. Naturally, as the creepy line guy from the beginning prophesized, no one realizes what's happening; even when the murders occur right in front of them. They just think it's part of the show. Ahh, irony, yet another subtle stroke of genius.

Eventually, one of the characters finally uncovers these fiendish happenings -- I mean, someone has to do battle in the film's finale with this ne'er do well! And like the rest of this movie, it too is thoroughly disappointing.

First off, let me tell you that there is a lot of walking in this movie. I mean, a lot of walking! And looking! If you like your films full of walking, pausing, looking, and then some more ...and then it's on to The Crow...walking, Asylum of Terror is for you. I honestly believe that if they edited out all the scenes of the killer walking down a corridor, pausing, looking to his left (or right), then continuing on, this film's running time might've been halved. Which would've been all right in my book. During one walking scene, the killer is chasing a screaming girl up some steps and through various hallways. Knowing damn well that this was going to last at least five minutes, I decided now was the right time for me to excuse myself and get me some ice cream -- a task, I estimated, that would save me from two to three full minutes of enduring this dreck. So, I retrieved my dairy treat from the fridge, cleaned off a spoon, then resumed my position on the E-Z Chair. But as soon as I sat down, I realized the atrocity that had occurred. David had seamlessly rewound the tape to the exact moment I had gotten up. Immediately, I turned to my supposed friend; fury burning deep within my eyes. David looked back at me, a hu...and finally, we steal from...uh..I don't know who the heck this guy is supposed to be..ge smile on his face knowing damn well what he had done. I guess it's like Dionne Warwick says, that's what friends are for.

Next to the relentless padding, the film's dubbing was most unforgivable. It truly sounded like they recorded the dialogue in some high school gymnasium. I could hardly understand a word. And if I strained really hard, I was pretty sure I could make out the terrifying sounds of dodgeball in the background.

I am also under the suspicion that scenes from another film were interspliced with Asylum of Terror. I say this due to the varying degrees of picture quality throughout the movie. A majority of the shots looked like someone had dipped their finger in Vaseline and"My kingdom for a dollop of Nivea!" spread it over the camera lens, while on the other hand, some shots looked almost clear. Almost. So, not only was the dialogue indecipherable, but so was a lot of the action (the word "action" being used in the loosest sense).

Hey, I'm all for supporting local talent. You know, contributing to the community, and such. Going in, I really wanted to like this film. Really! But the truth of the matter is, us Nashvillians should be ashamed of ourselves for this movie. Tennessee should be ashamed of itself. It really is quite shameful.

Woo!

I doubt you can even find Asylum of Terror, but if you can, don't watch it. It might be good for interrogating a suspect (believe me, he'll talk), but it's quite painful otherwise.

Unless you like walking. Lots and lots of walking.

He never "saw" it coming. (Sorry, folks.)

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These are the times of which to cherish...

- In one scene, the boyfriend inadvertently leave his blind girlfriend alone in a faux graveyard. Not realizing she's been left behind, the girls stands idly by, smiling, and listening as the killer knocks off one of the zombies within arm's reach of her. Finally, the boyfriend returns to retrieve her, but not before he bestows a good scolding about leaving the group. How could she have left the group?!

- I remember watching Pet Semetary during the part when that kid got hit by a semi. As I observed the truck bearing down on the tyke, I thought, "Ok, who's going to scoop up the kid at the last minute and save the day?" But when he actually got mowed down, I thought, "Wow! He really bit it!" You don't see that a lot in American movies. Not only does a kid buy it in Asylum of Terror, but we're also treated to a close-up of blood spurting from his mouth. Luckily for the producers, I doubt hardly anyone sees this, or I'm sure someone would raise a ruckus.

Is this a special sect of the Metro Police?

- During the requisite sex scene, a girl gets it on with a guy sporting a Leatherface mask. When he tries to take it off, she begs that he leave it be, thus insinuating that it turns her on. Now, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is an important horror film, and I'm sure that Leatherface represents a lot of different things for a lot of different people -- but sex symbol?! The line has to be drawn somewhere...

Where do I sign up?

- The corny Haunted House acting. These guys are second only to those jokers at the Renaissance Festivals.

- The scene where one friend explains to another how to fondle girls in a Haunted House and play it off like it's an accident. Classy!

THRILL as he WALKS!!

The walking, of course. There would be no Asylum of Terror if there was no walking.

 

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-- Copyright 2000 by J. Bannerman

 

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