ASYLUM OF DARKNESS
Wild Eye Releasing
Writer/Director: Jay Woelfel
Starring: Richard Hatch (Dr. Shaker), Tim Thomerson (Detective Kesler), Tiffany Shepis (Hope), Nick Baldasare (Dwight Stroud), Amanda Howell (Ellen), and Frank Jones Jr. (Van Gogh).
Currently available on Video On Demand
Let’s just get this out of the way, Asylum of Darkness is woefully inept from top to bottom. Well, I take that back: one bright spot is the poster art. It’s absolutely eerie and compelling. Too bad is has nothing to do with the feature. Literally nothing.
The story centers around Dwight (Nick Baldasare) and his imprisonment, and escape from a mental hospital. He is being treated by Dr. Shaker played by the late Richard Hatch (Battlestar Galactica) in one of his final film appearances. A fellow inmate and recurring character is Van Gogh, played by Frank Jones Jr. After Dwight escapes, the rest of the film concerns his attempt to lead a normal life.
From the very beginning Writer/Director Woelful tries to keep the viewer off-balance as we see events through Dwight’s eyes. Nothing is normal so of course we start to question Dwight’s sanity. Sadly, it’s the execution of this “craziness” that is the downfall of this movie. Shot in 35mm, the film tries to nibble around the edges of David Lynch’s Lost Highway and the little-seen 80’s classic The Hidden. Yet it never fully commits to anything except a “toss everything at the viewer to see what sticks” approach. It’s not scary. It’s not experimental. It’s not Art house. It’s just full of stuff. And the stuff is very confusing. I could see this working if there was a payoff at the conclusion that made sense but that does not happen either.
Instead we get the equivalent of a student film that puts some good talent to waste. One example is Tim Thomerson, a Horror and B-movie icon (Trancers, Near Dark, Nemesis). His very brief appearance seems out of place and some of his scenes suffer from terrible audio issues. In an outdoor scene where he is speaking to an actress, it’s painfully obvious that his dialogue was recorded in an studio while hers was outside with background noise. Wait, maybe it was intentional to make me doubt my own sanity. Hmmm. The same scene contains continuity issues between cuts from person to person. People move or are in different positions as the camera goes back and fourth during the conversation.
Another issue is the special effects. Normally I praise the use of practical effects over CGI. However, I think this choice was out of necessity as I don’t think the budget could allow for anything but real latex appliances, multicolored goo, and fake blood. Many of these look like something you would find while watching 80’s horror VHS tapes.
The movie does contain 1 good jump scare but ultimately its a confusing watch and very hard to sit through.
1/2 of 4 stars