I’ve mentioned before how much I love the After Dark Originals brand from Lionsgate. The films are usually fun, and some are just downright awesome. The series’ latest release, ASYLUM, puts me in an odd position, however. I can’t really decide which side of the fence I am on in regard to it. Part of me loved it, but another part of me didn’t like it at all. In short, I’m conflicted, and I don’t think this is going to resolve itself anytime soon.
If you are not familiar with ASYLUM, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Lionsgate:
A veteran hostage negotiator’s next call leads him to an overrun insane asylum. He soon finds that dark forces are pushing the patients to commit atrocities, and that he may be the only that can stop them.
First off, the description for this film is very misleading. Yes, that is the basis for the plot…but for the movie WITHIN the movie. Let me explain: the plot above is for a film that was shot in another country, and it is the film that two editors in the outer movie are watching while they comment on it. Basically, this is sort of a Mystery Science Theater 3000 setup. The outer film is very campy and comedic, while the actual horror film seems to be dark and serious. This contrast is one of the reasons I disliked the film overall.
The inner film (the actual ASYLUM movie) is shot well for the most part and looks nice and dark onscreen. The outer film looks more like a home movie, and its picture quality is not as good. Once again, this contrast throws the production value off as a whole, and the resulting product does not look as professional as it could have.
One major drawback of the inner film is that it is not complete. This is done on purpose, as the editors are supposedly watching the footage to splice it together (even though it already is), but it really detracts from the film experience. There are several scenes where wording pops up on the screen to note missing visual effects or whatnot, but I really did not like this; it took me completely out of the viewing experience for both films.
If you look at ASYLUM as a horror-comedy or as a MST3K spin-off, it almost works. I actually chuckled at the editors dialogue a couple of times because they were spot on with their comical assessment of the movie’s situation. But if you look at this is being a true horror film (which, honestly, is what the plot synopsis advertises this as), then it fails miserably. The inner film could actually be relevant as a decent horror flick, but only if it wasn’t attached to the outer film.
Overall, I’m still torn on this one, and as such, I can’t recommend it in good conscience. If I had known it was horror-comedy going into it, my perception would would have been different and therefore my feelings would have been, too. But since I was expecting an actual horror flick, I can’t say this one succeeds.
The film is available now in a variety of formats if you want to check it out.