Asylum of Darkness is a new horror film due to land on Video On Demand (via Wild Eye Releasing) on the 11th of April. It is written and directed by award winning filmmaker Jay Woelfel (Trancers 6, Ghost Lake, Season of Darkness) who is also a composer. Asylum of Darkness is a mix of psychological horror and old school monster horror. There is a strong cast of much loved icons from within the sci-fi and horror genre including Golden Globe winner Richard Hatch (Battlestar Galactica), Tiffany Shepis (12 Monkeys, Abominable, Tromeo and Juliet) and Tim Thomerson (Honkytonk Man, Trancers, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas).
These guys have done it all – between the three of them they have an astonishing 433 acting credits on IMDb.
On to the movie though, which has a synopsis of –
After awakening in a mental asylum, a patient plans an escape to freedom, but finds an even more disturbing, supernatural world on the outside, one that threatens to keep him trapped in madness forever.
Sounds pretty good right? Well, there is more goodness. The whole movie has been purposely shot in 35mm to give it a classic horror look and feel as a nod of respect to genre icons Lynch and Cronenberg. Partnering the old school style comes brilliant orchestral compositions as in film music. Acting as the soundtrack to key moments within the movie, it makes everything feel very authentic.
So we start off meeting a chap called Dwight Stroud. Dwight is played by Nick Baldasare (They Bite, Beyond Dream’s Door). Dwight is in a mental asylum. He doesn’t appear too crazy at first, instead seeming quite focused and keen to be released.
Within a very short space of time that starts to change as strange events start to take place. We viewers are left a little baffled by some of the events as it is purposely unclear whether we are seeing real things happen or the delusions of a mad man.
We see Dwight talk to his friend, a painter and fellow lunatic nicknamed Van Gogh and played by Frank Jones Jr. (The Ides of March). Van Gogh paints a bird and instantly a dead one falls from a tree at his feet. We see a meeting between Dwight and his consultant, Dr. Shaker (Richard Hatch). In that meeting we get hints that Dwight has done something terrible but is in denial. He cannot be released and cannot heal until he admits it. The screen pans to the doctor and he is a deformed and mutated, oozing monster.
After the meeting, a strange woman in white comes to visit Dwight. Her name is Hope and she is played by Tiffany Shepis. She talks with Dwight, is kind to him and acts as, well, a beacon of hope.
So far, as a viewer, you may find yourself completely convinced that Dwight is off his rocker. He very well may be but if nothing else, you may find yourself a little confused as to actually what is going on here.
Well, if you thought the beginning was a little confusing, prepare to have your minds blown. The pace of the film goes from steady craziness to complete mayhem very quickly as Dwight comes across an opportunity to run and escape. He takes it and succeeds but not without difficulty. Dwight gets out of the asylum and has to make his way through a graveyard where he gets confronted by faceless ghouls.
He barely escapes the, dashing into the road and causing an accident. As the driver of the car starts to fade, Dwight grabs him and suddenly the whole film changes direction. You see, it appears that when a person is about to pass, certain other people are able to jump in and use their body. Essentially body swap with them.
This puts the driver, into Dwight’s body and Dwight into his, Artemis. So Dwight and his new body head home where he stats to realise that he isn’t the same guy anymore. He ends up in a house he doesn’t recognise, turns off an alarm with a code he shouldn’t know and meets a wife, Ellen (Amanda Howell) who knows him as her husband and despises him. They have some pretty severe relationship issues and are on the verge of divorce.
For new Dwight, he is pretty pleased. He is out of the asylum and marital strain aside, starts working on having a life and improving things with his wife. All is well, then. The End.
Well, not quite. The craziness decides to put this normalcy to bed by coming back in full force. Dwight keeps having visions of himself or others viciously attacking or killing those around him. He sees Dr Shaker, he sees Van Gogh and he realises he needs to quash his insanity to ever have a chance of a normal life.
As he searches for answers, he comes under attack from those who know who he really is. The faceless ones, the people from the asylum and even his doctor. Everybody appears to want Dwight back. These entities also have the power to switch bodies, transforming quite disgustingly through phases of monstrosity.
As the attacks and insanity levels grow, Dwight doesn’t know who to trust, what to do or how to get free and have his life back. As a viewer, you aren’t actually certain if these events are real or in his head. Either way, it culminates in an enlightening ending where most of the puzzle is tied up and Dwight faces a life changing choice.
It is quite hard to put in words how absolutely nuts this movie is, while watching. Not in a bad way, in a fascinating way. Think Twin Peaks insanity where you often find yourself wondering “what the hell is going on”. It’s very entertaining to watch like this.
As a horror goes, the old school make up effects are gross and effective. Again, the word authentic comes to mind. There are some absolutely horrific deaths which look real and pour buckets of gore over the story. The acting is solid, really solid. There is a small cast and they all perform brilliantly with Tim Thomerson really standing out as quite brilliant. The same goes for Amanda Howell who was quite excellent.
Asylum of Darkness is an authentic old school horror movie with a twisting and twisted tale. It is acted well and has great in movie music. It is genuinely bonkers and sometimes confusing but never to the detriment of the entertainment it is pouring out. To end with more moments of insanity, even the credits roll up the screen, not down.
If you are a fan of insanity like Twin Peaks and old school horror like The Fly, this is for you. Just prepare to scratch your head a bit throughout.
“I have no idea where this will lead us, but I have a definite feeling it will be a place both wonderful and strange.” – Dale Cooper
Asylum of Darkness
The Final Score - 8/10