June 19, 2017 Asylum of Darkness (Movie Review)
Insanity is the real trap and one we can never truly escape! In the new Horror flick Asylum of Darkness, psychotic evil resides at every turn. Available on VOD platforms as of April 10, 2017 via Wild Eye Releasing, the darkness only truly begins when you escape the asylum.
Dwight Stroud (Nick Baldasare: Beyond Dream’s Door 1989, They Bite 1996) is imprisoned at an asylum, thanks to a “Not Guilty By Reason of Insanity” plea that his lawyers made to spare him a murder charge. Behind the barred doors and windows, the doctors appear to be monstrosities and the patients are all quite unique. Take Van Gogh (Frank Jones Jr.: The Ides of March 2011, Old Fashioned 2014), for example, a painter whose images seemingly influence the future and who, under obvious emotional duress, has removed one of his own eyes.
When the opportunity presents itself, Stroud escapes the asylum for the world outside. Of course, the world outside is even scarier and less psychologically-stable than the one behind bars. After a chance encounter with a car crash victim, Stroud quickly assumes the life of one cocksure Ladies’ Man, Artimus Finch. Returning to Finch’s home, he encounters Ellen Finch (Amanda Howell: Measured Sacrifice 2009, Minus One 2010), the mistreated and highly-guarded wife of Art. As Stroud fights to come to grips with the bizarrely monstrous new world around him, he is stalked by a veritable plethora of fluid characters all hoping to bring about his demise while constantly shifting physical forms.
Asylum of Darkness – originally released in 2012 under the title Season of Darkness – was written and directed by Jay Woelfel (Beyond Dream’s Door 1995, Closed for the Season 2010), clocks in at 120 minutes, and is rated “mature” for extensive violence and gore. The film also stars Richard Hatch (Battlestar Galactica 1978, Battlestar Galactica TV series) as Doctor Shaker; Tiffany Shepis (Nightmare Man 2006, 12 Monkeys series) as Stroud’s wife; and Tim Thomerson (Fade To Black 1980, Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas 1998) as Detective Kesler.
Though it was in fact created in 2012, the film reads like an early 1980s attempt at Horror. The visuals feel old-school, the sound is often muffled, and there is also often a failure to properly synchronize the visuals and audio. The end result here is a film that feels like it was visually created in the spirit of something like 1983’s A Christmas Story with the wherewithal of the creators of the 1950s Godzilla. Of course, this is a Horror film, so there are no overly bedazzled Christmas trees, no school bullies throwing snow, and horrified, little Japanese businessmen are lacking, as well.
Asylum of Darkness is marked by many “fluid” characters who jump body-to-body, leaving the viewer highly confused. Additionally, there are a multitude of Special FX makeup and props utilized to turn ordinary doctors and everyday people into visual monstrosities; therefore, no one is ever fully what they appear to be. Unfortunately, there is a decided disconnect between the intended goal and the reality of these effects, and quite a few of the monstrous creations appear to be nothing more than slimy and deranged hand-puppets. These lame visual attempts coupled with a screenplay that is literally schizophrenic create an overall disconnect for viewers.
For his part, Baldasare, in the leading role of Stroud/Finch, is lackluster at best, and does nothing to hold the entire failing production together. In fact, the true acting highlight in this bomb is Jones Jr., as Van Gogh, who somehow manages to push authenticity and commitment into his bizarrely psychotic character. He is the source of some of the best dialogue throughout the film, and the one character that truly serves to propel this mess forward.
The sole highlight here is the brilliant, classical film score by Woelfel – performed in the tradition of true Horror classics – which far exceeds the film that it is scoring. Save for this, Asylum of Darkness is two-hours of your life that you cannot get back, so be warned! For the above myriad of reasons, CrypticRock give Asylum of Darkness 2 of 5 stars.