MGM // 2007 // 93 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker // July 15th, 2008
Once you're in...you can never get out.
Pity poor Madison. When she was a little girl, her father blew his brains out right in front of the whole family. Not to be outdone, her brother blew his brains out a few years later, while he was a student at Richard Miller University.
Now it's Madison's turn to go to college, and she also chooses Miller. Since it's not enough that she's got the whole dead brother thing going on, she also gets assigned to a haunted dorm.
Of course, someone from the college should have seen this one coming. After all, the dorm is being converted from an old insane asylum that was shuttered in the 1930s after its teenage inmates staged an uprising against the deranged doctor who was experimenting on them. Apparently, it's just been sitting vacant on the RMU campus for the last seventy years.
So, Madison moves in and meets half-a-dozen or so other students. The aged kids spend an inordinate amount of time sitting around and acting movie-college wacky. Then, for no particular reason, but much to our relief, the spirit of the evil doctor shows up and starts eliminating these tedious lunks.
I guess shuttered institution is the latest convention of convenience for horror movies, replacing such stand-bys as "return of person maimed (or killed) by prank gone wrong" or "let's have sex at summer camp." The updated House on Haunted Hill and its pray-for-death sequel gave us an old insane asylum as a backdrop, and other recent films have given us reconverted hospitals, prisons, and the like as places where evil is reawakened.
The hook here is that in the '30s, the evil doctor was a shrink who was trying to "help" teenagers by giving them lobotomies and doing other nasty experiments. When his ghostly self appears to our twenty-first century crew, he brings with him flashbacks to these kids' miserable childhoods ("Where am I? My mom's house! I don't want to be here! No!!!"). This way, the evil that the doc does can have some relevance, but the script is too lazy to make it add up to anything. ("Your mother didn't really love you. Therefore, I will -- stab you 700 times! Ha Ha Ha!!")
The script also doesn't seem too sure about how to deal with ghosts in general. The doctor has come back from the dead, can create hallucination-like memories and alternative realities, and can move easily through time and space, yet can be waylaid by a smack to the head and kept out of a room by Madison pushing a table against the door. Laziness abounds here in the Asylum.
Usually, films like this come from the Lionsgate direct-to-DVD junkyard and feature people who have little else on their resumés. While Asylum, which is an MGM release, isn't exactly a star-studded affair, some of the people involved have worked on a few recognizable projects. Director David R. Ellis also helmed the ill-fated Snakes on a Plane as well as Final Destination 2. Sarah Roemer, who plays Madison, co-starred in Disturbia, and character actor Mark Rolston, who was in The Departed and CSI: Miami, plays the wicked doctor.
MGM gives this one a bare-bones release, complete with static menu. The picture and audio quality are fine, as they should be for a recent film.
Asylum is as generic and boring as its title. Even by the low standards one normally uses to judge a cheesy horror movie, this one's poor.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.40:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 93 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Rated R