Code Red // 1987 // 79 Minutes // Unrated
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // February 2nd, 2007
From the director of Friday the 13th: The Series, starring Sex and the City's Kristin Davis!
Doom Asylum is a cheap parody of '80s slasher films that tries to be a "bad funny" '80s horror movie, but somehow largely misses the funny and the horror. There's plenty of gore, not nearly enough nudity, and acting so damn wooden you'll walk away with splinters after watching it. It's a painful experience, and I'm not sure why Code Red has given the title such good DVD treatment (the disc is pretty loaded). Maybe there are fans of Doom Asylum, and they should be doing the happy dance around the DVD aisle. The film was released straight to video in the late '80s, and has never had a super clear transfer or extras. At least Kristin Davis (Charlotte from HBO's Sex and the City) can now have a clear copy to show casting agents how much her acting has improved. Plus Penthouse Pet Patty Mullen (Frankenhooker) and small screen scream queen Ruth Collins (Firehouse) can prove they were in a movie with "that chick from Sex and the City." Nothing about the film has an air of credibility, save for the fact it's now out on DVD.
A group of attractive teens and an all-girl Goth band investigate an abandoned mental hospital said to be haunted by "The Surgeon." Problem is, the asylum really is haunted by a lawyer who lost his love in a fatal car crash. He looks terrible, since he was the subject of an aborted autopsy. He uses the surgical tools from that procedure to kill people (hence "The Surgeon" even though "The Lawyer" or "The Ambulance Chaser" would be better). People attempt sex or wander off alone and die gruesomely. For some reason everyone is slaughtered in broad daylight, as if that will make things funnier or creepier. The final reel actually has a couple of nice twists on the horror film stereotypes; the final victim and how the killer is dispatched are unique. But damn if you don't have to sit through an eternity of schlock to get to one or two groovy moments.
There's nothing too different in Doom Asylum from any other cheap scary funny movie, and nobody takes it seriously for a second. The acting is beyond bad, and so are the production values. Truly Doom Asylum was a project always intended to head straight to video and stay there. It's a flick aspiring Mystery Science Theatre 3000 imitators would love to talk over (the commentary track actually suggests this), although many of the movies that show poked fun at were better than this. Doom Asylum is truly only for fans of terribly bad horror movies. It's inept in every sense of the word, and that's its only saving charm. Sounds like director Richard Friedman (a Billy Joel music video director, a handful of episodes for Silk Stalkings, and Baywatch Nights) intended this one to be a truly bad movie from conception. It was an excuse to make a movie, and have some fun with horror movie conventions and a Penthouse Pet (who never reveals any skin in the movie).
This uncut edition provides Doom Asylum with royal treatment on DVD despite its ultra-bad ambitions. Code Red is a company with a ton of love for bad cinema, and isn't afraid to celebrate it. For the first time they have assembled a director's cut which incorporates more gore than the previous VHS releases. Back in the '80s, distributors required movies not to exceed an R-rating; so many sequences were trimmed upon its initial release. Most notably the DVD version reinserts a scene where a guy gets his toes cut off on camera (with mysteriously little blood). The transfer is fullscreen and looks like really good video (all it can be given the source). It's all as clear as it needs to be, and looks solid. We get on camera interviews with the director and producers which confirms the low ambitions. A commentary with the same participants proves entertaining as well as self-deprecating. They know this movie is terrible, and decide to poke goodhearted fun at their own work.
If you're in the mood for an inept horror comedy, Doom Asylum would be a good candidate. It doesn't do anything well, but never apologizes for that lack of quality either. This is a hack job done by fans of really bad horror films destined for "terribleness." The surprise here is it gets good DVD treatment as if Criterion had gotten hold of the title. You'll know why Doom Asylum is so wretched, and if you can appreciate that it's a great purchase. I could see this one working best with a group of splatter fans fueled by beer and pizza on a night when they feel like they've seen everything, and they're in the mood to laugh at the worst of the worst.
Review content copyright © 2007 Brett Cullum; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Code Red
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 79 Minutes
Release Year: 1987
MPAA Rating: Unrated
* Commentary by Director Richard Friedman and Production Manager Bill Tasgal
* Interview with Director Richard Friedman, Production Manager Bill Tasgal, and Producer Alex Kogan Jr.