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Case Number 04172: Small Claims Court

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The Asylum

Pathfinder // 2000 // 102 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // March 31st, 2004

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All Rise...

The Charge

Its corridors are as twisted as the minds contained within.

The Case

Don't let the preceding, ambiguous tagline fool you. The Asylum is a pretty straightforward psychological whodunit. And don't let the eerie, psychedelic disc cover fool you either. This isn't a horror movie. There are some horror elements in it, but for the most part The Asylum plays like a character-driven mystery.

Jenny (Steffanie Pitt—Dave's note: What's wrong with just Stephanie?!) lost her mother when she was very young to a mysterious stabbing. Now an adult, she is plagued with dreams and visions of the murder—and sees herself holding the knife! What these dreams all have in common is the asylum, once operated by Jenny's father. Not only was she once a patient, it also happens to be the scene of her mother's murder so many years ago.

Jenny now feels herself being drawn back to the abandoned building.

However, she isn't the only person plagued by these nightmarish visions. An eclectic consortium of other characters—a disfigured priest, a psychic, and a junkie—find themselves haunted by similar dreams, all finding their way back to the dark corridors of the asylum.

Suddenly, bodies start showing up…a janitor, a realtor, and a prospective buyer. All stabbed to death in poorly lit, choreographed scenes by an unknown predator. Now Jenny must put the pieces of her fragmented mind back together, working with her fellow whack-jobs, while avoiding the deadly blade of a hidden killer, who may or may not be among them.

That's the set-up for The Asylum. What follows is the usual climactic exposition along with a few twists. The flick works on the level of a "relatively effective psychological thriller," and sports some nifty, atmospheric sets. The actual asylum location is creepy enough, but really, it's nothing you couldn't catch on HGTV.

So, a dark and dreary set a good movie does not make. What else does The Asylum do right? It's got a pretty good story, and keeps the mystery vibrant enough, until the end. The revelation is kind of a mixed bag—part ridiculous and part surprising—but I would say it's a satisfying conclusion.

Then there's the acting. I couldn't help but feel I was watching a play sometimes. I'm not entirely sure how to explain it; The Asylum feels less like a movie and more like an off-Broadway presentation. It's just lacking that cinematic essence. And though the characters are interesting constructs, the actors often go too far over-the-top in portraying them.

Pathfinder provides a snoozer of a disc, with no special features except the usual still gallery/biographies/trailer trifecta of "who-gives-a-crap" mediocrity. Video (full frame) and sound (2.0 stereo) do nothing. But this is a dialogue-heavy movie anyway, so the aggressive surrounds aren't missed.

I've read some online opinions that this movie is an homage to older, British horror movies. That may be accurate. Having been "Hammered" recently for my review of Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell, I'll avoid saying The Asylum was boring. It isn't, as long as you're not expecting a horror movie.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 80

Perp Profile

Studio: Pathfinder
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• None
Running Time: 102 Minutes
Release Year: 2000
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Drama
• Mystery
• Thriller

Distinguishing Marks

• Still Gallery
• Trailer
• Bios


• IMDb

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