I have a few deep-seated fears: dolls, children, and crazies. If you ever want to make a movie that will cause me to go out of my mind, make it about a children’s insane asylum—the dolls will work their way in there somehow. I mean, you can’t not have crazy children toting around dismembered dolls, you know?
When IFC’s Asylum Blackout showed up on my door with that intense red and black cover, I was a little nervous. Sure, I love horror movies— I watch them more than any other genre, but some of them still manage to scare the crap out of me. But I steeled myself and settled down for the ride.
Asylum Blackout tells the story of George (Rupert Evans), Max (Kenny Doughty), and Ricky (Joseph Kennedy) —three bandmates who spend their days working in the kitchen of Sans Asylum, a high security mental institution for the criminally insane. Their shift consists of doing the standard kitchen stuff: receiving food, preparing food, serving food.
It just all happens to occur behind a thick glass window with a tiny little opening to shove through the tray. Because that’s not unnerving or anything.
After a chunk of time spent being introduced to the kitchen workers (most specifically George— I could not differentiate the other two band members and their friends due to near identical grunge hair and beards) and the creepy, shuffling, and occasionally violent inmates, a storm hits and wipes out the building’s power.
You know, hence the word “blackout” in the title. It makes sense, yes? Great, we’re moving on.
The power blowing out means, in this case, that the outside perimeter of the building is locked down but, for some not-quite-explained reason, all the inside doors are unlocked. With what appears to be a growing inmate conspiracy, George and co. run through the asylum looking for a way out while fighting for their lives.
This film started out, while not exactly strong, interestingly. The visuals were good, the lighting was intense, the atmosphere was coming along nicely, and the soundtrack called to my inner grunge kid. But as the movie progressed, it shifted to the sort of Hostel gore that has become increasingly popular in the last several years. You know, noses being bitten off, fingers being eaten, hands being chopped up, one of the characters slowly having their skin removed with a potato peeler… you know, that great stuff.
When I approach a mental hospital-centered movie, my desire is to have an exploration of insanity—why else choose an insane asylum? But there was only one inmate, Pete (Darren Kent), who really pulled off any solid degree of insanity. The other inmates were simply violent— overly violent, sure, but only violent. They still had their minds as they enacted their revenge on their guards (such as the swoon-worthy JB, as played by Dave Legeno—Harry Potter’s Fenir Greyback), nurses, and chefs, just as I would assume any horror movie focused on a similar situation in a normal high-security prison would have.
It’s not a bad movie, I will say. It does keep up a level of tension and gore that will please most gore-hounds. But the ending doesn’t make much sense, leading me to believe at least one important scene was cut, and the acting was very occasionally jarring, especially near the end. Even with that, the work put into this film is clear, and I think it would be worthwhile to keep an eye on its director, Alexandre Courtes.
Asylum Blackout has been released in select theaters and is available on SundanceNOW, iTunes, Amazon Streaming, XBOX, Zune, and Playstation Unlimited.