GORE IN THE STORE
INTERVIEWS FILM BLU-RAY DVD & BOOK REVIEWS
DOOM ASYLUM ***
Directed by Richard Friedman. Starring Patty Mullen, Ruth Collins, Michael Rogen, Kristin Davis, Kenny L. Price, William Hay, Harrison White. Horror/Comedy, USA, 78 mins, cert 18.
Released in the UK on Blu-ray by Arrow Video on 16th July 2018.
"We have just as much right to trespass here as you do" exclaims one of the characters in DOOM ASYLUM, a charming piece of low-level slasher trash from 1987, in a line that neatly sums up how daft this film is. However, this is daft trash in the way that fans of obscure horror gems appreciate, where the acting is bad, the special effects ropey and the script is dire but there is something there that makes it worth watching (once anyway) if you are attuned to the standards of low-budget '80s nonsense, and if based on enjoyment alone then DOOM ASYLUM is an absolute blast. But if judged by the standards of 'proper' movies - i.e. blockbusters, period dramas, big budget studio pictures, etc. - then DOOM ASYLUM is likely to leave a lot of people scratching their heads and wondering what they have just watched.
Shot in a real abandoned asylum in eight days - and it shows - DOOM ASYLUM begins in a typically odious '80s way with Judy (Patty Mullen - FRANKENHOOKER) and her lover Mitch (Michael Rogen - BASKET CASE 2) driving fast in a convertible whilst drinking what appears to be Champagne in a celebratory manner. They're celebrating winning a $5 million dollar lawsuit whilst also planning to put the Judy's daughter into care until Mitch loses control of the car and crashes, killing Judy and leaving Mitch looking like a dermatological nightmare and more than a little angry at the death of his lover. Skip forward 10 years and Judy's daughter Kiki (also played by Patty Mullen) and her friends are having a day out hanging around an old asylum, as you do, when they come across female punk trio Tina & The Tots rehearsing in the decrepit building and become the victims of their pranks. However, both groups soon fall foul of the deformed Mitch, who has a bag of surgical tools and is quite keen to use them.
Tapping into the same crazy veins as the works of Frank Henenlotter and Troma, DOOM ASYLUM is a movie that is well aware of its limitations and the limitations of its genre, relishing in its ill attempts at humour - some of it intentional, most of it not - and zipping along with the kind of guerrilla filmmaking sensibilities that make a lot of the sleaziest genre gore-fests the most enjoyable. It also helps, in a weird way, that by the time DOOM ASYLUM originally came along the slasher movie fun bus had already departed, with the Freddy and Jason series' several movies in and far removed from their darker, more inventive roots, and the rest of the pack looking tired and desperate to bring something new to the party. How does that help? Because not at any time does DOOM ASYLUM try to push itself beyond its limits, it takes the slasher conventions that we all know and and love and has fun with them; you want nudity? One of the punks whips her top off for no real reason, just because she can. There are also women - one of whom being SEX & THE CITY's Kristin Davis - prancing around in swimming costumes for most of the film, again because they can, and some pretty gruesome kills that wouldn't trouble Tom Savini but effects artist Vincent J. Guastini has a damn good stab anyway, and although the 2K restoration doesn't help when it comes to disguising the joins in the latex - this really is a film that benefits from being watched on a grubby VHS - it adds to the fun seeing a dummy head getting hacked to pieces with a bone saw.
Quite why somebody saw fit to give DOOM ASYLUM a 2K restoration is as baffling as it is welcome; baffling as it is a short - 78 minutes and a lot of that is padded out with old Tod Slaughter film clips that Mitch is watching on his TV - and barely cobbled together effort but welcome as is so relentlessly entertaining, for better or for worse, and will hopefully get exposed to a wider audience thanks to Arrow Video's attention to detail when putting together a decent package. As well as the film looking bright, vibrant and clear the disc also comes with archival crew interviews, fun new interviews with actress Ruth Collins, effects supervisor Vincent J. Guastini and cinematographer Larry Revene, an audio commentary by screenwriter Rick Marx and another by the guys from The Hysteria Continues podcast which, if you're not too bothered about listening to dumb dialogue, is the recommended way to watch the movie. It is probably a little more supplementary material than the film really warrants but, at the same time, would the film on its own be enough to sell itself to the masses? Unlikely.
Overall, DOOM ASYLUM scratches the sweet spot that those of us from the VHS rental days have, where any old trash will do as long as it is a good time and DOOM ASYLUM is very much that, being a bit self-aware a good few years before SCREAM refined the idea and showcasing how to make the most of very few resources. Yes, objectively it is total garbage but who cares? And as if the cheap prosthetics and naked flesh weren’t enough, for added ‘80s horror movie kudos there is a Fake Shemp listed in the credits - if that doesn’t sell it then nothing will.
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