Overview: When an escaped serial killer goes on a murderous rampage at a haunted house that used to be a jail, it's up to, well, whoever happens to be around at the time to stop him.
Directed By: George Demick, 1998.
The Case For: It's mercifully short, one of the annoying kids gets what's coming to him.
The Case Against: Encourages worship of Satan, as only by his Dark power could a movie fail this miserably.
One doesn't have to get too far into "Asylum of Terror" to know it's going to blow more than a professional glass blower. For starters, it's called "Asylum of Terror." How many Oscar-winners can you think of that have had names like "Asylum of Terror?" But even more damning evidence is the fact that this movie is made possible by the same production company who unleashed "Ax 'Em" on an undeserving public. For those of you who don't remember "Ax 'Em," allow me to summarize it: people ran around. Then they died. That's basically it. Sad to say, I could give the same plot synopsis for this cinematic Hindenberg and just call it a day. But that wouldn't be doing proper justice to one of the worst attempts at moviemaking I've ever seen. George Demick not only directed this monstrosity, he wrote it, too. But saying that someone wrote this movie is like saying we dropped bombs on Iraq yesterday. Sure, it happened, but at this point it just didn't make any difference. Strap yourselves in, folks. It's going to be a bumpy, vomitous, poorly lit, ill-conceived ride.
Rowdy teens at an amusement attraction? Well, I never!
Since there is really no plot that requires any sort of background, the first portion of "Asylum of Terror" is entirely dedicated to introducing the multitude of characters. And by "introducing" I mean "putting on screen." I can't say there is any real character development, which is okay, since half the characters don't have names and even the ones that do don't matter. You see, something that needs to be established early on is that this movie has absolutely no point. There is no story, and all of this is leading up to something which is only considered an ending by legal standards in twenty-eight states. None of the characters become particularly important or endearing. Some of them just disappear altogether and George Demick hopes we just forget about them. Most of the rest follow the same gripping character arc, as they all undergo the same remarkable catharsis from alive to dead. Beyond that, they're interchangeable. Whenever there is any attempt at dialogue that, to give George Demick the benefit of the doubt, might possibly be designed give any of the characters background, it is lost to the movie's hideous sound problems. So like I was saying, this portion of the film is all about introducing the characters, who are split into a several groups.
The first group is the rowdy teens. We find two of them making out in a car, but just before we can make any sort of educated guesses about which one is the guy and which one is the girl, they are rudely interrupted by three of their rowdy teenage friends. The five of them get in line for the Death Row haunted prison. They soon strike up a conversation with the guy ahead of them in line, a haunted house enthusiast who enjoys going through alone because he thinks its scarier, and probably also because he hasn't had a friend since his imaginary friend dumped him for someone with better prospects. The guy says he likes to imagine that a serial killer has gotten loose in the haunted house and that he could kill without being disturbed because everyone would think it's part of the show. In other words, the guy gives away the entire plot of the movie. He never appears in the movie again. If you bail out now, I won't blame you.
I hate this ham/kid. Admit it, so do you.
The second group is a fat, ugly woman and her two almost superhumanly irritating kids. The problem with kids in horror movies is that they typically live straight through to the end, meaning they can be annoying for as long as they want. Luckily, and greatly to this movie's credit, that is not entirely true here. Nonetheless, this trio is like a pack of chihuahuas dipped in lard. The mother yaps on and on about how, oh, she doesn't know if this haunted house is such a good idea. Meanwhile the little spiky-haired blonde kid makes some sort of random complaining sounds and the fat, doughy, glasses-wearing kid shouts about how he'll karate chop the monsters inside at the top of his lungs. At no point in this movie does the fat kid manage to make any single sound that fails to make the sound clip horribly. Even his labored attempts to breath clip. Eventually the mother decides that she'll let her kids go into the haunted house without her, because she's a big puss. She actually says, and I quote, "Oh, this isn't what a responsible parent would do," then does it anyway. Lady, I hate you and I hate your children.
The third group is comprised of two guys in their late twenties, one black and one white. Their job is to fulfill the much needed "drunken perverts trying to feel up teenage girls in the dark" quota that all haunted houses must fill before appearing in a movie. They also talk about how this prison used to house the criminally insane, thus providing much-needed background on the location. Really. None of this movie would make a lick of sense without that.
Gah! Gah! Get them away! And I don't much like the looks of that gangly thing in the background, either!
The fourth group is a couple of freakish mutants - a huge, hairy sasquatch of a man and a short, round pile of cookie batter shaped vaguely like a woman. I almost feel bad about making fun of the woman because she's blind, but hey, it's not like she's going to read this. Plus she's ugly and, if her dialogue is any indication, retarded. But then, if you're going by the audible dialogue, then every character in this thing is retarded. Come to think of it, that might explain a lot.
The next group is the employees. There is a core group of these fine individuals, but more keep popping up throughout the movie whenever something needs to happen, or when George Demick has already killed off an employee and needs someone to fill in, or just whenever. The main ones are Dean, who seems to be in charge, Chris, who is the grizzled fix-it guy, and Lisa, the new girl who is training to fill in for Dean. There are others, of course. Like the totally unexcited big guy, or the really excited little guy, or the enthusiastic girl with paint-splattered overalls who thinks she has all the great ideas to make the haunted house a million bajillion times better but is actually just an idiot.
Now that the main characters have all been established, the group is finally let into the prison. Upon entering, a middle-aged guy in a shitty devil costume makes a big show of telling them the rules of the haunted house: stay on the path, keep moving, don't touch the performers and they won't touch you, all that good stuff. The guy really hams it up, which is nice, since it's a change of pace to see someone actually performing in this movie. Sadly, due to the shitty sound quality, half of his performance is lost to clipping, and about a quarter of the rest is too quiet to be heard even with the speakers on full. But the twenty-five percent of this guy's performance that is actually audible and intelligible is solid gold! Well, not gold exactly, but at the very least aluminum, and compared to the rest of the actors in the movie, that's close enough to gold to make me happy. He'd actually be pretty amusing in person if I were actually going into a haunted house. Unfortunately, this is a movie, and that sort of thing just doesn't cut it.
Careful, he'll bite your ascot!
Sadly, the group quickly moves on past the devil guy and into the haunted house proper. The first room has a coffin in it with a shaking lid. Some doofus in a flamboyant vampire getup comes out of it and bares his fake fangs. No one is scared. Then the group comes up to a large room that has been turned into a dark maze. It's time for White Pervert and Black Pervert to make their moves by bumping into the girls in front of them and blatantly copping feels.Yay for them. Other than that, though, this scene is just five minutes of people stumbling around in the dark. As much fun as it is to go to haunted houses, and that's pretty debatable in itself, it's somehow incredibly boring to just watch people go through a haunted house, which is what this is. There aren't even any quality camera angles or anything to make this thing worth watching. It's seriously just footage of people walking around. How wonderful.
Big unexcited employee puts on his Jason mask and practices chopping at the air with a machete. A big hairy guy walks up to him, slaps him around a little, then steals his mask and machete. This is our killer, ladies and gentlemen. On IMDB, "Asylum of Terror" is summarized thusly:
Years ago a fire killed every patient at an old mental asylum, including a maniac who molested and murdered children. Decades later a company builds an amusement park over the old asylum, and the long dormant ghost of the maniac rises from his grave to pick up where he left off.
From this angle, the killer kind of looks like my old boss. Only, you know, more stabby.
I have no idea where these people got any of that. There is nothing to indicate that this guy is the ghost of anybody. In fact, that really wouldn't make any sense at all. Also, there is a scene which really makes it sound like he's actually very anti-child molesting, although that could just be a trick of the shitty audio. In any case, there is no indication in the movie that this guy is anything other than a former inmate of this prison who was transferred elsewhere and escaped. We hear something on the radio about an escaped mental patient who killed a bunch of people once and claimed horror movies made him do it. So whoopdeedo, we've got ourselves a killer. Yep, it's another horror movie-influenced loser who kills people completely indiscriminately and has no relation whatsoever to his victims. When will the people at York Entertainment realize that movies about killers who have nothing to do with their victims and victims who have no character development whatsoever are boring as hell? It didn't work for "Ax 'Em," why should it work here? Oh well.
The Random Killer puts on the Jason mask and goes to work on the employee with the machete. We see his shadow moving on the wall and occasionally some really fake blood spurts onto the wall. Since we can see the arm of the shadow moving, it is easy to observe that the slashes do not exactly match up with the really lame sound effects. In fact, there are about six more slash sounds than there are slashes. Nonetheless, the killer has to hit the employee like twenty times with the machete to kill him. This is a continuing problem throughout the movie. This killer, despite his large bodycount, is horribly inefficient on the short haul. Just a note.
Are you concerned that you may be a character trapped in a Tom Waits song? Be smart and learn the warning signs before it's too late. Also, it's too late. It has always been too late.
I'm haunted by a recurring vision of a skeleton flipping me off. To avoid seeing this terrifying image in bumper sticker form, I pay someone with a blank bumper to drive in front of me at all times.
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