The Asylum Movie Review
Written by Joel Harley
DVD released by Studiocanal
Directed by Marcus Nispel
Written by Kirsten McCallion, Marcus Nispel
2015, 92 minutes, Rated 18 (UK)
DVD released on May 4th 2015
Stephen Lang as Father Conway
Brittany Curran as Reign
Gage Golightly as Amber
Brett Dier as Brad
What is it with partying teenagers and old disused mental asylums? The latest bunch of young thrill-seekers to mistake a run-down hospital for, say, Reflex (or wherever it is kids go these days) are the protagonists of The Asylum, taking off for an awful evening of boozing, drug-taking and demonic possession. Where all three will tend to leave one vomiting your guts up and acting like an imbecile, only the latter causes a bodycount as is incurred here. Not unless you happen to be a really surly drunk, anyway.
When one of their number is possessed by a vicious demon (the uninvited little brother, naturally) six young partygoers face the fight of their life – not only trying to cover up an increasing number of dead bodies, but also trying to find a workable exorcism ritual on YouTube. As the demon jumps from body to body (ala Fallen by way of The Evil Dead) things get ever worse, while the asylum's sinister history is gradually uncovered.
Helmed by Marcus Nispel, The Asylum is directed with the same slick yet gritty style as his Friday the 13th and Texas Chainsaw Massacre remakes (which I enjoyed, in spite of their bad reputation) handling the gore and action very well. The budget here is much lower than that of his previous films, but manages what it has to play with in a fun enough fashion. Nispel's practice in directing more action-orientated horror (plus Conan the Barbarian) serves him well, rarely letting up once it gets going. Stephen Lang is well-utilised in a small role as the resident priest, bringing a quiet yet formidable intensity to his every scene.
And the film needs it - for all its grit and gore, there's no hiding the fact that The Asylum works far better as an action film than it does horror. It's simply not scary, and the only real horror it does have is either a bit of gore or a cheap jump from out of the shadows. From its foul-mouthed demon to its searing violence, this is Nispel's version of The Evil Dead or Night of the Demons (the less-good remake with Edward Furlong), foregoing scares or atmosphere in favour of screeching teenagers and buckets of blood – but none of it so good that you'll remember it even a week later. There's some amusement to the botched exorcism scenes (think This is the End's possession of Jonah Hill) and the finale packs some punch, but there's a sad lack of originality which lingers throughout. A shame, since its hook is a good one: the demon is raised by the kids' playing a vintage record backwards, listening out for satanic verses. It certainly beats the clichéd old Ouija board anyway. More of that sort of thing, more Stephen Lang and less brainless screaming could have made The Asylum feel something more than utterly disposable.
The Asylum is one of the only films Nispel has directed that isn't a remake. Sadly, it really feels like one anyway.