Review Date: February 24, 2007
Released by: Code Red
Release date: 1/9/2007
Region 0, NTSC
Full Screen 1.33:1
After going in The Forest
ÖAlone!, twice with Code Red (incurring emotional scares for both), I was ready for a little change. Doom Asylum
continues Code Redís dedication to low-rent American exploitation, but with the killer now uprooted from the woods and shacking up in an abandoned insane asylum, things should be different this time around, right? This little slasher flick was made in 1983, at the height of the video boom, but released in 1987, when the industry had bottomed out. It remains little seen, unless you live in Estevan, Saskatchewan, but Code Red is determined to carve this doomed direct-to-video flick a new audience. How bad will I suffer this time?
A rich, mulletted yuppie drives carelessly with his bombshell lover. The two laugh hysterically, like bad villains do, but theyíre quickly driven to tears when he loses control of his convertible and plays chicken with a semi-truck. He loses, and so does his ladyís hand, as his eviscerated lover dies in front of him. He too suffers deadly damage, as his body is badly burned to the point of looking like PIN
. Two coroners, looking at the man, spout off a few establishing facts before getting themselves killed. Yep, our yuppie, hereon dubbed The Corner (Michael Rogan
), lives, and he does what any (in)sane serial killer would do after starting a killing spree: Hides out in the asylum basement for ten years until his loverís illegitimate daughter decides to party at the now abandoned asylum with her friends. Naturally.
Apparently while living in the basement, The Corner spent time, unnoticed, watching bad black-and-white horror movies (of the Tod Slaughter type) and cutting out newspaper clippings saying how his loverís daughter inherited all his millions. Good thing he has the clipping though, because later on he will leave it in the grass for one of the characters to discover and make their climactic revelation. So here come five stereotypes in a convertible not much different than the one The Coroner originally died in (you know, budget concerns). We have the Penthouse Pet-looking blonde daughter (Penthouse Pet Patty Mullen
), her jocky boyfriend, a nerdy baseball card collector (of the Wizard Master type in Dream Warriors
), the wisecrackiní black sidekick, and the Freudian girl-in-glasses-but-really-the-directorís-alter-ego (a young Kristin Davis
). So this motley crew faces another, as an all-girl punk rock band already uses the asylum as their practice space. And of course, they will all end up facing the menace that is The Coroner.
Looking like PIN, spouting lines like Freddy Krueger, and with medical tool skills that rival Dr. Giggles, The Coroner is a Frankenstein patchwork of slasher all-stars. Showing his medical range, he kills by forceps, saw, drill and even cleaning solution. Whatta guy. He didnít vote for Reagan (kill reason four), doesnít like rap music (kill reason three), and sure as hell doesnít believe in psychoanalysis (kill reason eight). He does believe in love though, and throughout he tries to rekindle the relationship with his previous lover by trying to court her daughter. Will love find a way, or will The Coronerís stand-up act be doomed by the Final Girl?
After the unbelievably and inexplicably earnest ineptitude of The Forest
and Donít Go in the WoodsÖAlone!
, Doom Asylum
comes with its tongue welcomely placed through itís hollowed cheek. Like Return of the Living Dead
and other films of the post-slasher era, it embraces punk principles, both in the literal styles of its characters and in the way it eschews the pop of the genre prior. This is of a time where horror films stopped being scary, and so the makers happily laced the film with comedic excess and over-the-top gore. When a member of the punk band and the wisecrackiní black man become smitten with each other, what follows is not one, but two lengthy slow-motion montages where the two run in fields, ready for embrace. It is funny, but not as funny as when they both finally get their comeuppance for being horny caricatures, as The Coroner yells ďI hate rap music!Ē while ramming forceps into his temple.
For a low budget, direct-to-video flick, the gore is surprisingly first-rate. The skinless killer looks playfully morbid throughout, but his power tool deaths steal the show. The drill to the forehead, a long, excruciating take, holds its own against the similarly staged City of the Living Dead
. A saw to the face welds comparably gory results as well. A ďthis little piggyĒ toe tickle-gone-wrong is a little less realistic, but still a whole lot of fun. When gore isnít a-spilliní, the wilful overacting by all the cast keeps the dry bits just as amusing. Kristin Davis, as the slasher stalwart Freudian specialist, fares the best, proving here how she would later land the parts in such classics as The Shaggy Dog
and Deck the Halls
. Ruth Collins, a sort of low rent Linnea Quigley (herself a low rent Jamie Lee Curtis) is also a riot as the macho and aggressive punker with a laugh that could kill baby Jesus. This isnít just bad acting, this is a cast of good actors knowing that baaaaaaad performances are just that much more amusing.
If the performances arenít post-modern, then the intercutting of black-and-white footage sure is. Recycling the same short scene of The Coroner watching some bad punk video, the black-and-white films are consistently introduced as a sort of commentary on the previous or upcoming scene. After The Coroner grieves over his lost love, a black-and-white clip of two lovers spouting their eternal connection follows. This gimmick happens about ten times throughout the course of the picture. While obviously a way to pad the still-short 79-minute run-time, it ends up possessing a post-modern quality all its own. Who knew the early stages of post-modern discourse were shaped solely by time-constraints?
All things shred and done, Doom Asylum
is campy slasher goodness. It isnít so-bad-itís-good, since the makers clearly knew what they wanted with this jokey story and execution, itís moreÖso-intentionally-bad-itís- good. Thatís a whole helluva lot better than the so-bad-itís-causing-my- brain-to-rot-from-within-and-giving-me-the- impulse-to-eat-my-family-alive experience of Donít Go in the Woods
and The Forest
. I had some actual legitimate fun with this, this clearly being one of the better direct-to-video efforts that loaded mom and pop shops for all those eighties years.
Full frame as intended, this is back up to the surprisingly high quality standards Code Red set with their Donít Go in the Woods
transfer. Not a blemish to be found, aside from the intentionally ratty black-and-white inserts, this certainly doesnít look like a cheap direct-to-video effort. Color saturation is good, which can be observed from the vast palette of clothing all this walking eighties stereotypes sport throughout the movie. Thereís no bleeding (har har) of the reds as is per usual with direct to video stuff, and black levels are surprisingly strong as well. The transfer is interlace, which is a letdown considering the progressive full screen transfer of Woods
, but since this never played theatrically, interlace may be the only master available. Playback issues aside, this is a solid transfer that at the very least rivals the transfers of most direct to video crap made today.
The sound is mono, and the source is low budget, so you know what to expect. There isnít any hissing or distortion, which is good on Code Redís part. Unfortunately though, the sound design for the film is lacking in several sequences, with the scenes taking place in big asylum rooms hampered by low levels and distracting echoes. If you turn those parts up it doesnít matter too much, but still, the listening experience can be a tad uneven.
As per usual with Code Red, we get just the right assortment of video and audio extras to tide over the filmís fans. First is an 11-minute featurette with interviews with director Richard Friedman, producer Steve Menkin, and executive producer Alexander Kogan Jr.. Although there are the same jumps in audio and video quality from interview to interview that plagued The Forest
ís featurette, this one is at least a little more handsomely produced. Even with the audio discrepancies, there is a lot of interesting trivia here, with Kogan speaking more from the business side of things, and Friedman and Menkin talking more about production. They talk about their surprise at how the black-and-white footage, which Kogan tells us was culled together from old films in their library, ended up being praised by Variety. It is interesting to see the difference between cash commentary and artistic commentary, and at 11-minutes, this length is just right.
The next big extra is a commentary with Friedman and production manager Bill Tasgal. Both know what theyíve made is not high art, so they have a great time laughing through every line, boob and drop of blood. They spend a lot of time trying to remember everyone they worked with, and while in most circumstances that can get boring, these guys have such a joy for treading back their steps it is fun to go back with them. Much of the best points are made in the interviews, but there is still a lot of funny observations to be had throughout. Things veer a little to the perverted side after Tasgal makes his fiftieth breast comment, but hey, Iíve had friends whoíve said worse.
Code Redís standard trailer lot is expanded here, with about ten different trailers altogether. The problem is they are strung together one after the other, rather than menu-based like they were in their previous releases. Hopefully they get less lazy with their next assortment. Still, there are some really fun clips here, from Silent Scream
to The Dark Side
. Thereís finally a nice little easter egg with more interview footage of Richard Friedman quickly going over the rest of his film oeuvre for those of you who like ďFeaturesĒ.
ironically wonít make you crazy like Donít Go in the Woods
did, but it will surely entertain. Gory, campy, and infused with some post-modern smarts, it is a cut above the usual late-eighties slasher. So too is Code Redís treatment of the film, which comes with a clean new transfer, adequate sound, and a few worthy supplements. Even if you donít like direct to video horror, if you enjoy slashers with wit, then youíll be chomping at the bit for Doom Asylum
Movie - B-
Image Quality - A-
Sound - B-
Supplements - B+
- Running time - 1 hour 19 minutes
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- English mono
- Commentary with director Richard Friedman and production manager Bill Tasgal
- Interviews with Friedman, Tasgal and producer Alex Kogan Jr.
- Code Red trailers
- Easter egg