Director: Richard Friedman
Screenplay: Richard Friedman, Rick Marx, Steve Menkin
Starring: Kristin Davis, Patty Mullen, Ruth Collins, William Hay, Michael Rogan
Duration: 79 min
BBFC Certification: 18
We’re all familiar with the phrase “so bad its good”, especially when it’s applied to films. As a fan of genre films, it’s a phrase I have used a lot. Many of the horror, martial arts and sci-fi films I have seen over the years have been low budget affairs – some have been classics, some have been flat out awful, but a lot of my favourites are the ones where the filmmakers’ ineptitude leads to a thoroughly entertaining experience. Doom Asylum, released in 1987, is such a film that I had never heard of until recently, but one I wished I had discovered earlier.
Doom Asylum begins with attorney Mitch Hansen (played by Michael Rogan) cruising down the road in his convertible sports car having just won $5million in a courtroom scam. Accompanying him is girlfriend Judy (Patty Mullen), swigging champagne and draping herself all over him. Finding himself distracted, Mitch takes his eyes of the road leading to a head on collision with a van throwing them both from the car.
Cutting to a coroner’s office, we find a doctor and his intern begin an autopsy on Mitch’s body. Having sliced into the body, it begins to twitch, scaring the intern with the doctor laughing it off as part of the decomposition process. However, he is proved wrong as Mitch, badly scarred, rises from the slab and demands to know where Judy is. Upon receiving the tragic news that she is dead, Mitch grabs a scalpel, stabs the intern to death before turning on the doctor.
Ten years later, Judy’s daughter, Kiki (also played by Patty Mullen) and her friends stop by the site of the accident to pay their respects. For some bizarre reason, from this point Kiki now decides to call her boyfriend Mom for the remainder of the film. The gang then drive off to an abandoned asylum for a day of sunbathing, beer and food. When they arrive, an all-girl noise rock trio is rehearsing and soon conflict rises between the two groups. Unbeknownst to them all, Mitch now lives in the asylum and plans to rid himself of his unwelcome visitors.
Doom Asylum is a very formulaic slasher film with each of the characters splitting off one by one from the main group to enter the asylum and get slaughtered by the wise cracking killer (a la Freddy Krueger). However, unlike most slasher films, this one doesn’t take itself seriously. The acting in the main is pretty lousy – ranging from wooden (William Hay) to ridiculously over the top (Ruth Collins) and you also get Sex and the City actress Kristin Davis’ first role, in which she spends the majority of the runtime looking incredibly uncomfortable in a very ‘80s swimsuit. The special effects, however, are pretty impressive, especially for such a low budget film.
This is one of those films where the poorly written script is full of plot holes and has the characters acting in nonsensical ways. For example, not a single character runs away from the killer, just standing a long distance away waiting for him to approach them very slowly. Also, the scene where Mike is being dangled off the roof by his assailant and his friends don’t seem in the least bit bothered – perhaps it’s because of the safety harness we can quite clearly see him wearing?
The characterisation is borderline offensive by today’s standards – the token black dude is far beyond clichéd and when he is killed, the killer proclaims “I hate rap music” for no apparent reason other than his victim is black. The nerd of the group is portrayed as excessively obsessed with his baseball cards, doesn’t make eye contact and interacts poorly with the others, all for comedic purposes – this made me uncomfortable as today he would be clearly identified as being on the autistic spectrum.
All that being said, none of the above distracted me from enjoying the film. I even liked the use of inserts from old Todd Slaughter films that were obviously used to pad out the film’s running time.
Arrow Video have done an excellent job of restoring the picture to a high quality and present the film in 2 aspect ratios – 1.33:1 as it was released on VHS and the director of photography’s originally intended 1.85:1. With regards to the audio, I found it a little disappointing and at times somewhat muffled.
If, like me, you are a fan of the slasher genre I would recommend Doom Asylum. Yes, it is a ludicrous piece of filmmaking – campy as hell and makes absolutely no sense – but ultimately completely entertaining. Definitely one to watch with friends over a few beers.
Doom Asylum is released on Blu-ray by Arrow Video and includes among the extras:
• 1.85:1 and 1.33:1 versions of the feature
• Brand new audio commentary with screenwriter Rick Marx
• Brand new audio commentary with The Hysteria Continues
• Tina’s Terror – a brand new interview with actress Ruth Collins
• Movie Madhouse – a brand new interview with director of photography Larry Revene
• Morgues & Mayhem – a brand new interview with special make-up effects creator Vincent J. Guastini
• Archival Interviews with producer Alexander W. Kogan, Jr., director Richard Friedman and production manager Bill Tasgal
• Still Gallery