Having never been in a high security mental institution I can only imagine what the interaction between cook and patient really is. I keep thinking of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest… Nurse Ratchet. McMurphy. Chief. It would seem to me it’s a rather humorous place to be if you just take the Ken Kesey angle (until Billy kills himself… then it’s no fun for anyone). Maybe the institution of Asylum Blackout is more like Arkham Asylum from the world of Batman. Dark. Demented. The patients ready to get out and exact revenge, insanely, on a staff that cared too little. Mostly I think of the thorazine shuffle. I think of heavily medicated folks drooling on themselves meandering about their padded cell. With that in mind, when I tell you that Asylum Blackout didn’t quite do it for me, it’s not for the lack of effort of the cast or crew. It’s just not believable to me and it’s not crazy enough to titillate my chaos nerve. We’re not talking about the Dead Pit, but if you’re looking for Batman Begins and the Scarecrow this might not be for you.
The whole thing is about a group of mental patients who takeover the asylum during a power outage (that would be the blackout) during a violent thunderstorm. It’s up to the kitchen staff of this institution to survive until the power can be rested from the lunatics who are stalking the staff. It’s not the first time in cinematic or horror fiction history that the lunatics have run the asylum. You can go back to Edgar Allen Poe or even Tales from the Crypt (comic or Amicus movie) for some earlier examples. I’ve already told you that it didn’t feel real to me, but it wasn’t all bad.
Some of the torture/murder sequences are quite graphic with edgy screaming that actually did have me unnerved. I had to turn down the volume a few times to prevent my wife from waking up; I wonder if she had strange nightmares? If there was a time during this film that I felt most aware of the chaos it was at these key moments. If you plan on watching Asylum Blackout keep an eye out for these sequences. There’s even a use of the infamous Wilhelm Scream. You know, the infamous scream for Star Wars. Using this scream in a serious horror film always leaves me raw and destroys any realism or tension. Poor choice Alexandre Courtes.
There’s a late 70’s/early 80’s shooting style and cinematographic feel to this puppy. It’s not as obvious as say The Sleeper or other retro-ilk, but it’s got a score that had me thinking “older”. There’s a graininess at times (which could just be the transfer I watched) that wasn’t Grindhouse, but it did offer a stylistic shot in the arm to the film that kept me watching. It’s not uncommon to get a review copy of a film that might not be up to distro quality (to prevent you naughty pirates from having a good copy). We’ll have to wait for the full release to see.
The cast is a battle tested. These aren’t A-listers or B-listers, but definitely a few C’s. Dave Legano has shown up in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, Snatch… even Batman Begins. Rupert Evans was in Hellboy and Agora. Anna Skellern was in Siren and the Descent 2 (which I still haven’t seen). The acting is quite good. I feel that they uphold the suspension of disbelief quite nicely save for some dialogue snafus that are clearly not the fault of the actors. As I said before, this film doesn’t do it for me, not because the acting let me down, but because it didn’t build that sense of madness that an asylum should inspire.
I urge you to check this one out for yourself. This is one of those “it’s not you, it’s me” movies. While it didn’t pull on my heart strings or maybe I should say nerve endings, it has merit. It’s dark, foreboding… like a dog on the prowl. You might find that the violent moments, the lunatics and in fact the asylum itself does make you feel a bit mad. You can enjoy IFC Midnight’s newest offering:
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