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The limitations of low-budget indie films often render a viewer’s expectations of the movie, predisposing them to less than favorable opinions. Admittedly, many of these films deserve the criticism, with poor direction and acting reducing familiar stories to Z-grade trash, often trying to piggyback on a big budget title. However, there are many experimental filmmakers working in the genre that are pushing themes and concepts to places most large studio-backed films won’t go. With Asylum Of Darkness, the budget is low, certainly, but the story is the thing, and given the chance, this is a smart, genuinely challenging bit of psychological chill well worth a look.
Dwight (Nick Baldasare) is a patient at a mental institution with visions of a world that would seem fitting for such a situation. All around him are horrors that he recognizes as being triggers for insanity but seems aware that they are. He is in the care of Dr. Shaker (Richard Hatch), who for Dwight, is a ghastly undead-looking man with rotting flesh. His best friend is Van Gogh (Frank Jones Jr.), a painter who sees darkness in his own work, so much so that he has stabbed out one of his eyes in hopes it would stop the terrors. Dwight longs to escape, yet when he does, things become even more so troubling, a world in more chaos than what he sees within the walls of his cell.
Written and directed by Jay Woelfel, Asylum Of Darkness is a demented odyssey of sorts that while restricted by its budget and some flat acting moments, is nonetheless, a compelling bit of horror drawing upon the genre-defining films of the 80s and early 90s, employing graphic practical effects to create grotesque creatures and bloody mayhem. Fans of that or not, and whether convincing or not, the more effective side of the film is its twisted story, which is the real hook, even if it runs a bit longer than it should. Woelfel, who has been doing this since the late 1980s, invests a lot of the runtime into setting up one path and veering it into another, which involves numerous dream sequences and jump scares that layer in plenty of symbolism and metaphor with Dwight’s twisted visions.
Baldasare, who is in nearly every scene, does well enough, narrating and offering hinting exposition as we go, but it’s the supporting cast, including Amanda Howell, playing Dwight’s wife in a round about way and veteran film and television actor Tim Thomerson as a dogged detective who offer the most fun. Well, that is, aside from the creepy lo-tech visuals and clever story, both of which are the real reason to stay with this.
With a mix of heavy, purposefully trope-ish music (composed by Woelfel) and public domain classics, Asylum of Darkness is a film that, beneath its B-movie horror exterior lies a highly-satisfying tale of breakdown and damnation that despite its gore, is open for plenty of interpretation. Available now on VOD.
Movie description: Asylum Of Darkness is a 2017 graphic horror film about a man who escapes from a mental hospital only to find the outside much worse than the inside.
Director(s): Jay Woelfel
Actor(s): Nick Baldasare, Richard Hatch, Amanda Howell