Movie Review: ASYLUM OF DARKNESS Is A Convoluted Tale Of Madness

April 12, 2017

Written by Capt McNeely

Georgia Division ZADF Twitter: @ZADF_ORG

Dwight Shroud has awakened to find himself in an asylum, but he doesn’t intend to stick around to find out how hospitable his hosts are. He is plagued by the horrific imagery that his madness projects upon everything and everyone he encounters during his confinement.
During a session, Dwight subdues his doctor and makes his escape. As he tries to put distance between the asylum and himself, Dwight attempts to flag down an approaching car. The driver swerves and crash the car, in a fiery wreck. As Dwight tries to pull the badly burned driver from the car, and during the brief encounter each man assumes the other’s consciousness.
Dwight begins to live under his newly assumed identity, but quickly learns that the madness which plagued his previous existence still remains.  Furthermore, supernatural forces existing in the world outside the asylum begin to amass and torment him. What possible fate could be in store for an insane man, bedeviled by the supernatural? Especially when his madness already intensely alters his perception of reality as it relates to his experiences and the people he encounters.
Jay Woelfel served as writer, director and even composer on Asylum of Darkness. The story he created seems as if it was a mix of a Twilight Zone or Outer Limits episode,  a David Lynch film (maybe Lost Highway) and any number of body swap movies (Vice Versa, Hot Chick, Freaky Friday, The Change Up, etc…) . Unfortunately the story isn’t very compelling or interesting, and never really had a hook that drew me in. What could have been an interesting premise becomes listless and struggles to gain any forward momentum. Frankly there was nothing scary or disturbing that had any instant impact or that would likely to stick with me after the fact.
This film has the exact cast and premise of a film of Woelfel’s from 2012 called Season of Darkness. Is this film a true remake, or is it the same movie that’s been dusted it off after 5 years, repackaged and given a slight title alteration. Having never seen Season of Darkness, I have no basis for an accurate comparison, just a sneaking suspicion.

The acting in the film was a bit lackluster, albeit serviceable, throughout. Nick Baldasare  needed to bring more madness to the role and a lot less melodrama, as his portrayal of Dwight Shroud would have been more appropriate for daytime drama. Amanda Howell as Ellen, Tim Thomerson as Det. Kesler and the late Richard Hatch as Dr. Shaker, all gave solid performances respectively, despite a few odd disingenuous or over exaggerated moments. I think Tiffany Shepis, as Hope, was a bit underutilized and there could have been a little more substance to her character. With the exception of Frank Jones Jr., many of the supporting  cast and extras looked as if they had been filmed during a walk through.

The practical effects are a bit underwhelming for the most part. In one instance, a series of stationary rubber masks are used during a transformation scene that ended up looking like an homage(probably an unintentional one) to 50’s B-Movie effects. Some of the special effects makeup applied to certain characters, had the appearance of stage makeup, and didn’t look very good on screen. Yet, there were some decently created practical gore applications and effects. It was primarily any creature oriented effects ( tendrils,  tentacles , etc…) that came off as kind of archaic in comparison to other modern practical effects I’ve seen being utilized…even in lower budget and independent productions. These effects mimicked ones previously seen in films like The Thing and Evil Dead, although not quite as effectively.
For being shot on 35mm film stock,  it looks surprisingly flat. There is a real lack of texture and depth to the images on the screen, which is unfortunate since the cinematography and editing were respectably done. Was this the result of the print being scanned to a digital format? I don’t think I’ve seen such a result before.
The use of music was problematic, as much of it seemed ill fitting, jarring and perhaps a little overbearing sometimes in relation to dialogue.  Granted some original music was well used, but the use of classical and orchestral pieces seemed very forced. It might have been better if Woelfel had composed his own score for the entire film.; something subtle, sinister and macabre looming in the background, not audibly lording over he film.
Asylum of Darkness  felt more like it was supposed to be a creature feature than something truly surreal and supernatural, but even in that regard it was sub-par. And for a movie with asylum in the title, I was expecting the better portion of the movie to be set in an asylum. I didn’t find any profound message about madness or mortality, rather it came across as rather convoluted and contrived. It is available now on VOD should any of my Little Monsters wish to take a chance on it.  Caveat emptor 4½ /10

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