Netflix Find: Asylum

In this new feature of the blog, I’ll post each week about a film or television series I’ve found digging through Netflix that, for one reason or another, is worth watching.  Posts are based upon the Netflix Canada library; the odd title may not be available in the States.

Several months ago, having neither cable nor the ambition or time to rent/see movies in the theatre (and castrated by Hulu’s ‘US only’ bullshit), fiance and I subscribed to Netflix.  In Canada, Netflix is still getting properly off the ground, mainly due to laws being far more restrictive this side of the border in terms of negotiating rights to stream material.  At this point, I’d say it’s two-thirds of the way there:  there’s a lot of mainstream material now, but it’s still lacking brand-new releases by many distributors, and also, their recent removal of A&E material annoys me.

Netflix is kinda like a pop culture dumpster dive:  you reach in, dig around, and hope beneath the trash and stained carpets, there’s a cute antique chair that will look great in your living room.

Starting today, and posting at least once weekly, I’ll be directing your attention towards my personal finds.  I’m ballsy:  I load up movies I’ve never heard of with casts of unknowns and see if it wows me.  I ‘dumpster dive’ often at Netflix.  Sometimes, I find horrid movies, but frequently, I find the diamonds in the rough.

Asylum

Genre:  Horror/Thriller
Rating:  4/5 Stars
Recommended To:  Horror afficionados; fans of Nightmare On Elm Street 3; anyone with an appreciation for B+ grade horror.
Special Warnings: trigger alert for self-injury, suicide

I trolled up Asylum by cruising what was new on Netflix a few weeks ago, and bookmarked it to watch later.  It caught my attention for two reasons:  1) it was made by some of the personnel of Final Destination 2, and 2)  I am currently writing a novel set in a school built over an asylum, and figured it inspirational.

Now, before I begin my review, let me stress this:  horror is a tricky genre.  If you are not a genuine fan of it and all its sub-genres (slasher, suspense, paranormal, cheesy/B-grade, grindhouse-y goodness), you likely walk into such films ranking them all against, say, Silence of the Lambs or Seven.  This is unfair:  you can’t rank critic-appealing flicks against those made for the love of blood and scares.  Asylum isn’t meant to be a deep and psychologically challenging film; it’s meant to be a wild ride of gore and, for the afficionados, a night of laughs with friends similar to the spoofing done in the Scream franchise.  If you walk in expecting this sort of film, you will not be disappointed.

This film is essentially a mash-up of Nightmare On Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors, A Haunting In Connecticut, House On Haunted Hill and a dash of Pulse. Madison moves into rez at Richard Miller University, traumatized by watching her daddy blow his head off as a child and her brother following suit one year ago. Right away, she meets a bad boy that you know will be her love interest, and a collection of fellow dormies (love the convenient mix of males and females on the same floor, by the way). They kick back with booze, learn the 16 year-old super nerd is a hacker and – oh yeah! – their dorm used to be an asylum where the doctor tortured the patients, and they eventually killed him in revenge.

Guess what they do next? They go looking through the abandoned asylum-y parts, of course! Yeah, it’s cliche, but I’ve seen far worse. And of course, this unleashes the happy Doctor Krueger upon them.

The set-up is a little slow (twenty minutes plus) but once the tipsy teens break into the restricted construction zone once housing the offices of our merry Doctor, the spooks, scares and slaughter comes fast and furious.  It’s very Nightmare On Elm Street 3 so if you know that film, you can guess at the horrors awaiting these latest ‘patients’.  I particularly enjoyed Mark Rolston as Doctor Burke:  he slays, quips and mocks his victims in Robert Englund form, and makes the blatant homage a delight.

Look: if you genuinely enjoy horror, whether it makes you spooked or just amused, this flick is well worth the time over a bottle of wine/several beers. The death scenes are gruesome fun, the good doctor has some cool tools, and the slaughter comes pretty fast and furious in the back half. There’s no twists to shock you; it’s formula and straight up. But if taken as a fun homage to Freddy with a few modern twists, Asylum is a solid movie. If, however, you only like intellectually stimulating horror/thrillers, and can’t separate in your head the difference in the bar set by those flicks versus standard slashers, skip this. You can’t compare Hannibals to Hostels, so don’t bother.

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