Tuesday, 26 March 2013



I'm always amused by the credit "and introducing...." at the start of a film. Maybe they think that in sixty years' time it'll have the same cachet as an "and introducing Elizabeth Taylor" or an "and introducing Marlon Brando" in sixty years time: this is where the legend began. In the case of this unforgivably shoddy medical horror drivel its inclusion (for one Hannah Stansbridge) is a touch misplaced: for one thing it's the first or second credited appearance of more than half the cast (and in some cases the last or even only), according to the IMDb. For another, there are only two names on the whole roster that have any wide familiarity: co-writer/co-director Johannes Roberts, (this is also his introductory offering, but he did go on to the nifty though not entirely successful F and Storage 24), and everyone's favourite celebrity spoon molester Uri Geller. He's kept well away from the cutlery drawer here, cast for no reason as a police detective and shown entirely in close-up. Geller isn't an actor but he's better than any of the amdram thesping surrounding him.

On the surface Sanitarium is a fairly ordinary-looking medical horror-thriller (shot in Southampton) centred around the testing of exciting new psychiatric drug B-390. Mysteriously, the test group appear to be responding well, but the control group are ending up dead with strange parasites inside them. How could this be when they're not even taking the experimental drug? One of the doctors figures it out, but B-390 is set for a public launch anyway, even as the patients and doctors are dying messily and our hero is locked away in the rubber room. All this is relayed in flashbacks from his police interview twenty years into the future (which is initially unfathomable, since these include flashbacks to scenes he wasn't in, and the young Max looks and sounds absolutely nothing like the old Max), which were apparently shot afterwards and edited in to make the film less incomprehensible.

They don't work, of course: incomprehensibility isn't the main problem. Absurd character behaviour, total illogic (where are the police while all these corpses are piling up?), abysmal performances that barely qualify as speaking out loud, a profoundly irritating music score (Johannes Roberts again), rotten picture quality.... These are the factors that sink it, that make it a tiresome trudge. But the actual idea at the centre of the film does make a reasonable amount of sense, certainly enough for a microbudget quickie horror movie. Indeed, the idea of physical parasites feeding off human insanity, a mix of psychological and body horror, almost sounds like a concept for a Cronenberg film, but it's thrown away in the terrible acting and the sheer tedium of the thing. As close to unwatchable as you'll find.


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