Friday, 4 September 2015



Teens are horrible, right? Sure they look hot with their shirts off, or parading around in jailbait bikinis or other midriff-baring ensembles, but they're stupid, foul-mouthed and shallow and they have no respect for anyone but themselves and their immediate cliques. The girls are all empty-headed wastes of space, the boys are all bullies and leering pervs, and they all want to drink themselves senseless, get meaninglessly laid, take tons of drugs and PARTY!!!!!! At least that's the way they seem in way too many horror movies: obnoxious, unthinking hedonists, bellowing idiots and so thuddingly tiresome that you're very quickly on the side of whatever demon, ghost or homicidal maniac is after them. (Sometimes a film like It Follows, or a frankly unremarkable movie like Ouija, shows up with actually likeable human beings as the lead characters, and you feel like cheering.)

Marcus Nispel already has form in this area: his remake / reboot / reimagining / whatever of Friday The 13th boasted such an array of unpleasant yahoos that you just got increasingly angry with Jason Voorhees for not sticking a machete in their hollow skulls a hell of a lot quicker. The Asylum continues the trend with a bunch of teenagers holding a PARTY!!!!!! in an abandoned asylum which was closed decades ago after serious cases of cruelty to children. Now it's being cleared out and renovated by the Church, but it'll be empty for the weekend so it's a great opportunity to have some illicit fun. But the morning after, when most of them have (mercifully) gone home, the last half dozen continue to hang out there - until a drunken levitation ritual goes badly wrong and one of their number is possessed by the angry spirit of a particularly abused and mistreated child....

From there, things go from bad to worse with the sudden arrival of a groundskeeper with a shotgun (he doesn't last long), a desperate stab at an exorcism, much running around the abandoned building, a session with a makeshift ouija board, gore, a twist ending that (surprise!) doesn't seem to make sense, and lots of shrieking, swearing and shouting. In truth, once the hordes of dumbass PARTY!!!!!! idiots have gone home to bed, the film does pick up noticeably, with better use of the location, occasional traces of knowing humour such as the DIY Exorcism website which is basically a Flash animation of highlights of The Exorcist, and the tedium of the first part of the film is replaced by a quiet satisfaction as the young whiners and blowhards get what's coming to them. Meanwhile a potential subplot about backmasking (hiding secret messages backwards in rock music) is mentioned once and then forgotten, which makes a nonsense of the original alternative title Backmask (which is emblazoned on the front of the DVD but appears nowhere on screen).

It's been said that "there's a lot of Shawshank before you get to the Redemption", and the deciding factor for that movie is whether you think the Redemption is worth all the Shawshank you have to get through. (Me, I absolutely think it is.) But in the case of The Asylum I don't think the relative pleasures of the less horrendous second half are really worth ploughing through the subhuman antics of the first. Occasionally quite nasty, impossible to care about and no significant improvement on Marcus Nispel's other horror offerings, but you've seen a lot worse and fairly low expectations will be more or less met.


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