Reel Advice from the Video Store Guy
By Steve Anderson
March 1st, 2015

Asylum of the Dead

Asylum of the Dead
Directed by Michael Rooker
Written by Joe Nelms, Sue Bailey
Starring: Michael Rooker, Beverly Mitchell, Haylie Duff
80 mins

I've always been fond of the ghost story, but this one is stretching my limits. Today I'm talking "Asylum of the Dead," and this one will try to put on a good scary ghost hunting time, but it will ultimately fall flat on several fronts.

"Asylum of the Dead" takes us to Pennhurst Psychiatric Hospital, a place that's well known for--as many abandoned insane asylums are--the sheer amount of paranormal activity going on in the joint. A group of high schoolers have wandered into the building ahead of its imminent renovation into a theme park, according to reports, and thus have decided for what may be one last walkaround. The high schoolers then start telling the story of a team of paranormal researchers from a television show who were last there, until the story starts to involve them just a little more than they might like.

The first five minutes were a riot of unintentional comedy, as I found myself screaming "Kenny!" over Mrs. McCormick's calls for "Kyle." In fact, a good portion of this movie might well be called "unintentional comedy" as we're treated to such wonderful gags as "let's pretend this thing's actually alive to freak out the girls", "why does a channel about travel have shows about ghosts on it anyway?" and my personal favorite "hey let's (inaudible dialogue) and then (inaudible dialogue) while we (inaudible dialogue)!" Seriously, the sound cut out on this thing at least twice in the first fifteen minutes alone, and frankly, when even the subtitles trail off, I know there's a problem here.

A bigger problem was the jump from the high school kids to the ghost hunting team without much of a bridge. The effect is jarring and disjointed. The effects, meanwhile, are little help, as a ghost writing on a couch looks sad to say the least. For the most part, however--leaving aside the array of unintentional laughs--the movie itself is reasonable if lacking in distinction. This is nothing to write home about, and even the good parts will be less good than they will be hilarious for all the wrong reasons.

Even the ending is a shot of the weakest sauce, with the authorities finding something unexpected at the end of the proceedings that has a quick connection to the high school set.

Special features, meanwhile, are limited to audio options and English subtitles. Sad, but if you're going to have any special features at all, those are really the ones to have.

"Asylum of the Dead" routinely falls flat, and while its sheer devotion to the plot and reasonable set of scares--which trend more to the mindfuck school of scares than anything else--give it a little bit of spice, the rest of the proceedings are blandly familiar, and ultimately, fail to appetize on most every front.