A dangerous drive on a slippery road on a stormy night starts off Asylum Days (2001) with immediate tension. An obnoxious little girl (Kristina Malota) in the back seat refuses to settle down, demanding her daddy's, but not her mommy's attention. There's a sudden crash. The obnoxious child is the only survivor.
Such is the prologue. The obnoxious child grows up to be Laurie Cardell (Deborah Zoe), a Lindsey Lohan/Brittainy Spears type troubled actress, except not as good looking. She's working on a new film but is having a hard time because she's secretly suffering from flashbacks & the return of suppressed memories of her childhood years at St. Clair Aslyum.
Danny (Jason Widener) is obsessed with the actress. He's writing an unauthorized biographical screenplay, but needs to fill in the missing two years at St. Clair to tell Laurie's whole story. Of course he has no connections to filmmaking & the whole screenplay thing is as misguided as his obsession for the actress.
His criminally minded older brother Nathan (C. Thomas Howell, who once seemed likely to have a better acting career than this film indicates) decides to help his baby bro finish the research for the film, & then himself perhaps become a producer/director for the film. For delusionality he's a carbon copy of his younger brother; but for methodology he's a psycho.
His first method is to sneak onto Laurie's movie set & place a copy of the unfinished biopic script in her hand. When she won't read it, he goes ballistic, & comes up with a "better" plan.
He turns stalker, knifing Laurie's jogging buddy, & stuffing her in the trunk of his car. Dropping by to pick up Danny, they head off on a journey, Danny as yet unaware Laurie's in the trunk.
The police investigation of the knifing & kidnapping just marks time, never develops into much of a story, but I guess that's better than pretending (as so many horror films do) that police never show up when such things happen.
So new characters are rather belatedly introduced for some very lame police procedural scenes. Although they are slightly better actors than we've had so far, they nevertheless clutter up the film rather than keep it interesting or focused.
Nathan takes David & Laurie to the burnt ruins of St. Clair Asylum. Right away it seems likely that it was Laurie who was responsible for the place becoming a burnt-out ruin, given that even as an adult she has a little tic of playing with a lighter. But she has only the vaguest memory of what went on in the place.
Why St Clair Asylum is called an asylum instead of an orphange, & whether or not it was a mental institution for troubled children rather than just for kids without parents, the script itself seems uncertain.
The suspense of the brothers holding Laurie captive in the ruins totally fails, & the film seems to be losing what little momentum it had. The thin intrusions of the boring police subplot doesn't help. I'd've given up on the thing & watched something else, except for the slight intimations of the presence of a ghost child that tricked me into watching to the end.
Flashbacks of an evil nun passes for spice, & the nunsploitation fans will have fun with the last quarter-hour of the film. The long awaited "revelation" of how the orphanage burned down is just so not a revelation, & nothing effective ever does develop out of this assinine tale. And the climactic "Oh my god -- it's you!" is truly a Golden Turkey moment for thrillers.
[SPOILER ALERT!] The evil nun turns out not to have died in the fire. Laurie gets to have another go at her. Not until the nun's revealed does the film start to show some life. But an unthrilling amateur thriller, transformed for the last act into psycho horror, becomes only slightly less dull.
In the off-screen horrors that occur, there's a beheading & a be-legging which could've given this turd exploitation value at least, but nothing's on screen. Mind you, I'd rather have had a gripping story than gross gore, but this film nibbles at the edges of both, without achieving either. [END SPOILER ALERT]
The basement doesn't play a large part in Don't Look in the Basement (1973). It takes a long time for anyone to even know they're not supposed to look in it, although the minute they do find out, of course they look in it.
Even then nothing big happens, as most of the action, such as it is, takes place on the main floor. The original release title The Forgotten isn't any more apropos.
A beautiful young psychiatric nurse, Charlotte Beal (Rosie Holotik), comes to work in an asylum. She does not realize the woman doctor running the place is actually a patient who just naturally took over the joint when the real staff fell victims to the inmates. And it can be quite dangerous for any patient who tries to warn Charlotte the doctor's a phony.
The crazies are for the most part boring caricatures & the film has scarcely any merit, although there is a bit can be said in favor of William Bill McGhee's performance as Sam the ex-psycho turned sweet & simpleminded after his lobotomy. And crazy old Mrs. Callingham (Rhea MacAdams) who gets her tongue ripped out is a valiant figure in her own limited way.
[SPOILER ALERT!]As victims mount up, slow-to-catch-on Charlotte finally realizes "Doctor" Geraldine Masters (Anne MacAdams) is a psycho killer.
All hell breaks loose for the climax & the asylum's inmates unite to defeat Geraldine before Charlotte can be lobotomized. The ending is a big gore sequence in the asylum while Charlotte escapes across the countryside. [END SPOILER ALERT]
Sure, it's a bad picture, but peculiar enough to stand a little apart from most no-budget slashers with inmates running the asylum.
Continue to the next madhouse:
The Torture Dungeon of Dr. Tarr (1973)
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl