Tales of nutters & nuthouses are part of the earliest history of cinema.
Such films have been with us from Maniac Chase (1904) at the dawn of movies & The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) in the great age of silent cinema, & throughout the sound era, whether artistic classic dramas like David & Lisa (1962) or The Three Faces of Eve (1957), to a plethora of schlocky microbudget horrors.
Edging toward the schlockiest category is Madhouse (2004). A young psyciatric physician (Joshua Leonard) scores a new job at a mental institution housing dangerous psychotics who are frankly abused by staff & physicians.
When the murders start piling up, there's every possibility of a supernatural agency acting upon the resident madmen, leading to all-out massacre.
So many films with exactly the same plot have been made that at first I wasn't sure I hadn't already seen Madhouse. But slowly I became convinced this one was new to me.
It has surprisingly good acting, especially with the unwholesome doctorly presence of Lance Hendriksen who I adore.
Excellent set design with atmospheric cinematography makes the institution truly creepy & largely disguises the B-budget.
The script needs only a little forgiveness for its unsurprising "surprise! look who's the real psycho!" or the plot loopholes. For ultimately it all builds to a totally effective exploitation-film pay-off.
Though it consists exclusively of standard ingredients, all of it was a lot more credibly orchestrated than the old-hat tale would seem to require. I was thoroughly entertained.
There's bad doings at the asylum for the criminally insane, in the British total shlocker Asylum Night (2004), where someone is feeding loonies to a vampire locked up in the basement.
A newspaper reporter, Ellen (Adrienne Carlyle), has a crazy brother Peter (Nicholas Levene) who had been locked up in the place, & never heard from again. She has gone undercover to investigate the place, & arrives in the guise of a new night nurse.
She immediately begins snooping where she shouldn't, discovers well over a hundred patience missing, & is eager to see what's behind the door to the forbidden Room Number 8.
When Ellen spies on the experiment done on a vampire-bitten loony to remove his heart, she's standing undetected in plain sight in the hall. Even when the bad guys walk out in the hall they don't see her, because she squats a little. The film cares not one whit about plausibility of any sort.
With a dash of humor & buckets of blood, it's soon vampire loonies versus the loonies who haven't yet been bitten running rampant through the asylum. In one part of the building there's a drunken party for staff & their family, so they get to be victims too.
Abysmal acting, bad staging, slow pacing, & bordering on the moronic, there are even so some fun moments if you're in the mood to search really hard or can appreciate the goofball quotient.
For instance, the basement behind the door marked as room number 8 is like a really badly done David Lynch Zone of surreality, odd lighting including a couple small votive candles, & mystical nonsense, but somewhat intriguing. Or, there are a couple scenes for startled Peter which manage to be comic-sinister. And the original vampire Stelinger (Fred Sandy) is withheld for a long while & when he finally shows up, he's a bit more interesting than most.
There's a "heroic" serial killer (David Horton) who saves Ellen & has himself a jolly time slaughtering his way through nutters of vampiric nutters. The eyeball torture or Dr. Leonard (Robert Cargill) by means of paper-cut was simple-gruesome-funny.
And if potty humor's your thing, there's a shit-eating nutter (George Nicolas) & lots of "you smell like shit" jokes.
Most winning of all is Nurse Caldwell (Michelle Esclapez) who becomes a disgustingly beautiful completely wacked out & perpetually aroused alpha vampire dominatrix. The rest of the primary cast is fair, but could all be replaced, but the film would never be the same without this one actress, as Esclapez threw herself into the screwy performance without restraint.
The film's too long & its jokes get tiresome before it's over, but it's nevertheless a good candidate for bad movie night.
Keep going, to the next Institute for the Insane:
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl