From Wild Eye Releasing comes award-winning filmmaker Jay Woelfel’s supernatural horror feature Asylum of Darkness, a stirring cocktail of supernatural suspense and goosebump-inducing horror features a superlative cast of sci-fi and horror icons including Golden Globe nominee Richard Hatch (Battlestar Galactica), in one of his final film appearances.
After awakening in a mental asylum, patient Dwight Stroud (Nick Baldasare) plans his escape to freedom from his captors, Dr. Shaker (Golden Globe Winner Richard Hatch of Battlestar Galactica) and Hope, (Tiffany Shepis of SyFy’s 12 Monkeys, Tromeo and Juliet, Tales of Halloween). With his friend Van Gogh (Frank Jones Jr.), theyfight off supernatural forces in both the real world– and some that may only live inside his head. Once on the outside, he learns that the life awaiting him with his supposed wife, Ellen (Amanda Howell), is more twisted and dangerous than anything he could conjure in his head, forcing him to call upon Detective Kesler, (Tim Thomerson from Trancers, Near Dark, Nemesis) to help him try to piece together the secret of his past… one that is luring him back to the asylum forever.
For the most part, there’s not a whole lot to like with Asylum of Darkness. One of the strongest aspects is a really impressive, and somewhat disorienting, atmosphere that’s engaging and appealing. A majority of the first half has the ability to make it nearly impossible to tell what’s going on. The atmosphere found within this section of whether or not he’s really going through the insanity of the situation, with weird visions of people and distorted faces following his dreams, gives the film quite an odd start. Also, the rather odd manner in which this is jokingly referred to as a normal situation by the staff, despite the obvious discomfort of the visions, makes for an odd and chilling setup here. A few action scenes here aren’t that bad, and the gore and makeup effects for the creatures are pretty decent as well.
However, none of these factors can overcome the fact that there’s just no rhyme or reason for anything that transpires here. It just seemingly goes from one chaotic and seemingly unconnected sequence to another, that all supposedly feature his deteriorating mental state– yet nothing is really done about making sure it all relates to everything. Since he’s insane and supposedly living in a different person’s life, it is no excuse for why nothing here makes sense. Why does he go from being in the asylum and being treated, to suddenly living in a relationship with his wife, despite being two different people? None of this is explained. As for why they believe he’s the dead person and is able to suddenly become a different person: the flimsy nature that occurs here is begging for more of an explanation, yet it never occurs.
Likewise, the fact that the film is bland and lifeless doesn’t really do it many favors either. It takes far too long to get the switch going and features way too much down-time to really be of much interest. The endless scenes of him at the book-signing, trying to appeal to his wife’s good side to get her to trust him following the behavior switch, makes this one so dreary and dull that it sloughs along at a bland clip. And with a nearly two-hour running time, it really could’ve been put to far better use moving the pacing and tempo of this one along. These two issues here are in fact so crippling, that they manage to overcome much of what good this film accomplishes.
Written and directed by Jay Woelfel (Season of Darkness, Trancers 6), the film premiereed on VOD April 11th 2017.
2/5 Zombie Heads