Doom Asylum (1987)

Doom Asylum

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Attorney Mitch Hanson and his recently rich client/fiance, Judy LaRue are planning an expensive getaway after her successful windfall. But on the way to paradise, Mitch gets too handsy with his lady love and, unable to keep his damn eyes on the road, he subsequently crashes into an oncoming van. The crash kills Judy, and Mitch himself ends up on the autopsy table. Only problem is, though Mitch is horribly disfigured from the crash, he actually isn’t dead. Enraged by his fate and the death of his betrothed, Mitch kills both the medical examiners as they stare at him in awe.

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Boy, are you guys bad at your jobs or what?

Ten years later and the hospital where Mitch was taken to has since been abandoned. There are rumors of hauntings circulating about the now decrepit structure, but those stories only seem to spur Judy’s teen daughter Kiki and her friends to visit the site. The friends decide to hold a little picnic on the grounds while an underground punk band practices inside. But what neither group knows is that while the building may not be haunted by ghosts, Hanson is very much still present and roaming around the property, and he doesn’t like his solitude being interrupted by a bunch of noisy intruders.

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I’m not really sure what to make of this film, quite honestly. Even after having watched it, I’m not really sure where to place Doom Asylum. It’s the type of film that could either be described as cheap, outright crap, or an intentional slasher spoof. Or maybe it was going for an intentionally crappy spoof? Whatever the case may be, it’s not very good. But it’s also a movie that clearly knows it’s not very good, so most of its awfulness doesn’t feel so bad.

But it’s still a mess.

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The movie is basically the bottom of the barrel as far as plot goes. There is a lame backstory, there are a handful of very dumb kids, some of them wear very skimpy outfits/swimsuits, there is a killer, and there is a plethora a sharp, pointy instruments at his disposal. As far as slashers go, it covers the very barest of bare minimums, but don’t go in expecting any more than that, because if you stop to think about this film for more than two seconds you’re going to be very confused. The kid’s motivation for going to the hospital? Non-existent. The killer’s motivation? Also non-existent. Hell, we aren’t even given a reason for the hospital closing. We’re just told that it did. But based on how the killer ended up on the doctor’s slab despite actually being alive, I think it’s safe to assume that the entire staff quit and fled in shame for making the horrendously inexcusable error of mistaking a living human for a dead one.

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And don’t even get me started on the many continuity errors. Characters break things, only to have them return to normal a couple seconds later, and then be broken again the next. Blood splatters disappear and reappear again. And victims claim they’re lost and trapped, all while running past clearly open doors to the outside. But the worst one likely has to do with the killer himself. Right after he crashes the car we see him lying on the ground with a little bit of blood and dirt smeared on him, but otherwise fine. But by the time he ends up on the coroner’s table his face is burnt and cut, he’s missing large pieces of flesh from his face and hands and a whole chunk of his skull seems to have gone missing. Like, what the hell happened to him between the crash and the hospital? Did the car explode? Did the EMT’s drop him into a blender? Is that why the hospital suddenly closed? Bad enough they almost autopsied a living human, but they didn’t want anyone to know they’d dropped him down three flights of stairs too?

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Seriously, what the hell?

The effects are about as cheesy as you would expect. While there is quite a bit of blood and gore, there is almost zero production value behind these things. Hell, the blood doesn’t even look that convincing. One character somehow gets turned into a cube of meat, another morphs into a replica head before getting her face sliced…. It’s just awful. And the deaths themselves are often as equally cheesy as the effects, thanks to the killer’s attempt at witty commentary. He’s trying to be all Freddy Kruger about it, but they end up sounding more like extra lame dad jokes. And even the victims spout a few death-knell one-liners, making their demise extra cheesy. I can’t think of another death scene in a slasher that references both Nancy Reagan AND the movie Airplane!. And unless you’re the type who likes terrible, unfunny puns, I think that’s for the best.

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Oh shit. Looks like the jokes were so bad her weave unwove and made a break for it.

The dialogue and acting is about on par with what you would expect from a film as silly as this. And by that, I mean it’s all pretty terrible. But in the actor’s defense, most of their terrible acting and lines are due to their terrible characterization, which is clearly intentional, and thus intentionally bad, so I tried not to at least hold that against them. They did the best they could with the crap they were given. The fact that they’re all blatant cliches was not their fault. The band-mates range from lovelorn romantic, to Marxist, to classic mean girl who’s constantly breaking out into her “evil laugh”. One nerdy guy spends his time obsessing over his handful of baseball cards. Another can’t make up his damn mind and is constantly waffling on making even the simplest of statements. One is obnoxious and sex starved (an insurmountably woeful combination.) The “Final Girl” is your stereotypical ditzy blond, and her best friend (Kristen Davis of Sex in the City fame in her first film role) is a psychology major who spends her picnic time using big words, while reading Sigmund Freud’s “The Interpretation of Dreams” and wearing a swimsuit (I wonder what Sigmund would have to say about that combination). So the whole cast of characters is just a smorgasbord of tropes and appropriately tropey dialogue that you’ll either find painfully hysterical or painfully bad. Take your pick.

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The one thing the movie has going for it is it’s absolutely perfect location and suspiciously effective atmosphere. The movie was filmed at the Essex Mountain Sanatorium in Verona, New Jersey, which by that point had officially been closed for ten years and abandoned for five. Walls are crumbling, windows are broken, leftover furniture and fixtures are degraded and rusty. They pretty much picked the perfect spot to film the movie. And because the location was genuinely abandoned by the world, the film also manages to pick up parts of that real-life, dreamlike quality that all truly abandoned buildings have. It’s not perfect and the film can’t maintain it for long stretches of time, but it is sprinkled throughout the entire movie. And hell, if you don’t like that, then you can focus on the other thing sprinkled throughout the movie: all the humorous, real-life graffiti. There’s everything here from band names, to slogans, to crass language, to snarky sayings. While 90% of the movie might be painfully unfunny, I must admit I had a ball reading everything going on in the background. It was oftentimes far more entertaining than anything going on in the movie itself.

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I guess they weren’t big Led Zeppelin fans.

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Come on dude, tell me how you really feel about religion.

Doom Asylum is just a mess of a film. The effects are sub-par, the dialogue is dumb (and in some cases offensive, thanks to a couple uses of homophobic slurs), the characters are dumber, and plot is non-existent. But at the same time, most of the film flaws are wholly intentional, which takes out some of the sting. But only some. Because while the film does know it’s being stupid, it also thinks it’s funny which, sadly, most of the time it is not. There is quite a bit of black humor in it, and shockingly some of it actually works, like the scene where the lost survivors find themselves in the chapel and pray for their dead friends. But for the most part much of the film’s humor comes from it’s ineptitude, rather than anything they were intentionally trying to do. Which is fine, because the film still ends up being funny and I’m not gonna rag on it too much, even if they ultimately ended up succeeding in their failure. In the end, it made me laugh, so I’m going to declare it a successful crappy B-film, and give it the giant “You Tried” sticker it deserves. If you can appreciate low budget spoofs or just like to laugh at goofs and weirdness, then go grab some popcorn and give this one a whirl. You won’t be disappointed.

Doom Asylum is available on a variety of streaming services, including free on Tubi TV.

It is also available on DVD and Bluray, thanks to our friends at Arrow Video.

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Michi

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