For decades, Pennhurst psychiatric hospital has been haunted by turbulent supernatural forces. When a television crew embarks on a mission to capture this paranormal activity, they discover something completely unexpected. As restless souls from their past torment the crew members, they fear for their lives as one by one they are gruesomely murdered. In a surprising revelation, they discover something more terrifying than ghosts is responsible.
The first thing that drew me to this film was that it was directed by Michael Rooker, but what really persuaded me to purchase the film was that it is set around one the most notoriously haunted buildings in America, Pennhurst psychiatric hospital. Just the lore that surrounds that building and it’s past is enough to create one frightening film.
From the beginning of the film, it kind of pokes fun at the television phenomenon that is known as the ghost hunting show. Every network has one nowadays it seems. I feel that it gave a bit of a comedic element. One complaint that I have is that the audio is a bit hard to hear unless you have it cranked up. It is shot in almost a “found footage” style making the audio less refined and more difficult to hear. In a way it kind of adds to the film though giving it that raw feel of really walking around Pennhurst with a group of “ghost hunters”.
What threw me off was seeing Beverly Mitchell’s name at the top of the cover. I remember her as sweet as apple pie, preacher’s daughter Lucy Camden from the 90’s family drama 7th Heaven. I was pleasantly surprised by her performance. She certainly has shed that squeaky clean image in Asylum of the Dead. I see a bright future for her in horror.
Haylie Duff’s performance was fantastic. She has really come a long way from the Napoleon Dynamite days. Her role could have gone one of two ways, great or horribly corny. She was far from corny, giving a believable performance. I look forward to seeing more from Duff in the horror genre.
The menacing character of “Dr. Death” was played by horror and film veteran, Michael Rooker. He brought elements of two of his most well known characters, Merle Dixon (The Walking Dead) and Henry (Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer). The witty dialogue that Dr. Death has with his victims is very reminiscent of lines we may have heard from Merle, but he was also quite cold and calculated like Henry. Rooker was genius, and no one can play a villain you love to hate, but end up kind of liking in the end quite like he can.
The ghostly sound effects were a little hokey, but I don’t feel that it took away from the film. To make up for the corny sound effects, the visual effects were really quite impressive for a straight to DVD film. I wouldn’t call Asylum of the Dead a splatter fest, but there were some pretty unique death scenes that called for some pretty unique effects and they were executed beautifully.
Not to give too much away, about midway through, there is a joke about the popular 90’s film The Sixth Sense. The ending to this film has a few similarities to the ending of that film. I’m not sure how to classify this film. It is a film about a haunting, but there are also elements of a slasher film. The best way I can describe this film is a cross of Friday the 13th and The Sixth Sense. Asylum of the Dead is appealing to fans of both the slasher and haunting sub-genres of horror.
The critics gave this film an average of about 3.5 stars. I disagree with them, I am going to give Asylum of the Dead a 6.5. The film was well written and offered an amazing cast, but it was a bit short and I feel they could have extended the film a bit more and incorporated a bit more. I do recommend this film to fans of indie style horror films and anyone looking for a horror film that hasn’t been done before. It is unlike any other haunting movie out there right now. The ending is quite a shocking plot twist, and I did not see it coming at all. This film does not have the same stereotypical, happy ending that many films like this have. I absolutely loved it.
I could not find an official trailer for Asylum of the Dead, so below is a short clip from the film.