Asylum – DVD Review

Available at

Oftentimes when claiming a DVD on our super secret staff forum, I’ll choose something completely unknown to me. In this digital age, spoilers are everywhere and previews often give away too many of a movie’s plot points.

As such I picked a film called Asylum. It could be a slasher movie about a mental hospital. It could be a political documentary about a Rushdie. It could star Sir Ian McKellen or a young and nubile Britt Ecklund.

The possibilities are endless. . . or at least they were until I started the movie and found out that it was an insipid knock off of A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. At least with a title like A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors you know exactly what you are getting.

Asylum tells the story of a girl named Madison who is going away to college. Years ago, her crazy father shot himself. One year ago, her crazy brother shot himself at this same college. She’s worried about going crazy and shooting herself. (M. Night Shyamalan would blame plants for all these deaths.)

As luck would have it, Madison’s new dormitory used to be an asylum run by a sadistic doctor 70 years ago. Half of the massive building houses what appears to be a grand total of 6 freshmen students, whose average age seems to be around 35. The youngest looking one is Zach from Desperate Housewives; the actor is about twenty and is playing 16.

After awkward introductions and poorly disguised expository backstory, we meet our soon to be dead “teens”. Our cast of characters is as follows:

Madison, of the aforementioned crazy family
Ivy, the slutty secret cutter
Maya, the Latina whose boyfriend used to beat her up
Holt, a former heroin addict whose negligence allowed a pool cover to kill his brother
String, a computer “hacker” and the kid from Desperate Housewives
and Tommy an obnoxious jock who used to be fat due to his mom’s force-feeding.

Anywho, despite rehabbing half the building the other half is still, inexplicably, set up as a 1930s asylum. All the furniture and accouterments are still there, and there are file folders full of inexplicably un-yellowed papers. For some reasons they just installed a security door to block off that section.

Naturally, String figures all this out and “hacks” through the security door. Subsequently, we go through the motions of Dead Teenager Movie number 6, wherein the more interesting and useful characters are killed off first.

Our villain is the evil doctor, who is able to invade dreams and whom brandishes his two lobotomizing ice-picks like claws. He uses the memories of the kids against them, and kills them off in “ironic” ways.

Stuntman/Director David R. Ellis (Snakes on a Plane, Final Destination 2) brings high production values to the project. As usual, however, he never stops to ask if anything happening in the film makes any sense whatsoever. Scenes are contrived, dialogue is forced, situations are unnatural, and little rings true. The plurality of these problems probably originate in the derivative and joyless script of Ethan Lawrence, whose other credits include things like an episode of She Spies.

All in all, this flick is only worth seeing if you are desperate to see the freakishly skinny naked body of Sarah Roemer of Disturbia fame.

The DVD has some weird shakes early on in the movie. It might be purposeful in order to create atmosphere. Other than that, nothing else seems broken.

We get special features like Scene Selection and Language Selection! Plus, when you put the movie in, you get to see trailers for other bad horror and horror-ish titles. You know like that one where Pacey takes pictures of Japanese ghosts?

This film does nothing to distinguish itself from any number of similar Dead Teenager Movies. If you must see a film wherein teens in an asylum are stalked by a supernatural killer who torments them in their dreams, rent A Nightmare on Elmstreet 3: Dream Warriors.


MGM presents Asylum. Directed by David R. Ellis. Starring Mark Rolston, Cody Kasch, Jake Muxworthy, Carolina Garcia, Sarah Roemer. Written by Ethan Lawrence. Running time: 93 minutes. Rated R. Released on DVD: July 15, 2008. Available at

Join our newsletter

never miss the latest news, reviews, live event coverage, audio podcasts, exclusive interviews and commentary for Movies, TV, Music, Sports, Comics, Video Games!