Blu-ray Review: Doom Asylum

Nearly every movie about a horrific killer lurking and tracking down teenagers inside an abandoned insane asylum take place at night. The audience is always asking that one big question of the kids, “What were you thinking going in a strange building after dark?” There’s all those shadows, windowless rooms and rats roaming that space to make you wonder if these kids had a death wish and deserve to be picked off one by one. What were they thinking? Doom Asylum dared to break the teen body count formula with a simple change. What if they got killed while the sun was still up?

Mitch Hansen (Michael Rogen) is a hot shot divorce lawyer who hits the road with his client who has made a huge score against her ex-husband. They are celebrating because she’s also going to become his wife. As they drink champagne and make out, Mitch seems to forget that he’s driving a convertible down a country road. Very quickly this becomes an issue as they get into a terrible wreck. Mitch wakes up on an autopsy slab. He’s not happy that he was declared dead and takes it out on the coroner and his assistant. But you can’t blame the medical folks since he looks pretty gruesome with his skin peeled back on his face. After the mess in the medical facility, the place is shut down and Hansen becomes part of the urban myths in the area.

Decades later, two sets of teens show up at the abandoned asylum looking for fun in different ways. Tina (Dead Boyz Can’t Fly‘s Ruth Collins) and her punk band are using a space inside so they don’t have to worry about pesky neighbors complaining about their noise. But they can’t rehearse in peace as convertible of kids show up to hang out at the remote property. Judy (Frankenhooker‘s Patty Mullen and Jane (Sex and the City‘s Kristin Davis) But very quickly the kids individually learn that the story of the grotesque killer who was declared dead wasn’t another Bloody Mary myth. And unlike so many nightmare killers, this freak doesn’t need night to come out and terrorize teens.

Doom Asylum‘s daylight twist works so well since you’re not completely doubting why these are at the abandoned medical building. They’re teens looking for a place that’s grown up free so they can get their kicks. Little do they know that the one adult in the immediate area is a killer. And they don’t completely go looking for trouble when the meet up with their demise. They’re not going into a dark room at the end of a decrepit hallway. It’s bright in the devolving asylum. Which is pretty amazing that the special effects during the killings hold up for the most part since they don’t get to hide in flickering lights. There’s a drill scene that will make you squirm. Plus since it takes place during the day, you get to see Patty Mullen suntan. She was the Penthouse Pet of the Year during this time. It’s rather short so you’ll spending yourself counting bodies and not checking the clock. Doom Asylum comes off amazingly well for a low budget teen slasher film made in 1987.

The video is 1.78:1 anamorphic. There’s also the 1.33:1 full frame version since this film was mainly made for the home video market in the golden age of VHS. The transfer looks fine for a shoestring production. The resolution brings out the creepy killing effects. The audio is uncompressed PCM mono. Things sound fine during the punk rock performances and the screams of victims. The movie is subtitled.

Audio Commentary with screenwriter Rick Marx gets into how the whole project came together. There’s a second commentary with The Hysteria Continues breaking down the film.

Tina’s Terror (17:56) is a fresh interview with actress Ruth Collins, the punk rock girl with attitude. She talks about the long shoot days and getting to enjoy working with the cast. She was a model in Japan before the film. She did a lot of work including Psychos In Love.

Movie Madhouse (19:00) sits down with director of photography Larry Revene. He talks about how they sexed up the film in hopes of getting the film on late night HBO. He got his start filming astronauts practicing their lunar landings. He points out how the script wasn’t long enough so they had to cut in the clips from the old black and white films. It was like the Dream On of teen horror. They shot it in New Jersey.

Morgues & Mayhem (17:38) catches up with special make-up effects creator Vincent J. Guastini. He was from New Jersey and learning the craft from Tom Savini’s book and showing his effects to the legendary Dick Smith (The Exorcist). Guastini would go on to work on major films including Super Mario Brothers and Dogma. He talks about his mistakes in the rigs since Doom was his first big gig. His driller killer moment is fantastic and done without the benefit of shadows.

Archival Interviews (10:56) includes producer Alexander W. Kogan, Jr., director Richard Friedman and production manager Bill Tasgal. This appears to have been done for a video re-issue. Kogan talks about how during the time, there was an easy market to pre-sell horror films for $150,000 so if you could make the films for $80,000, there was profit to be made.

Still Gallery (3:05) has shots from the location and promotional stills.

Arrow Video presents Doom Asylum. Directed by Richard Friedman. Screenplay by: Rick Marx. Starring: Patty Mullen, Ruth Collins, Kristin Davis and William Hay. Rated: R. Running Time: 77 minutes. Released: July 17, 2018.

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