Director: Alexandre Courtes
Starring: Rupert Evans, Dave Legeno, Anna Skellern, Richard Brake .USA. 1h 25m
No matter how crazy you can get in one lifetime; there’s one thing that is certain, that’s the fact that you’re going to need nourishment, this simple fact of life seems to be the driving point of this punk rock hop through body horror hell.
Alexandra Courtes has a long history in making music videos including that iconic monochrome dream that is Seven Nation Army by White Stripes, so he can create very stark and stunning aesthetics which he does in two different ways in Asylum blackout. Initially the world is a bleak white world of aesthetically clean halls but once the lights go out it’s an insipid black nightmare. But aesthetics aside there’s a lot of crazy people doing some fucked up shit in the later half of the movie which takes some sudden psychological turns and keeps it’s audience on their toes.
The movie centres on the group of young men who are all in a punk rock band, however they all share the task of working as cooks in an asylum for the criminally insane. The star of the show is George, played by Rupert Evans who got chucked into this role as a replacement for Josh Dallas a few weeks after filming, his closest friend William played by Marcus Garvey there are a couple of other characters but they seem a little less built up compared to these two, and seem to have nothing much to do than give George and William someone to grind against. most of the time they kind of get on in the way for a band practice prepping food and cooking however George just take his job a little bit more serious he’s quite professional with his cooking and is often criticised for the amount of time he takes cooking for what the others just received has been a bunch of lunatics. On one fateful night during a ferocious thunderstorm, suddenly lights go out and this white washed clean world suddenly turns very black as does the moods of their patients’ held within, ladies and gentlemen we have ourselves and Asylum blackout Incident. (see what I did there?)
There’s a ton of sign posting just before the big event, and with some cinematic magic everything that could, symbolically go wrong, does. Firstly an inmate called Harry (Brake) starts doing some really peculiar things, starring and glaring at Geroge, he’s also encouraging the other inmates to stop taking their blue coloured meds, possibly a nod to the Matrix as these sky blue pills seem to keep the patients in a medically induced bliss, and now without them, they are about to wake the fuck up. A whole series of things start to go wrong, George cuts himself and bleeds into some meat, later that morning he drops various bags of animal body parts, and the team are concerned that the chickens have turned up with their heads on this attempt to blend animal and human blood and nameless organs is a cannibals wet dream, but one really visually prepared scene is when the cameras switch to the view of the inmates who look at the kitchen and staff as a meaty meal on legs.
Once everything is upside down there’s also reversal in who is running the asylum which is kind of typical for any horror asylum movie, something similar drives Dr Tarr’s Torture Dungeon (1973) where there is a reversal in patient and medical staff. When the power is cut all of the cells are left open and it’s up to the last few remaining guards and kitchen staff and a couple of other stragglers to try him again in order but this quickly turns into a battle of survival in the dark halls as things gradually slide out of control. But I always wonder how all the crazies always seem to team up like they are all on the same wave length..
Alexandre Courtes seems to go out of his way for every single shot even George’s peaceful car ride to work is decorated with moody shots of the forest and rainy roads but when the blood and flesh starts flying Courtes does enjoy showing the best of the worst of the bloodshed and doesn’t shy away from pulling in a few extra buckets of blood but not all about ultraviolence and carnage, the best acting talents such as Richard brake to really give his characters this sinister embodiment and uses cover highlights and shadows to fade out their faces emphasizing the worst characteristics.
Still, the visual nightmare is exaggerated as George wanders around in the dark asylum, trying to keep his head while everyone around him is losing theirs including his friends. His expressions of dumbfoundedness are picturesque. His best friends all get split up on their own little missions to get the inmates confined but the group strive to find each other in some heart pounding moments.
It’s cutely delivered with a finale that brings about two new fears, one more satisfying than the other but both equally as shocking. Courtes Definitely left the best for last as the movie just becomes lackluster, there’s a sudden build up into something so torturous and insane it’s hard to process at first and not so easy on the stomach (for all involved).
Relate: Dr Tarr’s Torture Dungeon (1973), Madhouse (2004)
List: Asylum Flicks,
Spotlight: Rupert Evertt, Richard Brake