Mini-Review: Hell Asylum (2002)

AKA Prison of the Dead 2

Starring Debra Mayer, Tanya Dempsey, Sunny Lombardo, Stacey Scowley, Olimpia Fernandez, Timothy Muskatell, Joe Estevez, Brinke Stevens, Matt Moffett, Trent Haaga

Directed by Danny Draven

Expectations: Low.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:


My first exposure to director Danny Draven was with his most recent directorial work for Full Moon: Reel Evil. That movie stands firm as one of the worst Full Moon movies in my eyes, so to start up Hell Asylum and almost immediately feel similar vibes, I knew I was in trouble. While the plots aren’t exactly the same, from what I remember of Reel Evil you could almost call it a remake of Hell Asylum. Both films feature a group of people trapped in a “real” haunted asylum to film a show/movie, expecting scares/FX but getting killed by real ghosts. Reel Evil goes into a more direct, found-footage direction to capture the proceedings, but the seeds of that are in Hell Asylum as well, with headset cams that annoyingly cut in and out to static every few seconds.

My predisposition to dislike a movie like this is not the only concern with Hell Asylum, either. It’s barely over an hour long, but something like 20 minutes of that is just unnecessary setup and filler. First we see an overlong pitch meeting — scored with ominous music — where an executive (Joe Estevez, the film’s bright spot) is sold on the idea of five hot chicks in an old mansion/asylum getting scared for the chance to win a million dollars. Then we see the girls’ audition tapes, where they explain themselves and their darkest fears. Using their fears against them was the most intriguing part of the pitch, reminding me of the Stephen King novel It, but there’s nothing engaging that actually comes of it. Next is a lengthy explanation of the rules of the game. It all adds up to extreme boredom and disinterest. Lot of repetitive, meaningless talking heads do not make for a good horror film.

Other than the presence of Joe Estevez, the only redeeming quality of Hell Asylum is its approach to gore. Full Moon’s films are generally light in this department, and Hell Asylum looks like it wants to make up for lost time. There is a distinct choice in favor of ridiculously over-the-top gore, particularly featuring lots of ripped-out intestines. I appreciated this desire to spice things up where other Full Moon films have failed, but the thing I found most enjoyable was the very small diameter of the intestines they used. We all have a basic idea of what human intestines look like, but whatever is in Hell Asylum is much smaller and stringier. Whatever they were or were supposed to be, I don’t honestly know, but wondering about this was the closest thing to engagement that Hell Asylum provided.

I put a lot of time into my writing hobby, but I don’t consider amateur writing to be hard work. Sitting through Hell Asylum, though, was a tough day at the office.

Next time I get around to a Full Moon movie I’ll be checking in with Ted Nicolaou’s Moonbeam film Dragonworld! See ya then!

Shanghai Knights (2003)

AKA Shanghai Kid 2

Starring Jackie Chan, Owen Wilson, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Tom Fisher, Aidan Gillen, Fann Wong, Donnie Yen

Directed by David Dobkin

Expectations: Super low. I remember hating this.


When I saw Shanghai Knights in 2003, it put me off Jackie Chan movies for years. Re-watching it was an equally painful experience; out of all the modern American films Jackie made up to this point, Shanghai Knights was easily the hardest to sit through. But in the nearly 15 years between watches, I’ve become a lot more able to sort through my feelings and process them into some kind of understanding. In 2003, I simply hated the film, but now in 2017 it’s more disappointment I’m feeling.

Shanghai Knights takes the Shanghai Noon boys and drops them into 1800s London, under the auspices of finding the killer of Chon Wang’s father. There’s a little more to it, but that’s pretty much the only thing that matters. Almost everything else is filler or distraction, and very little of it helps to further much of anything. The weak story of action setup can work in a Jackie film (see: Mr. Nice Guy), but this sort of thing lives or dies depending on the person watching it. The comedy of Shanghai Knights is far from funny or entertaining (most of it coming through inane references to popular things from our era), and the action, while good and a step up from the original film, is the source of much of my disappointment.

Continue reading Shanghai Knights (2003) →

The Tuxedo (2002)

Starring Jackie Chan, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Jason Isaacs, Debi Mazar, Ritchie Coster, Peter Stormare, Mia Cottet, Romany Malco, Daniel Kash, Jody Racicot, Boyd Banks, Cecile Cristobal, James Brown

Directed by Kevin Donovan

Expectations: Super low. I remember hating this.


When I first saw The Tuxedo sometime around its original release, I thought it was the worst Jackie Chan movie I’d ever seen. I don’t remember my specific gripes, but my general distaste for the film has stuck with me ever since. Despite this years-long grudge against The Tuxedo, I started it this time with an open mind. The deer pissing in the stream during the film’s opening didn’t fill me with a lot of hope, but by the time the end credits rolled, I was shocked at just how entertaining the movie had been. It still exhibits many problems that American Jackie films have, but it also delivers something unique and in terms of tone it’s closer to Hong Kong than a traditional Hollywood movie (which really surprised me).

Jackie Chan plays Jimmy Tong, a taxi driver with a confidence problem. He’s in love with a woman who works at an art gallery, but he’s unable to get it together enough to ask her out. He thrives in his element, though, crisscrossing through the streets of New York in his taxi faster than anyone else could even imagine. His skills bag him a job working as a high-paid chauffeur for millionaire playboy/secret agent Clark Devlin (Jason Isaacs), and unbeknownst to Jackie this will forever change his life. He is soon roped into an international struggle of catastrophic proportions; you might even say that he is an accidental spy! 🙂

Continue reading The Tuxedo (2002) →

The Brotherhood II: Young Warlocks (2001)

Starring Forrest Cochran, Sean Faris, Stacey Scowley, Jennifer Capo, Justin Allen, C.J. Thomason, Noah Frank, Greg Lyczkowski, Julie Briggs, Ari Welkom, Holly Sampson

Directed by David DeCoteau

Expectations: Moderately high. The first was pretty good and I like David DeCoteau.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:


I thoroughly enjoyed the first Brotherhood film, so my internal hype set me up to be somewhat disappointed with The Brotherhood II: Young Warlocks. Regardless of this, there’s no denying that the sequel is very entertaining. Anyone who enjoyed the first film is likely to enjoy this one as well. Both films follow similar structures, and I don’t know if the differences are distinct enough to build a sequel on, but both films are entertaining in their own ways and that’s what really matters, right?

The first Brotherhood is about vampires, so I honestly expected the whole series to be vampire-based. I don’t watch trailers or think too much about these movies before I watch them, but I guess I should have taken that Young Warlocks subtitle a little more seriously. The sequel’s mythology delves into witches and warlocks (but mostly just warlocks), and this is both brilliant and somewhat frustrating. I loved the secret society of the first film and I had hoped to go a little deeper into that. At the same time, the idea of a low-budget horror franchise based around a variety of college secret societies and their unique mythologies is wonderfully inspired and respectable.

Continue reading The Brotherhood II: Young Warlocks (2001) →

Rush Hour 2 (2001)

Starring Jackie Chan, Chris Tucker, John Lone, Zhang Ziyi, Roselyn Sanchez, Alan King, Harris Yulin, Kenneth Tsang, Don Cheadle

Directed by Brett Ratner

Expectations: Moderate.


One one hand, Rush Hour 2 is a perfect sequel to the original film. Everything that worked is kept for round two, and because it’s set in Hong Kong it’s instantly more interesting to look at than the first film (no offense, Los Angeles). It seems like the filmmakers felt that this was enough for a sequel, because in terms of story Rush Hour 2 is nothing more than an inverse of Rush Hour. They even do some of the same jokes with the opposite lead saying the lines. I can’t argue that it doesn’t work, because the overall level of entertainment is pretty high throughout the film, but it still seems kinda lazy. I mean, can you imagine if a Star Wars film just rehashed the original Star Wars and thought that would be enough to carry a sequel? 😛

LAPD cop James Carter (Chris Tucker) is on vacation in Hong Kong, visiting his friend and Hong Kong policeman Lee (Jackie Chan). Lee can’t seem to leave his work behind, and while Carter is lamenting this point to Lee (and the audience), Lee receives a call to question noted criminal and triad boss Ricky Tan (John Lone) about a deadly explosion at the American Consulate. And just like that our comedic buddy cops are back on the trail of justice.

Continue reading Rush Hour 2 (2001) →

The Accidental Spy (2001)

The Accidental Spy [特務迷城] (2001)

Starring Jackie Chan, Vivian Hsu Jo-Hsuan, Wu Hsing-Guo, Kim Min-Jeong, Eric Tsang, Murat Yilmaz, Alfred Cheung Kin-Ting, Lillian Ho Ga-Lee, Cheung Tat-Ming

Directed by Teddy Chen

Expectations: Moderate.


One of the great things about going through an actor’s complete filmography is discovering films that passed you by at the time of their release. By the early 2000s, my initial passion for Jackie Chan had faded due to my distaste for his American films and the films of the early 2000s in general (thanks in part to the rise of CG). I would love to say that The Accidental Spy is a wonderful film, offering untold delights, but it’s actually quite a mediocre film all things considered. Where it excels is its action, offering up a pair of incredible sequences that recall everything you’ve ever enjoyed about the films of Jackie Chan. They aren’t enough to pull the film out of mediocrity, but they are wonderful and very welcome in an otherwise underwhelming film.

The film begins oddly, as journalists drive through a village in Turkey afflicted with a deadly pneumonia outbreak. They are quickly assaulted and murdered by terrorists, and we are whisked away to the South Korean embassy in Istanbul. A spy is called in to investigate, but before we get too deep into this serious plot line, we are abruptly taken to Hong Kong where Buck Yuen (Jackie Chan) is doing his best to sell some exercise equipment by giving energetic demonstrations. His real test of fitness comes a few minutes later, though, when he daringly thwarts a bank robbery as only Jackie Chan could. The media coverage attracts the attention of Many Liu (Eric Tsang), a private eye looking for orphans about Jackie’s age, which consequently drags Jackie into an international struggle.

Continue reading The Accidental Spy (2001) →

Cryptz (2002)

Starring Choice Skinner, Rick Irvin, Dennis Waller, Lunden De’Leon, Andre McCoy, Ty Badger, Olimpia Fernandez, Archie Howard, Lemar Knight

Directed by Danny Draven

Expectations: Super low.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:


Cryptz isn’t exactly an original film (it’s kind of a Full Moon take on Vamp), but it is competently made and incredibly entertaining. For a film with an ultra low-budget like this, you really can’t ask for much more than that. And when this is coupled with incredibly low expectations due to my general disinterest in the films of Danny Draven, you’ve got the recipe for a B-movie sleeper hit. Cryptz works for a couple of very basic reasons which are generally taken for granted in a bigger film. One of these reasons is definitely not the story, but it does set up the film perfectly to deliver its goods.

Like so many of Full Moon’s “urban” films, Cryptz is about a group of amateur rappers hoping for their big break. The difference here is that this is merely character window dressing, so we aren’t forced to sit through any of their performances. This might not seem like much, but if you’ve seen Full Moon’s other black-focused movies you’ll know what I’m talking about. In any case, our lead is Tymez Skwair (Choice Skinner) and his mom is fed up with his rap career. She tells him to get a job… TODAY! On his way, he is sidetracked by his rapping buddies, Fuzzy Down (Rick Irvin) and Likrish (Dennis Waller), and this is further compounded when they meet Stesha (Lunden De’Leon), a buxom woman wearing a shirt advertising a bar named Cryptz.

Continue reading Cryptz (2002) →

Page 1 of 30123...10...Last »

Subscribe via Email!

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 64 other subscribers

Ongoing Series

Top Posts & Pages