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!

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) →

Dark Walker (2003)

darkwalker_1Starring Kathleen Taylor, Michael Sage, Rick Irvin, Brenda Matthews, David DeWitt, Emily VanSonnenberg, Clive Hawkins, Jill Small, Ali Taylor, Brad Potts, Ivan Glenn Hill, James Inch

Directed by Danny Draven

Expectations: Not much.

On the general scale:
onestar

On the B-movie scale:
twostar


I’m having a hard time solidifying my thoughts on Dark Walker. On one hand, it is in desperate need of a story for most of the movie, it’s shot on low-quality video, and it’s a slasher without the charm of the genre’s inventive kills and gore. On the other hand, it achieves a lot with its meager budget, including an interesting monster with great makeup, better acting than these films usually showcase, and some impressive & effective sound design. Both the faults and the ingenuity are a product of the film’s budget; in most B-Movies one side of this equation is usually in charge, but in Dark Walker both sides are about equal.

One night in 1878, a man sneaks into the Hobb’s Grove pumpkin patch. He cuts a pumpkin from the vine, ignoring (or not seeing) the sign that ominously warns, “Take not of this earth.” The earth means business, too, as shortly thereafter the pumpkin bleeds when cut and the Dark Walker, a hulking Swamp Thing-looking dude, busts in and kills the wrongdoing man and his entire family.

Continue reading Dark Walker (2003) →

Deathbed (2002)

DEBEDDVD_Deathbed

Starring Tanya Dempsey, Brave Matthews, Joe Estevez, Meagan Mangum, Michael Sonye, Lunden De’Leon, Constance Estevez

Directed by Danny Draven

Expectations: Low.

On the general scale:
onestar

On the B-movie scale:
twostar


Deathbed begins with horrid “jazz” and murderous S&M on an old iron bed, and it doesn’t really get any better from there. No, that’s not true, it gets a little better, but when the film is structured so that “What happened with the bed in the 1920s” is the central mystery and the film opens with a flashback exposing the entire thing to the audience, it also gets a little annoying as we watch the characters search around for what we already know. Trust the audience much? Nope, didn’t think so.

Karen and Jerry are looking for a new apartment, and they’re about to get a killer deal from Joe Estevez on an abode in a renovated warehouse. This is a horror movie, so they ignore all the little warning signs. Things like a locked room that no one knows anything about what’s inside, or a vision Karen has of a woman being handcuffed to a bed. You’d think someone attuned enough to the paranormal to receive visions would be sensitive to them, and that one of violence might scare you away, but as always, your logic is no good in horror movie land.

Continue reading Deathbed (2002) →

Horrorvision (2001)

horrorvision_5Starring Len Cordova, Maggie Rose Fleck, Josh Covitt, James Black, Brinke Stevens, Ariauna Albright, Chuck Williams, David Bartholomew Greathouse

Directed by Danny Draven

Expectations: Low.

On the general scale:
onestar

On the B-movie scale:
threestar


When I say “2001” and “movie about a website killing people,” I doubt your first instinct is to get excited. It’s probably something closer to apathy, but schlock movie fans should definitely take notice of Horrorvision. It’s much more ambitious than I expected it to be, which is to say, “it’s more than a few drawn-out conversations and some people dying while surfing the web.” Horrorvision definitely has those elements, but it also has some pretty wild fantasy roots, and fans of meaningless driving montages will definitely want to add this to their queue.

Horrorvision opens with a webcam chat between Toni, a photographer, and Dez, an aspiring screenwriter who wastes his time setting up porn websites for quick cash. After they end their overlong conversation about providing content for Dez’s websites, Toni goes about her business creating the CD for Dez. She gets sidetracked when she sees a banner ad for Horrorvision.com with the slogan, “It will blow your fucking mind!” She clicks it and before she knows it the tubes of the Internet are blasting out of her wall outlets and strangling her. I’ll think twice about clicking any banner ads from now on (although don’t let this discourage you, dear readers from clicking those lovely banner ads featured around this content :))

Continue reading Horrorvision (2001) →

Reel Evil (2012)

reelevilartfinalStarring Jessica Morris, Kaiwi Lyman, Jeff Adler, Jamie Bernadette, Michael Cline, Christian Edsall, Sandra Hinojosa, Galen Howard

Directed by Danny Draven

Expectations: Moderate. It’s found footage, so odds are I’ll hate it.

halfstar


This might be a very short review because there isn’t much to talk about here. Reel Evil is a found footage film, a sub-genre of horror known for being horrible, and it’s a bad found footage film. The film does inspire some true moments of horror, though, most notably when I dozed off, paused the film to walk around a bit and realized that it had only been 30 minutes. True horror. I’m shuddering just trying to relive that moment.

For those that care about the story here (and why would you?), you should just watch Full Moon’s earlier film The Dead Hate the Living!, an incredibly fun and well-made movie that features a very similar plot. But if you must know, Reel Evil follows a trio of documentary filmmakers looking for their big break. They go into a producer’s office to pitch their big idea, and walk out with a job filming some bullshit behind-the-scenes featurette for a low-budget horror movie’s DVD. Gotta start somewhere. The movie is shooting at an abandoned insane asylum, and because this is a found footage film, there’s ghosts! Zoinks!

Continue reading Reel Evil (2012) →




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