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!

Speck (2002)

Speck_1Starring Doug Cole, Beverly Sotelo, Stacy Cunningham, Flynn Beck, Kaycee Shank, Sunny Lombardo, Cinderella Gatcheco, Dawn Hawley, Erin Shayla Cullen, Debra Mayer, Larry Dirk

Directed by Keith Walley

Expectations: I don’t know. Not much.

halfstar


Speck is of the rare breed of low-budget horror films that go the arthouse route. This is always shaky ground, because unless the filmmakers are very competent, “artful strokes” very quickly devolve into boredom and pretense. In the case of Speck, this is definitely the case. To be fair, Speck is made with some amount of skill, but its arthouse leanings never translated to any kind of meaning for the audience. I had lots of thoughts about the film while watching it, but instead of looking for insight into its murderous lead character, I found myself wondering more about the filmmaker behind it and why anyone would want to make this movie.

Speck seeks to dramatize a true story. On July 13, 1966, Richard Speck entered a Chicago home and one-by-one murdered eight student nurses who were living there. This brief description also serves as a plot synopsis for the film, as Speck is very much focused on this night and not much else. The film shows us the world from Richard Speck’s point of view, and it’s colored with hateful narration that informs us of his views on humanity and how we’re basically all worthless maggots. His victims are nothing more than women in a room in Speck — we know nothing more about them than Speck does — and their status as student nurses is only conveyed to us through some on-screen text as the film opens.

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