How many films are there, that you’ve actually seen, that you can say are so genuinely bad in pretty much every aspect – but because of this, they are hilariously awesome? Horror excels at this, to be fair, but they don’t come so “so bad it’s good” as much as 1987’s slasher horror, Doom Asylum.
1987 was a fairly decent year for horror films with classics including Hellraiser, Evil Dead II, The Lost Boys, Near Dark, Predator and cult favourites including Angel Heart, The Gate, The Monster Squad, Dolls and John Carpenter’s Prince Of Darkness being released – along with slasher juggernaut Nightmare on Elm Street getting a second sequel with series favourite and definite highlight, Dream Warriors. It’s fair to say, in order to equal (or even upstage) any of the above, filmmakers would have to pull something special out of their blood-drenched bag.
German film maker Jorg Buttgereit went for pure shock with his black and white, somewhat arthouse horror, Nekromantik, but in terms of so bad it’s good? There were a few contenders for “best worst film of the year”. Peter Jackson followed up his classic debut Braindead (aka Dead Alive in the US) with Bad Taste, Troma released their own brand of bad taste with Street Trash and there were a host of b-movie gems including Return to Horror High (featuring George Clooney), Blood Diner, Blood Rage and Creepazoids, staring genre favourite, Linnea Quigley… *sigh*… But was anyone prepared for a deformed maniac creeping around the halls of an abandoned asylum ready to take on a bunch of good looking teens with a bunch of surgical tools making rubbish jokes as he does it? No, I don’t think they were!
Driven to insanity by the loss of his girlfriend in a grisly car accident, survivor of said crash, Mitch Hansen (Michael Rogan) awakes from being presumed dead, kills a couple of doctors about to perform an autopsy and escapes to a nearby old and empty asylum; presumably to live a quiet life in the shadows. Not only is he disturbed by a noisy, all-girl punk band rehearsing in one of the rooms, but a group of teens decide to visit the grounds of the asylum and are soon distracted by the noise and the rudeness of frontwoman, Rapunzel (Farin). They enter the asylum, obviously unaware of the crazy, deformed, wise-cracking madman that awaits inside its walls.
And this, of course, is when the carnage and fun begins. Well, the fun begins at the start actually when you realise that the acting in Doom Asylum is so bad that you are going to be cringing and laughing throughout its 80 minute run time. Add a bit of brutal gore with the car crash and you know that Doom Asylum is going to be pure entertainment from start to finish. But to be fair, the special make-up/gore effects in Doom Asylum, courtesy of Vincent J. Guastini, are a definite highlight; and with practical gore effects being such an important part of the 80s horror scene, Guastini’s contribution here shouldn’t be overlooked. With plenty of decent gory moments and kills throughout, it wouldn’t be harsh on anyone involved to say that Guastini and his work are the only “serious” highlights of Doom Asylum. Serious in adverted commas because obviously Doom Asylum isn’t to be taken seriously by any stretch of the imagination.
But to be fair to the cast, this isn’t the type of film an actor goes into with the hopes of getting an Oscar nod and I’m sure the producers weren’t looking for actors that could peel back the layers of characterisation to explore the inner workings of their motivations within the script. However, in terms of acting/cast appeal, the obvious focus would be on Kristin Davis, who would later go on to play absolute cutie (from what little I’ve seen, yeah…*ahem*) Charlotte in TV, and later, movie mega-hit Sex and the City. Davis is (quite predictably, but easily) the best actor in Doom Asylum as the permanently swimsuit clad, big glasses wearing Jane. Which was quite handy for her as it was her first feature film role. Also, Penthouse model Patty Mullen does quite well in an embarrassingly terrible but still kind of lovable way, as both tragic car crash victim Judy LaRue and her sexy daughter, Kiki LaRue. She would later go on to star in cult b-movie favourite, Frankenhooker. And of course, Michael Rogen has fun (you’d hope) as dad joke specialist and all round mentalist, Mitch Hansen.
Overall, it’s fair to say director Richard Friedman looks like he had fun making Doom Asylum and went on to make a few other genre movies; Phantom of the Mall: Eric’s Revenge in 1989, Dark Wolf in 2003 and 2007’s Born. But in terms of pure, sit back, switch your brain off and enjoy 80s horror fun, the intentionally and unintentionally funny performances and moments throughout, along with the cool gore and dodgy jokes, and of course the sexy ladies, Doom Asylum is a treat for fans of cult 80s slasher horror.
Extras for Arrow Video’s release of this splatter classic includes: a new audio commentary by writer Rick Marx and also one by slasher movie podcasters The Hysteria Continues, a brand new interview with actress Ruth Collins, who played Tina in the movie, a new interview with director of photography, Larry Revene, a brand new interview with special make up effects creator Vincent J. Guastini titled Morgues and Mayhem, and archival interviews with producer Alexander W. Rogan Jr., director Richard Friedman and production manager Bill Tasgal. Add to that a stills gallery and a reversible sleeve with newly commissioned artwork by Justin Osbourne and you have another great and essential package from the Arrow Video team.
Doom Asylum is out now courtesy of Arrow Video