Release Date(s)1987 (July 17, 2018)
Studio(s)Films Around the World, Inc. (Arrow Video)
- Film/Program Grade: F
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: B
- Extras Grade: B-
Empire Pictures meets Fred Olen Ray meets Herschell Gordon Lewis is probably the best description I can come up with for Doom Asylum. Shot in a mere eight days inside an abandoned sanatorium, the story of man who dies in a car accident, springs back to life, and hides out in a dilapidated mental asylum, murdering anyone who sets foot on the premises, probably sounds more promising to slasher fans than what the final product actually is. The tagline on the theatrical poster for the film proclaims that “It’ll send shivers up your funny bone!”, but in reality, the best thing about it is its running time, which is less than 80 minutes.
As if you can’t already tell, I’m not a fan of Doom Asylum. Normally I try to find positive things to say about a film I don’t like because, most of the time, there’s usually something worth appreciating. That’s a tall order here. Trite horror tropes mixed with unsuccessful attempts at comedy make this one a turd in my book. You have a killer that’s trying way too hard (or perhaps not hard enough) to ape Freddy Krueger; not just in his look, but in the way he quips and laughs maniacally after every kill. Meanwhile, most of his victims range from total flatlines to gratingly annoying. Padding the running time are clips from old black and white movies, which on some level, do try and act as transitions or framing devices, but neither ever really work. I do have to give some minor credit to the gore effects. Not all of them are great (including a laughably-awful toe-cutting moment), but they occasionally manage to pull off a couple of decent ones.
If I were to stretch it a bit, I suppose you could have some fun with Doom Asylum with a crowd of people, but that’s really pushing it. It doesn’t really lend itself to the “so bad it’s good” milieu. Outside of appearances by Patty Mullen from Frankenhooker, Ruth Collins from Psychos in Love, and Kristin Davis from Sex and the City (mostly why anybody even talks about this movie anymore), it’s actually kind of painful to sit through. Besides an awful and repetitive cover of “House of the Rising Sun” that plays multiple times throughout the film, Doom Asylum is one that will test the limits of your ability to reach for the remote control to shut it off.
Moving on to something more positive, Arrow Video brings the film to Blu-ray with a new 2K transfer, utilizing the original 35mm camera negative, as well as standard definition inserts with the supervision and final approval of director of photography Larry Revene. They also provide the option of watching it in either 1.85:1 or 1.33:1. As a result, more information along the edges of the frame can be seen in the full screen version, particularly along the bottom and top. Everything looks terrific outside of the SD inserts. Grain levels are refined, detail is high, colors are rich, skin tones are pink, black levels are deep, and overall brightness and contrast is satisfactory. There are no other issues outside of some mild instability. Everything appears clean and crisp. For the audio, an English mono LPCM track is provided with optional subtitles in English SDH. It’s a well-balanced track, and a bit wider than many other mono tracks. Dialogue is clear and discernible while score and sound effects don’t intrude on or distort anything. There are also no instances of hiss, crackle, or dropouts. All in all, it looks and sounds great.
The extras (many of them courtesy of Red Shirt Pictures) include an audio commentary with screenwriter Rick Marx, moderated by Howard Berger; another audio commentary with Justin Kerswell, Erik Threlfall, Joseph Henson, and Nathan Johnson of the horror podcast The Hysteria Continues; Tina’s Terror, a new 18-minute interview with actress Ruth Collins; Movie Madhouse, a new 10-minute interview with the director of photography Larry Revene; Morgues & Mayhem, a new 18-minute interview with special make-up effects creator Vincent J. Guastini; 11 minutes of archival interviews from Code Red’s original DVD release with executive producer Alexander W. Kogan, Jr., director Richard Friedman, and production manager Bill Tasgal; an animated stills gallery; and a 24-page insert booklet with the essay “To the Denizens of Doom Asylum: A Love Letter” by Amanda Reyes, as well as restoration details.
While I actively dislike this film, Doom Asylum does have its fans, minor though they may be. So for them, Arrow Video’s new Blu-ray release is likely to be a godsend. For anyone else who wishes to punish themselves, this is your ticket.
- Tim Salmons