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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Doom Asylum (Blu-ray)
Doom Asylum (Blu-ray)
Arrow Video // R // July 17, 2018 // Region A
List Price: $39.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ian Jane | posted July 10, 2018 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

When this low budget late eighties slasher/comedy begins, a dirtbag lawyer named Mitch Hansen (Michael Rogen) and his client Judy LaRue (Patty Mullen) are celebrating their win with some drunk driving! Avoiding an oncoming car, Mitch careens off the road and they get into a wreck. Judy dies on the spot, but Mitch… somehow winds up completely burned and on the slab in the morgue of an asylum of some sort. At any rate, Mitch is not dead, much to the dismay of the morgue attendants dealing with his corpse, two men who prove to be his first victims.

Eight years later and Judy's daughter Kiki (Mullen again) is travelling with her friends her boyfriend Mike (William Hay) and friends Jane (Kristin Davis), Dennis (Kenny L. Price) and Darnell (Harrison White) to have a picnic near where her mother was killed. In fact, once they get out of the car the first thing Kiki does is find a mirror that belonged to dear departed Judy. It turns out that this is also the asylum where Mitch's body rose from the dead… and they're not alone. Nope! There's a Plastmatics-esque all-girl ‘punk band' called Tina And The Tots using the abandoned hospital as a practice space. Tina (Ruth Collins) isn't happy to see the five friends show up but one of her bandmates, Godiva (Dawn Alvan), sure thinks Darnell is cute while her other bandmate, Rapunzel (Farin) takes the disruption in their practice time as an opportunity to spray anti-establishment graffiti all over the place. Of course, Mitch is still around and, for reasons never really all that properly explained, has a penchant for killing teenagers. Before you know it, he's watching old Todd Slaughter films in the basement and then offing various characters in increasingly grisly ways and… that's about it.

Doom Asylum was clearly made fast and cheap and without the intention of creating anything particularly frightening or atmospheric. As a horror movie, it simply isn't very good. But it is entertaining! The movie relies more on its goofy comedic elements and over-exaggerated characters than it does on thrills or chills. Pretty much all of the characters are slasher movie clichés: Kiki is the final girl, Jane is the snobbish/smart girl, Mike is the jock, Dennis is the nerd and Darnell is the cool black dude with a crazy sense of humor. No one here is written to be deep at all and there's not an ounce of character development between them. Tina and her pals aren't written any better and neither is our sole antagonist. But then, Doom Asylum doesn't try to be that type of movie. It knows what its audiences wants (boobs and blood) and it delivers that with a sadistic wink and a knowing smile.

The performances are all over the place, but if nothing else, the cast seem to be having fun. Penthouse Pet Patty Mullen, here in her debut role (she'd only act in two more projects: an episode of The Equalizer and, of course, Frankenhooker) does a fine job. She's got energy and enthusiasm and if she doesn't show all that much range, she doesn't need to because she looks great running around an abandoned hospital in a bathing suit and high heels. Kristin Davis, would eventually star in Sex In The City, is quite fun as the snobby smart girl (who also runs around in a bathing suit for most of the film). Ruth Collins, who had earlier appeared in Psychos In Love and who would later appear in The Death Collector, chews plenty of scenery as tough talking Tina while Michael Rogen as the killer is a kick, running around using various surgical instruments and tools at his disposal to kill off the intruders.

The movie drags whenever it uses the old Todd Slaughter footage. This happens to often and it grinds things to a halt even if what is happening in the clips sometimes nicely parallels what's happening in the feature. But it does make great use of a fantastic location in the form of the Essex Mountain Sanatorium (which was torn down in the early 2000s). The place was used basically ‘as it' meaning that the filmmakers didn't need to do much to create the crumbling, graffiti-covered locale you see in the movie. It's the perfect spot to shoot a horror films and a big part of what makes the movie as watchable as it is. Additionally, a goofy but memorable score and some genuinely impressive practical makeup effects stand out and add to the fun.

The Blu-ray:

Video:

Doom Asylum arrives on Blu-ray from Arrow video in your choice of 1.85.1 widescreen or 1.33:1 fullframe. See, cinematography Larry Revene composed things for widescreen exhibition but the movie was released fullframe on home video where it found its following, so it's nice of Arrow to give fans the option. Regardless, both versions are presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition and taken from a brand new 2K restoration from the original camera negative. While the opening credits are video generated (and look like video), the rest of the movie is virtually immaculate. There's really no print damage to talk about here, just a natural amount of film grain, while color reproduction is outstanding. The old inserts from the Todd Slaughter films that were used to pad the movie's running time out are a bit worse for wear but everything else looks great. There are no noticeable compression artifacts or edge enhancement issues nor are there any problems with noise reduction. Really, who would have thought this movie could look so good?

Sound:

Audio chores are handled well enough by an English language uncompressed LPCM mono track. No problems here. The track is clean and clear and the weird music selections used throughout the movie sound quite good. The sound effects also come through nice and clear, but the dialogue stays up front in the mix and is never tough to understand. The levels are properly balanced and there are no audible issues with any hiss or distortion worth complaining about. Optional subtitles are available in English only.

Extras:

Bonus features start off with Brand new audio commentary with The Hysteria Continues. If you've heard any of their commentary work you know what to expect: well informed opinions on slasher history, ongoing criticism and praise of the film they're watching and a sense of humor. They point out what works in the film and what doesn't, comment on the performances, the music, and the fantastic location used in the shoot and do an interesting job of dissecting the picture along the way. The disc also includes a new audio commentary with screenwriter Rick Marx that's quite interesting. It allows Marx to offer up plenty of background information on his career, how he wound up churning out a lot of scripts for different adult films being made in and around New York City at the time, often for director Chuck Vincent. He then talks about how he came onboard to write the feature, his thoughts on some of the characters that inhabit the film, the location that was used for the picture, Richard Friedman's direction and a fair bit more.

Arrow also throw in some exclusive new supplements, starting with Morgues & Mayhem which is an eighteen-minute interview with special make-up effects creator Vincent J. Guastini who speaks about how he got into SFX work after being mentored by Dick Smith, landing the gig working on this feature and what it was like having to deliver some pretty intense makeup and gore effects on a very modest budget. Also new to this disc isMovie Madhouse, a nineteen-minute interview with director of photography Larry Revene who talks about getting his start behind the camera, working in the adult film industry, how he got connected with the director for this feature, shooting on location in New Jersey and more. The third new interview is Tina's Terror, which gets actress Ruth Collins in front of the camera for eighteen-minutes to talk about how and why she wound up in this film, what it was like on set, how she got along with the fellow cast members and quite a bit more. All three of these are nicely put together, quite polished in terms of their presentation, and genuinely interesting. Also on hand is an eleven-minute selection of archival Interviews with producer Alexander W. Kogan, Jr., director Richard Friedman and production manager Bill Tasgal. Here we learn about how Films Around The World wound up producing the picture, the rushed production schedule, the low budget that the film had to work with, the effects set pieces and why there's so much damn Todd Slaughter footage cut into the film.

Aside from that we get a still gallery, menus and chapter selection. Arrow packages this release with some cool reversible cover art and the first pressing of the disc includes a full color insert book that contains credits for the feature and the disc, notes on the transfer and an amusing essay on the film from Amanda Reyes of the Made For TV Mayhem podcast.

Final Thoughts:

Doom Asylum doesn't take itself very seriously, but instead emphasizes laughs as much as it does its horror movie elements. At the same time, it's got some pretty strong gore in it, the kind that should please slasher movie fans so long as they don't mind their entertainment served up low budget style. It's goofy stuff, to be sure, but it makes for a fun watch. Arrow's Blu-ray release looks fantastic and is loaded with extras that do a great job of documenting both the film's history and its appeal. Recommended.

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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