by William Goss
Director David R. Ellis has proven himself consistently capable of cranking out entertaining junk over the past four years or so – there’s no place for 'Homeward Bound II' here, amigos – so following up the likes of 'Cellular,' 'Final Destination 2,' and 'Snakes on a Plane' is no great shakes. It still doesn’t explain how this man of modest talent has managed to create something as singularly inept as his new horror flick, 'Asylum.'It takes about three minutes for the opening credits to begin, and about five minutes for the suck to kick in, as young Madison bears witness to childhood trauma – Daddy offed himself, probably knowing better than we do – and then, years later, attends the same university where her big brother followed suicidal suit. It’s there that Madison (now played by Sarah Roemer of Disturbia) is introduced in short order to her gaggle of archetypal roomies: the hard-on with legs (Travis Van Winkle), the slightly more sensitive hunk (Jake Muxworthy), the meek hacker (Cody Kasch), the loose blonde (Ellen Hollman), and the defensive brunette (Carolina Garcia).
"Doctor, Doctor, Give Me The News – Anything But This"
In equally short order, they drone on about their respective childhood traumas, investigate the annexed asylum next door, and find themselves preyed upon by the ghost of its resident surgeon, a Southern-fried doc (Mark Rolston; so this is what has become of Aliens’ Pvt. Drake) with a penchant for thrusting lobotomy picks into each and every ocular cavity that crosses his path.
Sure enough, out come the flashing lights and red herrings, the ‘you’re just stressed’s and the ‘I know what I saw!’s. The special effects are weak, the actors worse, and there’s not a single surprise, a single scare or ounce of tension in the whole tepid affair. It makes that House on Haunted Hill remake look like Return to House on Haunted Hill, although I can at least give the former credit for – I don’t know – genuine atmosphere, unnerving effects, and Geoffrey Rush’s exceedingly campy performance. Apparently, even one of those three is too much to ask out of Ellis and first-time feature writer Ethan Lawrence.After ninety minutes of lobotomy-pick-inviting glee, the credits blissfully arrive, and one can go on ignoring a travesty you’re impressed they bothered striking prints for, one all but destined for the dustiest shelf in your local video store and the latest slot on SciFi they can scrounge up. May we only hope that Mr. Ellis can find something fun with which to redeem himself. Come on, man: don’t be a hack, be our hack.
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originally posted: 12/22/07 01:28:40