ASYLUM (1972) Review [British Horror Anthology]


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Directed by Roy Ward Baker, 1972
Written by Robert Bloch


A young psychiatrist, Dr. Martin, is looking to fulfill an empty job position in an insane asylum.  He arrives at the asylum, and upon meeting with the head physician he’s told the reason why a job opening exists.  One of the former doctors has him/herself gone crazy, and is in fact one of the patients currently being treated at the hospital.   Dr. Martin is then presented with the challenge of identifying his predecessor amongst the inmates, and if he can rightly guess which of the patients was a former psychiatrist in that very hospital – relying only on his interrogation techniques and listening skills – the head of the facility will grant him the open position as he’d be deemed capable of fulfilling the needs demanded by the job.

Dr. Martin then makes his rounds through the rooms of the four incarcerated mental patients, and listens to the crazy story each has to tell as to why they’re being detained; and each story is almost as crazy as the one before it.  The good, young doctor studies each as they delve into their history and open up about being a mistress caught in a murder conspiracy, a tailor hired to make a suit using a very unique sort of material, a ‘sane’ woman ‘wrongfully’ accused of murder, and a man obsessed with creating miniature figurines that each have an actual working biology underneath their plastic exterior.

ASYLUM is indeed a horror film anthology.  The majority of the time is spent showing us each story told by the inmate in flashback form, and in typical anthology fashion none of the stories have any direct correlation with any of the others.  However, unlike a lot of other anthology pictures each story does have an impact on the overall proceedings of the main plot, which is somewhat a story of its own.

THIRST, Review – Adam’s Take.


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I figured a second review of THIRST was best reserved for when the film expanded to several new cities.  What a coincidence that 8/14/09 marks just such an occasion.  Click here for a list of theaters hosting the badass Korean mamajama.


Directed by Chan-wook Park, 2009
Written by Seo-Gyeong Jeong, Chan-wook Park


A film’s title can often be the greatest signifier of what the film is, perhaps even more so than its genre.  A genre is just a categorical label telling you what kind of film the film resembles; but a good title should encompass everything the film actually represents.  The genre, the attitude, the tone, and the themes are just some of the things that should be considered when deciding on a title.  A well thought out title should be able to give you a helpful hint as to what the film is about, in what manner it will be presented to you, and most of all gain your interest.

One of the best ways to gain interest (mine at least) is through vague suggestion.   You’re not quite sure what the title means.  You know what the words mean, but don’t know what is so special about those particular words that they symbolize the feeling of the entire film.

In the case of THIRST it can be implied that the title generically represents the need for liquid.  When you hear the synopsis that it’s a film about a vampire then you can gather that the title refers to the vampire’s need for blood.  This, however, is the powerful thing about simple titles.  Ironically, the fewer amount of words used in a title the more it tends to embody.  Going by that rationale, and after viewing THIRST, the thickness of the film’s ideas and themes couldn’t have been spread over a multiple word title; it had to be compacted into one simple expression of desire, and necessity.

TERROR TRAIN, Review.


ORPHAN, Review. – Adam’s Take.


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Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, 2009
Written by David Johnson, Story by Alex Mace


Have you ever experienced a situation where your preconceptions about something are shattered, only to have the pieces put back together again with the cracks visible?  Like walking into an elementary school classroom and hearing the teacher shout obscenities, only to find out later you just misheard the whole thing.   That’s ORPHAN.

It puts you into a position of complete unease then goes down a more conventional path as if it felt a need to ease your discomfort.  What starts out bold ends up familiar, and tame.

The orphan of the title is Esther, played by young Isabelle Fuhrman, who has been adopted by Kate and John Coleman (Vera Farmiga and Peter Sarsgaard) from an orphanage that specializes in caring for children that have trouble finding homes because they’ve gone past the age of preference for most adoptive parents.  Kate and John have two children already, a son Daniel in his terrible tweens and adorable hearing impaired daughter Max.  The family had a third child on the way, but a stillborn pregnancy left them devastated – in particular Kate who has yet to fully acclimate back to routine.

BLACK CHRISTMAS (2006), Review.


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Directed by Glen Morgan, 2006
Written by Glen Morgan, Roy Moore (1974 Screen Play)


I’m really curious how this current generation of minors turns out, assuming that they also stay up late to watch R-Rated films past their bedtime.  I was one of those kids roughly fifteen years ago and I stayed up into the wee-hours to watch films like HALLOWEEN, MY BLOODY VALENTINE, FRIDAY THE 13TH, and others of their kind.  I knew that if I was patient I’d see a breast, somewhere.  I also knew I’d probably have trouble sleeping, but once my REM kicked in the luscious image of the naked woman would be there to comfort me throughout the night, forcing the image of a lunatic with a knife into submission.  No guts, no glory.

I’m sure today’s youth will probably have the same kind of experience.  Only, I wonder if their dreams of naked women are just bad remakes of mine.

BLACK CHRISTMAS (2006) is another in the constantly growing canon of horror film rehashes.  The original, which is an overlooked landmark in the slasher film sub-genre, was made by Bob Clark who is one of the most under-acknowledged filmmakers in the latter half of the 20th century.  While 1974’s BLACK CHRISTMAS isn’t nearly as well known as the more popular titles in the horror film catalog it is about as revered, amongst those that have seen it, as some of the genre’s best.

The Unrivaled Canon of Val Lewton.


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[You may recently recognize Adam Charles from around the HND comment section, but here he is to contribute, in my opinion, the best editorial this site now knows.  Hopefully it is the first of many.]

CAT PEOPLEI WALKED WITH A ZOMBIETHE LEOPARD MANTHE BODY SNATCHER

When you hear films titled such as these, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?  For me, when I bought the Val Lewton DVD collection, put out by Warner Brothers initially back in 2005 and then re-released in 2008 with a documentary featuring Martin Scorsese discussing Val Lewton, I expected to see films similar to those of the classic horror pictures of Universal Studios.  Films like those in the Dracula and Frankenstein series’.  In fact, I expected something much “cheesier” as these titles sound straight out of the Ed Wood filmography.

The closest thing I had to any knowledge of any of the pictures was a friend’s write-ups on the CAT PEOPLE and THE CURSE OF THE CAT PEOPLE.  So, my expectations weren’t exactly set low, but I wasn’t intending to watch anything that would affect me any differently than any of the other horror pictures of the 30s and 40s.

Chronologically I should have begun my viewings with CAT PEOPLE, but since I was somewhat aware of what to expect I wanted to save those films for the end.  So, I left it up to chance and the first DVD I grabbed was I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE and THE BODY SNATCHER.

Photographically opulent.  Atmospherically eerie.  Psychologically complex.  Intelligently written.  Professionally performed.  Well constructed.  Unquestionably, and assuredly frightening.  These aren’t things that are normally associated with classic horror films, and certainly not associated with B-horror films prior to Romero’s landmark NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD.  By all accounts and purposes, I should not have seen what I saw.




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