Review: Asylum Blackout (2011)
Review by Annie Riordan
Okay, so…there’s this band. At least I think they’re a band. They’re not performing anywhere or recording anything. They sit around the studio and wait for the drummer to show up, except he never does. They all live outside Seattle and have shoulder-length hair, so I assume they’re either metal or grunge. Anyway, the only seemingly serious band member is George. George takes everything very seriously: his band, his girlfriend, his job as a cook in an insane asylum. He never misses studio time. He’s never late for work. He even nixes sex with his improbably hot girlfriend to ensure his promptness. George needs to seriously rearrange his list of priorities. Guys, especially guys in bands, do NOT turn down sex. Ever. For any reason. Thems the rules.
He also needs some new friends. You know how They say that familiarity breeds contempt? Well, this bitch needs its tubes tied and cauterized like yesterday, because shit is about to boil over big time. George’s best friends are not only his band mates, they’re also his day job coworkers, and the BFF bullshit just isn’t cutting it anymore. Resentment is in the air, barbed insults are lobbed back and forth, tensions are mounting. Throw in a severe lack of sleep, an excruciatingly early shift and a meat shipment filled with chicken heads and cow skulls, and you know you’re just one catalyst away from the proverbial brown stuff hitting the fan.
Sure enough, a huge thunderstorm rolls in. This should not come as a surprise to anyone in the film which takes place in the Pacific Northwest, a region whose reputation for rainfall is comparable to Dita Von Teese’s reputation for getting naked every once in a while. But yet, when the storm knocks out the asylum’s power, everyone has the nerve to look surprised.
Now, you’d think that a maximum security facility for the insane outside of Seattle would be better prepared for a power outage. But nooooOOOOoooo. The guards decide that George and the rest of the cafeteria gang are perfectly capable of assisting them in ushering the crazies back into their padded cells, even though they’re off their meds and have already started acting up. You’d think the police would be a bit moreconcerned with the situation once alerted. You’d think maybe the phones would have been knocked out along with the lights, but they’re not. Whatever, I don’t even care anymore. I’m so tired of listening to these guys snipe at each other that I just want the riot to start and the splatter to commence.
But then it does, and then I can’t wait for THAT to be over too. The violence is prolonged and heavy handed, intended to sicken rather than shock. The guys run and hide, then run and hide some more. You’d think they’d stay put once they found a good spot to crouch down and be invisible (which they do, initially), be patient and wait for the either the cops to finally show up or for the storm to end. But there MUST be a way OUT! And so they go looking for it. And get killed off one by one every twenty minutes or so. And. It takes. For. EV. Err. Jesus fuck movie, just please for the love of God END already!
And eventually it does end, as all movies must. But first it has to circle back in on itself and twist its leaden storyline into something that makes no sense at all, reveals nothing, astonishes no one and clears up exactly fuckall about what the hell just happened. It leaves one with a stunningly non-profound sense of “Huh?” There are good “Huh’s?” that make us question our place in the universe, and there are bad “Huh’s?” as in “how will I ever get back my two hours of wasted time?” And then there’s this “Huh?” As in “I just shot myself up with enough Dilaudid to paralyze a bull elephant and tried to read a quadratic equation text book upside down.”
I can’t really call this a bad movie. The acting was…decent, I guess. The story, if a little tired, isn’t completely threadbare. But the whole thing is just so unrelentingly depressing, weighted down by darkness and hopelessness, dragging itself and the viewer through a swamp of despair. It’s one of those movies that makes you feel utterly contaminated by the time it’s over, smeared with the filth and feces of the entire human race’s cruelty and ugliness.
But then again, perhaps the films ability to make me feel so rotten is an achievement in itself. I’d no sooner watch it again than I’d willingly have sex with Jim Carrey, but if wallowing in the muck of ultimate evil and misery is your thing, hey – go for it.
Asylum Blackout is available now on IFC Midnight VOD, and on Region 1 DVD on September 25th from MPI Home Video.