When a hotshot palimony attorney (Michael Rogen) wins a big case, he takes his girlfriend (Patty Mullen) for a ride in his convertible. He pays a little too much attention to the girl and too little on the road and winds up wrapping the car around a tree, killing the girl, and maiming himself. In the next scene, he finds himself on the autopsy table of a nearby asylum where a medical examiner (Harvey Keith) and his assistant (Steve Menkin) prepare to cut him open (why he’s taken to the asylum and not a morgue is never explained). Ah! But he is not really dead, just sleeping I guess. He awakes, kills the two dudes, and retreats into the bowels of the asylum.
Ten years later, a group of preppie teens drive down the same route while listening to the same music as the doomed couple did earlier. Kiki (Patty Mullen) is the daughter of the dead girlfriend and she asks her boyfriend Mike (William Hay) to stop by the accident site to pay her respects (how they know where her mother died, but are seemingly unaware of her father’s fate is never explained). Then, they head to the asylum for some fun in the sun.
A very loud, all-girl goth punk trio, Tina and the Tots, are playing the most obnoxious music imaginable in the asylum when they arrive. The two groups do a bit of tussling - the token black guy (Harrison White) turns the power off on the band, the goth girls toss water filled condoms on the gang. Our heroes settle in for a bit of sunbathing (why they go to the asylum where Tina’s dad died only to sunbathe is never explained - but it is a good excuse to get Kristin Davis - in her first film ever - and Patty Mullen in their bathing suits for the rest of the movie). One by one, the preppies and the punks wander off into the asylum and are then murdered by the killer.
Periodically, we see the killer in his lair watching old Todd Slaughter films. At first, I thought these inserts might be thematically useful, perhaps giving some back story into the killer’s psyche, then I realized they were just padding out the run time.
The kills are decidedly low budget but some of them are pretty good. There is a beheading in acid; the classic, giant drill through the forehead; and some facial disfiguring via an autopsy saw. Made for pocket change, the filmmakers definitely work with what they got and it comes out surprisingly well.
That’s the thing about Doom Asylum, it is not by any measurement anything but a bad movie, yet it's somehow charming. The filmmakers seem to understand they are making a bad movie and attempt to add some much needed comedy. If one was feeling generous, one could look at it as a satire of the slasher genre. Though where the intentional jokes end and the unintentional ones begin is anyone's guess. Either way, it did give me a few chuckles. The cast are all pretty terrible but you can tell they are really trying, which makes me kind of love them for it.
Made in 1987, Doom Asylum came out at the height of the made for video craze. With VCRs in nearly every home, and video being both easy and cheap to film on, anyone who could raise a few bucks and con a few people into acting for them could make a movie pretty quick and pretty inexpensively. Horror Hounds have never been particularly particular about the films they watch as long as there is gore and a bit of skin they are game. Slashers were the easiest to make and the easiest to sell so films like Doom Asylum were coming out by the hundreds every year. That type of horror film was starting to go out of style by the late '80s which is likely why they added in the humor element. Wes Craven would mix the comedy with the horror to much greater effect a few years later with Scream.
Arrow Video has created a brand new 2K restoration from the original camera negative. It looks quite good once you consider how cheaply it was made and that it's not likely the negative was stored with anything resembling care. Audio likewise sounds fine once you make all the caveats needed for such things. Extras include two new audio commentaries, several new interviews with various players in the making of the film, and the usual full color booklet with a nice essay.
Doom Asylum is a special kind of movie. It was cheaply made, poorly directed, and badly acted, yet despite all this, I rather enjoyed myself watching it. It has the charm of something made by people who clearly don’t know what they are doing but are really trying to make something entertaining. With that, they succeed. Arrow Video has done their usual outstanding job of cleaning it up and giving it a package worth savoring.