One of the staples of horror is the anthology. There has been throughout the decades numerous collections of short, bloody stories that have made its way to horror patrons.
It is debatable how good many of these are. There is little doubt about the greatness that is Trick 'r Treat, or Creepshow, or Night Gallery, or Twilight Zone. But for every one of these there is a Deadtime Stories, or Nightmare Alley, or Chillers.
Unfortunately for Sanitarium, in the long run, this will fall into the latter category.
While some of the ideas here are good, the acting surprisingly good and the production values are top-notch, it fails on so many horror levels with a lack of proper deaths, any real blood or gore and a severe lack of scares.
Three stories are told from inside a Sanitarium for the criminally insane where its warden, played by Malcolm McDowell, tells the story of how these individuals came to reside in such an establishment.
The first tale is about an artist that makes little clay figures to show at a high-profile art house. His partners seem well and good but they have been poisoning his favorite booze with some mind altering substance and it has driven him to the point where he is now taking orders from the little clay figures and performing deadly acts. But is it just a result of his tainted booze? We don’t really know and we end up not really caring as none of the people in the first tale seem to be altogether good and there is not enough time given to establish whether or not they are someone we should care about.
Second is the story of a young boy that has an imaginary friend. Except the friend just happens to be six-foot-five and a mouthful of unnatural teeth. The little boy spends his days looking at the clouds but is haunted by a stern father and an overprotective father. There is a level of child abuse here but, again, we aren’t sure if it is just a troubled mind that is having thoughts of what is happening or if he is generally being abused which caused him to create this maniacal friend. Unlike the first story we get more development of the child but it never really gets out of first gear and any horror here is milquetoast at best.
The third tale is the longest and the most involved, but it is also the most confusing as it seems to have no place in this horror anthology. Lou Diamond Phillips plays a father that believes some random alien race created humans and is coming back to visit us once again. So, he gets his family to build a bunker that will protect them from the event all the while he is experiencing some sort of brain abnormality that is affecting is every move and causing him to lose his memory. While this is an interesting story about abduction and the human condition, unfortunately, it isn’t scary. It is sad and Phillips does a really good job of playing a guy that is losing his mind and knows it. But as far as horror goes, this has little of it.
Again, it is hard to see how they could make Sanitarium’s production values any better as they seem to have put a lot of money to making the film appear high quality but it is too bad such a production went into such bad stories.