A rock band moonlighting as cafeteria workers in an asylum for the criminally insane get trapped in the asylum when the power goes out. The outage lets the patients loose. And, as it would be, they have not been taking their medication, so they are particularly rowdy. The musicians must think on their feet as they struggle to survive the “asylum blackout.”
Asylum Blackout was put out by IFC. I was anxious to check it out as IFC has distributed some great genre films in recent years like Dream Home, Dead Snow and Dead Hooker in a Trunk.
While Asylum Blackout didn’t live up to any of those aforementioned titles, it wasn’t a complete waste of time. It has its moments. There were even a few things that I liked about it. Everything that I liked about the film, however, was overshadowed by a piss-poor ending.
Asylum Blackout does a fair job of creating creepy atmosphere and building a mounting sense of tension throughout the film. The gore effects are brutal as hell and ultra plentiful. They look realistic enough and appear to have been done practically.
No complaints there.
There were a couple moments of inspired and humorous dialogue. Namely, the scene where George says to his girlfriend: “I don’t have time for a quickie. C’mon. I gotta go. I might violate you later.” And she responds: “You better.” Another clever nuance was the near gourmet quality meal menu at the asylum. To the best of my knowledge, most institutions for the criminally insane do not serve sautéed eggplant. [Editor's note: Been there and the food is deeeeelicious!]
There is nearly no proper character development. The main players have almost no backstory. All we know is that they are in a band and one of them has a girlfriend that all of the other guys think of as the “Yoko.” I could barely remember any of their names at the end of the film. However, the relationship between the band members provides an interesting dynamic. We learn a little bit about the key players through their relationships with one another. Their mostly good-natured bickering is enjoyable to watch. Their relationship has a quality that warms the audience to their respective performances.
Asylum Blackout bears striking similarity to the plot of Alone in the Dark. The main difference being that the entirety of Asylum Blackout takes place inside the institution, whereas, Alone in the Dark has the inmates escaping and terrorizing the surrounding neighborhoods. I don’t mind a little bit of re-treading, seeing as how nearly every idea under the sun has already been explored, but I want to see the idea done better or from a different creative angle the second time around. Asylum Blackout doesn’t do it better than Alone in the Dark and it doesn’t bring anything new to the table, creatively, either.
The film was made as a “period piece” but it isn’t effective at recreating the late ‘80s. A few minutes in, I forgot that the film wasn’t taking place in a more contemporary setting. If you are going to make a throwback piece you should go all out and do it right. There aren’t a lot of reasons to set the film in the past if you are not going to try to be historically accurate. Ti West went to great lengths to ensure that the dialogue, wardrobe, camerawork, and every other detail of The House of the Devil matched the time the film was set in. I didn’t see that kind of attention to detail in Asylum Blackout. As a result, the finished product suffers, on several levels. The film would have more credibility if it had simply been set in a time that the filmmakers could accurately portray, like the present.
As for the ending, I will keep my comments spoiler free, but suffice to say that the ending came straight out of left field. It made zero sense.
It was one of the least satisfying endings I’ve seen in a long time. It was unclear as to what the filmmakers were going for. There was nothing in the film to support why it ended the way it did.
Asylum Blackout is currently available on VOD. It might be worth a look to the avid horror fan, but don’t get your hopes up too high. The ending is anticlimactic and a pretty big bummer.