After coming to consciousness inside a mental hospital, Dwight (Nick Baldasare) assures that he’s not crazy, and that he’s going to make his escape. Despite seeing nightmarish versions of the people around him, hallucinating grotesque creatures and deformities, Dwight insists on his mental clarity. The expanses of Dwight’s insanity are further made explicit by the enigmatic Van Gogh (Frank Jones Jr.). Is life outside the asylum truly better? Or will the supernatural visions Dwight is having make life in the outside world a living nightmare?
The presentation of the visions is a real treat. As a makeup artist, I will always appreciate the use of practical effects, and the work in that regard stands out here. The gore looks good, the creatures look harrowing, and visually, the film is actually a gem. The crawling, viny tentacles of a particular monster reminded me just a bit of the trees in the original Evil Dead, a reference that any gorehound will appreciate, should they catch it.
Dwight Stroud is one of the more difficult characters to figure out whether to love or hate. On one hand, his plight is an understandable enough one. He’s not crazy, he doesn’t need to be locked up. On the other hand, Dwight has this thing where he doesn’t seem to be able to shut up. Even in moments that could benefit from a lack of dialogue, he fills what he perceives as dead air with whatever internal monologue he has going on at that time. It’s one of the biggest critiques I have of the movie. It doesn’t leave enough time for the big moments to breathe.
Speaking of letting things breathe, this film runs close to two hours (118 minutes, actually), and it feels longer than it should. There are moments where the film shines, such as the boardroom massacre and the entirety of the final act, but there are several bits that feel like they could have been left on the cutting floor for the benefit of a better overall product.
While it does go a little long in the tooth, the visuals in Asylum of Darkness are well worth the price of admission. It’s gory, dirty, and a feast for the eyes, even with its length.