Sanitarium is a three-part Horror anthology directed by Bryan Ramirez, Bryan Ortiz, and Kerry Valderrama. Each segment features a specific patient, and the stories are tied together by the film’s Narrator, Dr. Stenson (Malcolm McDowell), who oversees treatment and operations. Sanitarium first screened at the Miami Internation Film Festival on March 1, 2013 and was released on DVD on December 31, 2013.
Read my review after the jump.
Official Synopsis: “Abandon everything you’ve ever believed about that brittle concept we call “reality” and prepare to enter a macabre netherworld of shadows, fiends and phantoms – a twisted realm of waking nightmares and warped minds, locked away in unrelenting torment. Welcome to the Sanitarium. Behind the walls of the Sanitarium, Dr. Stenson holds dominion over the inmates of a most unusual asylum. Horror Legend Robert Englund (Freddy vs. Jason, A Nightmare on Elm Street) also stars with John Glover (“Smallville”), Lacey Chabert (Mean Girls) and Lou Diamond Phillips in three chilling tales of unspeakable terror that will drive you over the edge of reason – and beyond!“
The success of The ABC’s of Death and V/H/S means that Horror anthologies are hot hot HOT, and Sanitarium seeks to ride that wave. Not only do anthologies pack more bang for your buck, they are a chance to feature several directors instead of only one. A good anthology shines in each chapter and as a whole. Unfortunately, Sanitarium is not up to par with the more successful entries I mentioned above.
The first story Figuratively Speaking is just awful. John Glover is annoying and unbelievable with his over-the-top portrayal of tortured artist Gustav. Those dreadlocks are insufferable! The plot is tired and the “twist” is really no twist at all. Even the inclusion of Horror royalty Robert Englund can’t redeem Sanitarium’s opening chapter. I was waiting the whole time for the scary little puppets to move by themselves, but all we get is one little neck-turn in the final frames. Big whoop.
The second chapter, Monsters Are Real, is okay. Steven is a young man with a hard life. No mom, and his father is an abusive alcoholic. To make matters worse, Steven begins to see a dark figure ominously watching him at a distance. This chapter is a well done (if unoriginal) exploration of what constitutes a “monster”.
The third chapter, Up to the Last Man is awesome and really the only bright point in an otherwise very disappointing effort. Lou Diamond Phillips plays James Silo, a college professor who becomes obsessed with Mayan Doomsday prophesies, and seals himself up alone in a large, well-stocked bomb shelter. 640 days later and Silo is understandable coming unhinged.
I would have preferred it if Up to the Last Man had been its own film, as the other stories in the anthology do little to elevate it. Also, this story could easily have been expanded upon while still remaining intense and engrossing. Phillips struggle is unnerving and infectious. Unfortunately, the pay-off is diluted by the fact that we already know the character’s fate: He’s doomed to end up in Dr. Stenson’s sanitarium. So even though we’d like to believe he made the right choice, we know better from the get go. If Up to the Last Man had been it’s own movie, the audience would have wondered the entire time whether Silo is insane or if he was the only one smart enough to read the signs correctly. The conclusion would have carried more weight either way.
In the end, this anthology doesn’t hold up to other recent genre offerings. While the sanitarium is a great setting for a Horror story, it is not enough by itself to provide a cohesive thread. Better to watch American Horror Story: Asylum on Netflix instead.
And how come they couldn’t find a place for Metallica’s “Welcome Home Sanitarium”? That might have been worth half a point right there. Oh well.
2.5 out of 5 Skull Heads.
|Written by||Evan Boston,
|Starring||Malcolm McDowell, Lou Diamond Phillips, John Glover|
|Music by||Douglas Edward|
|Editing by||Paul de La Cerda,
|Running time||108 minutes|