The backstory is infamous: When Asylum Blackout premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2011 (under the title The Incident) two people in the audience passed out. It was such an impressive feat, reminiscent of the legendary initial screening of The Exorcist in 1973, that IFC scooped up the distribution rights on the spot (SOURCE). Bullshit or not, this story has been a great promotional device: A warning to the faint of heart and a dare to the brave.
So does Asylum Blackout live up to the hype? Was the relentless intensity enough to rattle this jaded gore hound? Check out my review after the jump.
Official Synopsis: George, Max, and Ricky are in a rock band and waiting for their big breakthrough. Between small gigs and rehearsals they work in the kitchen of a high-security asylum for good pay at minimum risk — they have no physical contact with the inmates. One night just before dinnertime, a big storm shuts down the security system, the doors open, and the lunatics break loose. Help is on its way and should soon arrive…they just have to survive until it does.
Rupert Evans carries a lot of weight as the film’s leading protagonist, George. It’s 1989 in Washington State, ground-zero for the burgeoning Grunge scene, and George (with his replica Kurt Cobain hair-doo) and his bandmates are struggling to ride this wave. But Rock & Roll isn’t as easy as it looks. As a musician myself, I can attest that writer/ director Alexandre Courtes did a great job of illustrating the frustration and drudgery that accompanies this seemingly glamorous lifestyle. Musicians usually fall into 2 groups: The driven and the oblivious, which inevitably leads to disillusionment and infighting. Often hardest of all is finding and keeping a job that allows the flexibility a gigging musician needs; usually such jobs are oppressive and mind numbing. This is George’s life: Chasing a dream while working in a pit. When you can empathize this deeply with a character, his ordeal deal becomes personal.
Awesome acting and skillful storytelling makes the somewhat ridiculous premise of Asylum Blackout seem totally believable. When the viewing experience is genuinely intense, explorations of occasional plot-holes becomes unnecessary.
For a film with such straight forward set-up and execution, Asylum Blackout is surprisingly rich in subtext. Of course it riffs on insanity, but also hits on themes of control and chaos. Asylum Blackout is a study of composure under extraordinary stress where men discover the depth of their strengths and their weaknesses. And there’s a mystery running beneath it all: Were the events of Asylum Blackout triggered by random circumstance (namely an electrical storm), or is everything part of someone’s devious design? The main suspect is, or course, inmate Harry Green (Richard Brake), a mute Lecter -esque fellow who seems to hold a hypnotic sway over his peers. But there are other possibilities to consider as well, including a disgusting bag of meat the George spills during the opening scenes of Act One.
So does Asylum Blackout live up to the hype? Does this blogger truly believe that the terror of the film is enough to cause loss of consciousness? Well… maybe. I’m not completely sold, but I’m open to the possibility. Because the portrayals of violence presented in Asylum Blackout can be summed up with one adjective: Jaw-dropping. There are definitely a few moments that seem capable of inducing panic, as well as some scenes of such brutality I nearly had to avert my eyes.
With a crappy name like Asylum Blackout, it’s easy to assume this film is nothing more than puerile Horror dreck, but it’s actually a deeply nuanced piece of cinema that even manages to incorporate aspects of traditional Gothic films and literature. It’s true that the movie’s portrayal of the mentally ill is somewhat stereotypical and 2-dimentional (and offensive), but Asylum Blackout isn’t so much a film about an asylum as it is about one particular employee. By the conclusion, the thin layer of shatterproof glass that separates the “sick” from the “healthy” has been completely obliterated—literally and metaphorically. In many ways, Asylum Blackout feels like a modern reimagining of an Edgar Allen Poe tale.
If you’ve got the stomach for brutality and an appreciation for well-written, well-acted, well executed physiological thrillers, don’t miss out on Asylum Blackout. This one has “Sleeper Hit” written all over it.
3.5 out of 5 Skull Heads.
|release date||May 4 2012|
|writer||Alexandre Courtes, Craig Zahler|
|starring||Rupert Evans, Kenny Doughty, Unax Ugalde, Dave Legeno, Anna Skellern, Richard Brake, Eric Godon, Joseph Kennedy, Marcus Garvey|
|tagline||When the lights go down, the inmates will rise.|