Doom Asylum (1987)

Author: Brett H.
Submitted by: Brett H.   Date : 2008-05-24 13:38

Directed by: Richard Friedman
Written by: Rick Marx
Produced by: Steven Menkin

Reviewed by: Brett H.

“It’ll be all right Kiki, it’ll be all right. At least I think it will be all right. After all, you’ve got me now. I mean, if that’s any comfort to you. I’m not your mother and I never could be, but I can try.”
“Can I call you, ‘Mom?’”

Have you ever come across a video cover that just screamed out to you? One, that for no reason whatsoever, happened to grab your attention and pull you in? All the while, your brain kicks in, struggling to predict just what that magical tape inside the plastic casing will contain. The brief moments at the video store where you find a cover, tagline and synopsis that just clicks is truly a phenomenal one, especially since you rarely had any idea what tale the tape would tell. Opening that clamshell case was like opening the door at the end of that long white tunnel after death; could be heaven, could be hell. This thrill is an aspect of the horror experience that has sadly come and gone, a new era of glorious transfers, surround sound and non-degrading media ushered in to take its place; complete with internet reviews to spoil all the fun. Tape by tape, a local video store’s horror section was slowly making its way into my home and a little film that seemingly no one else had ever laid eyes on caught mine.

Previously, I had seen Doom Asylum for rental and quickly forgot all about it, not even noticing it had disappeared off the shelves. When the store decided to sell this unknown treasure, I snagged it up right quick. I loved it immediately and praised it everywhere I could to anyone who would listen. Some people chose to buy it, but half the time the copies would get lost in the mail. The Doom Asylum Curse, we labelled it. A few years after this, I received a message from a then-new DVD company on a forum and it contained information I never thought I’d ever hear, probably in response to my ramblings on the film. Doom Asylum was going digital. And, it was going to be released uncut from this new entity called Code Red DVD. It was hard to keep my mouth shut until it was officially announced, but I did, and so the Curse had run its course. The bonesaw-revving “Coroner” was finally going to show off his slicin’ and dicin’ to a new, eager home video audience, and this time they were sure to discover his wicked ways and cheesy quips. Freddy, who?

Palimony attorney, Mitch Hansen (Michael Rogan) has just snagged himself and the love of his life, Judy (Patty Mullen) a cool five million in a courtroom scam. Full of goodwill and kindness, the two plan to ship Judy’s daughter off to boarding school and take off to Long Beach to relax for the rest of their lives. Between being kissed and drenched in Dom Pérignon (but most likely the wine just above Thunderbird on the price list), Mitch forgets to watch the road. The mother of all tragedies occurs when their convertible and a van collide, throwing both Mitch and Judy from their car. Covered with blood, Mitch reaches for his lover’s hand. And that’s all he gets. Judy remains optimistic and tells Mitch not to worry... she’ll love him forever.

Cut to a coroner’s office where the wisecracking, submarine sandwich chompin’ doc goes to work on Mitch’s body, much to the disgust of his intern. Just before they try to scoop out the cadaver’s brains, it begins to twitch. He’s alive! Rising from the stretcher Frankenstein style, soaked in blood and grue and mighty pissed off, Mitch asks about the fate of his beloved Judy. The doc informs Mitch she didn’t make it (of course, according to this genius, neither did he!) and Mitch does what anyone would do after hearing such tragic news. He grabs a scalpel and stabs the shit out of the intern before plunging the blade deep into the doc’s chest! 10 years later a group of teens looking for some fun head out to the local abandoned sanatorium, which legend has it, is inhabited the maniacal “Coroner”. Wonderfully stereotypical, each character enters this doomed asylum for shits and giggles. Little do they know that the ditzy one, Kiki (also Patty Mullen) will soon meet someone... something from her past!

I absolutely love Doom Asylum. It’s intentionally hilarious and mediocre, pretty damn gooey and completely idyllic of the 80s horror/comedy slasher cycle. I’ve not encountered a cheesefest that makes me laugh as much and it’s admirable that Doom Asylum actually has some true merit to it. You’re not just laughing at the screen as is the case with most so-bad-they’re-good movies. Instead, you are actually laughing with this movie. I've liked cheesy films before, but Doom Asylum brought me cheese perfection. The acting definitely would leave something to be desired in the majority of flicks, but it’s perfect here. The cast all act well enough that they’re able to flaunt the stereotypes wonderfully. From the baseball card collecting nerd to the token black guy (who isn’t so token in horror) and featuring the odd relationship of Kiki and her boyfriend who can never make his mind up, the characters are all superbly entertaining. In a strange twist of fate, Kristen Davis (of TV's Sex and the City fame) plays the smart girl, who can be quite the bitch as well! Every gang of teens needs a rivalry, and an evil slut rock group also using the graffiti filled asylum for their own entertainment provides just that. And, you just know two members from the opposite gangs are going to be smitten by one another! A sub-plot straight out of Shakespeare.

The Coroner is one of my favorite horror villains, but I’m sure most would find him an acquired taste. Take one part Freddy Krueger, one part Leatherface alongside a dash of a tortured soul, and you have the cheesiest villain to ever stalk teens with a wide array of weaponry. The Coroner’s one-liners are totally zany and sure to please. His kills are bat-shit crazy to boot. How do you off the nerd? A large wind to blow his Wade Boggs card right to you will help! And for good measure, The Coroner’s sure to proudly hold his power drill at eye-level while the nerd tries to bribe him with his entire collection. After drilling said head in, The Coroner offers a simple explanation. “I really wanted Mickey Mantle!” The Coroner is that badass, folks. Rap music too loud? Oh, that’s a big no-no in The Coroner’s house and you’re sure to get some pincers puncturing your temples. To top it off, the crème de la crème is the demise of an obscene rocker chick in the bathroom, which happens to house a tub of acid for some reason. She pleads for her life, insisting she voted for Reagan. The Coroner is having none of that and he plunges her into the vat and pulls her grotesque visage up before proclaiming, “I respect your First Amendment rights to the political beliefs of your choice, but I don’t necessarily agree!”

To pad out the running time, The Coroner spends his off-time watching old black and white flicks that reflect the previous or forthcoming scene. At first I wasn’t a fan of this, but upon further viewings I found it adds a special charm to the film. He grumbles in creepy POV shots through tunnels underneath the asylum, his voice is distorted ala Evil Dead and he racks up quite the body count. He is sure of himself, too, as he laughs after every joke he makes just like Freddy. A tribute to the acting is the film’s direction. Although low budget and cheesy, the real-life atmosphere of the abandoned asylum is eerie at times and it certainly is ten times more well directed than you’d think. The kills are fast and furious and the jokes spew at you full throttle the whole way. There are a few misses, sure, but the vast majority of the quips are total cheese gold. Adding to this, the gore is solid for a film of this nature and the uncut footage really makes the film all that much more appealing. Kudos to Code Red for going the extra mile and providing fans with the most complete version.

As funny as the film is, certain scenes are surprisingly sweet in that 80s sort of way. When Kiki finds a mirror of her mother’s and reflects sadly on 10 years without her, her boyfriend quickly comforts her and assures her that if there’s a heaven, her mother has a box seat. As indecisive as the boyfriend character is in the movie, he’s sure of himself for that one line. It’s perfect 80s teen romance. The good guy that he is, he even lets her call him, ‘mom’, which bites him in the ass later on the film in one of the funniest scenes of the movie. Code Red’s DVD is mastered from the best available elements in its proper full frame ratio, but seeing as the film was edited on video, it can only look so good. It certainly looks better than my worn out VHS. If an uncut version of the film wasn’t enough, we’re treated to a great commentary and interview where the filmmakers generally talk about Doom Asylum in the same vein as the viewer. It had been nearly 20 years since the production manager Bill Tasgal and director Richard Friedman had last seen each other and it’s fun to see them reunite in the commentary and interviews, they must have had more of a blast making the film than I had watching it. And that’s a nuclear type blast because my sides split more and more with each viewing. Please, somebody pay these boys to do a sequel! It may not be the most conventional movie to give our top rating to, and like The Coroner, I’m chuckling at my own actions. Doom Asylum is the best cheesy slasher of all time, and it’s not even a close decision. Essential!

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