Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Asylum (UK, 1972)

Boy they liked their horror anthology movies back in the 70's didn't they, well Amicus certainly did. This movie actually has a genuinely eerie title that has of course been reused since, and the movies poster is actually quite scary too. Usually these old horrors have cheesy titles with very daft posters but this one breaks that mould somewhat.

So its an anthology movie, therefore as you might have guessed its the same premise yet again with a selection of four short tales sandwiched between a bookend tale usually with a narrator of sorts. This time a young Robert Powell plays a young doctor who is visiting an asylum to apply for a position within. Oddly he is set the task of interviewing all four patients within the asylum to figure out which one used to be the head of the asylum...if he can he gets the job, just like in reality.

First patient and first tale recounts a plot to murder the wife of a wealthy middle aged couple. The murder is planned by the gent of the couple and his bit on the side. The thing is the gents wife studies voodoo, as white middle aged wealthy folk do, and when she is killed off she comes back for revenge. Its a very rudimentary vignette that doesn't really show much imagination methinks, although I must admit it is quite unnerving when the dead wife comes back in the form she does. This was probably the very first old fashioned horror tale in these anthologies that actually gave me the willies, very creepy.

Second patient who is an ex-tailor, tells us of a mysterious man (the mighty Cushing) who orders a fine suit to be made out of a special material. The catch being this tailor must make the suit under a specific set of instructions that must be followed precisely. Once completed and taken to Cushing in his dark dark residence we discover the suit is for his long dead son. Why you ask? well it can bring inanimate objects to life, not dead but inanimate as we find out when a store mannequin is accidentally dressed in the suit. This is again a simple tale that didn't really grab me, many questions are raised as usual and as usual left unanswered. Not really an issue as I'm used to this with these movies but the ending is very weak with this one, I guess the tailor made it out of the situation alive then, how very unexciting.

The third patient is a female who appears to be suffering from dissociative identity disorder, in other words she has multiple personalities or in this case a second personality. The young woman in question believes she is being told to escape her boring life by another young woman which results in her murdering her brother and a nurse. This whole short is very predictable and really rather unimaginative I think, its pretty obvious the young blonde is a figment of the girls imagination and what follows is bland to say the least.

The final patient is played by the legendary Herbert Lom and his little vignette blends into the bookend story involving Powell. Bizarrely this short story looks like a forerunner to the horror movie franchise Puppet Master...kinda. Lom is creating a little toy robot that is a likeness of himself (why a likeness?), he intends to transfer his mind (somehow) into the toy robot so he can...escape? not too sure actually. I can't quite see how this will benefit this patient if his mind is inside a small slow waddling toy robot but there you go. Plus how on earth did he manage to recreate a miniature working version of his own viscera for the little robot and why would it even need that??! This short offers an intriguing premise but it makes no real sense as I've already pointed out, the final outcome seems coincidental and I'm not even sure if that was the characters actual game plan. It merely serves to run into the bookend story which in itself is weak and ends on a flat note that wasn't setup well in the first place.

Overall I found this anthology tame and very cliched with stories that have been told a billion times before, there is nothing much on offer here that feels really fresh. Yes the casting is top notch as they tend to be and the visuals/effects are particularly well done this time round but the stories are sooooo routine, there is better out there.