May 10, 2012

Filthy Review - Asylum Blackout

Asylum Blackout (2011)

Review by Jude Felton

A film’s name can do a lot for a movie, it can help or hinder or it can give you a rough idea of what to expect from the film itself. This movie was formerly known as The Incident, and whilst there is nothing essentially wrong with that, it is incredibly vague. Now, Asylum Blackout, on the other hand, pretty much hands it to you on a plate in terms of what you are getting; it’s set in an asylum and there is indeed a blackout. That being said, despite reading up on the movie and checking out the trailer, I was expecting something along the lines of a cheesy B-movie schlock-fest. How wrong was I?

I should have known better, after all this is an IFC Midnight release and generally speaking their releases tend to be of a more serious nature, and such is the case here. The film itself tells the tale of four band members who work in the kitchen of an asylum to help support their musical career. It’s an easy enough job, they just prep, and cook and serve the meals to the inmates and the only real contact they have is through the reinforced glass as they serve.

This isn’t the Food Network though, and there is a storm-a-brewing which can and will lead to only one thing; a blackout. Then, in the immortal words of the song the four guys’ will find out that the lunatics have indeed taken over the asylum.

Director Alexandre Courtes has created a movie here that delights in manipulating your viewing experience. The film takes its time to get going, which is no bad thing, and focuses on the four lads bickering and messing about, basically keeping the tone fairly light-hearted, and if anything a little dull. It doesn’t take too long though for the film to take a turn for the nasty, and it’s with an almost sadistic glee that events get dark, very dark indeed, and it isn’t just because of the blackout. The tension builds wonderfully and the tone just gets oppressively mean.

Many horror movies employ the use of a storm to accompany the onscreen horrors; bad things are happening, so let’s throw in a storm to make matters worse. In Asylum Blackout it is the cause of the horror; everyone knows the storm is coming. It is what is going on inside the asylum though that is the focus, and I really did not expect the events to unfold in the manner that they did. Although this is not a gory film per se, there are some grisly scenes that are incredibly effective, and the cast help to bring across the horror to the audience.

Although I have given credit to Courtes for creating this horrific cinematic outing, a mention must go out to the editing of Baxter, who is probably best known for his work with French enfant terribles Alexandra Aja and Alexandre Bustillo & Julien Maury. He keeps things tight, reveals when is needed and knows when to keep the audience guessing.

I personally wouldn’t put this up there with other recent French horror, such as Inside or High Tension, but this is an incredibly solid effort. It is in English language in case you wondered, although it was filmed in Belgium. The majority of the film builds nicely and is very effective. However, the final five minutes or so seemed a little unnecessary, and will serve only to confuse some viewers.

Would I recommend Asylum Blackout? Hell yes I would. The positives far outweigh the negatives; it’s a lean, mean and taut little machine that manages to surprise even though it treads familiar territory.

Asylum Blackout is available now on VOD, and at theaters, from IFC Midnight

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