Directed and co-written by Richard Friedman, Doom Asylum is a lost horror comedy from the late 80’s that is best known as the first acting credit of Sex and the City star Kristin Davis.
11 years before she became a household name as Charlotte (you remember the prim and proper one) Davis played Jane, one of five teenagers who trespass on a creepy abandoned asylum and in doing so seal their doom.
11 years before their arrival Mitch Hansen (Michael Rogen) and his fiancée Judy (the brilliant Patty Mullen from Frankenhooker) have a terrible car crash which results in her death and him ending up on a coroners slab. Surviving somehow Mitch loses his skin and his mind seeking revenge first on the doctors doing his autopsy and then on anyone who comes into his lair.
Cue a bunch of crazy teen clichés including Kristin Davis’s psychology obsessed Jane, a nerdy one, a funny one, a boyfriend one and Patty Mullen playing Kiki the daughter of Mitch’s deceased lover. Also in the asylum is an anarchic punk band named Tina and the Tots featuring Ruth Collins a Playboy centrefold as Tina their unhinged leader.
As the kids clash over who has more right to illegally be in the old hospital Mitch picks them off one by one with his bag of autopsy tools and pithy one liners, working his way towards Kiki who he thinks is his beloved returned from the grave.
The key to a good horror comedy is a balance of both elements with nether taking over too much and ruining the film. Luckily Doom Asylum seems to be aware of this and tries to keep the laughs and screams coming in equal measure even if some moments are more effective than others.
Where it definitely works is the gore which is well done and reasonably nasty. Mitch who is known to the teenagers misleadingly as the Coroner due to the various urban legends that have appeared since his terrifying transformation uses acid, buzz saws, drills and more all with wonderfully grotesque results to dispatch the pubescent interlopers in the institution.
The location itself an actual abandoned sanatorium in Verona, New Jersey is excellently evocative, serving to up the fear factor no end even though the film is set in broad daylight. Run down, beaten up and covered in offensive graffiti the labyrinthine corridors seem endless and the rooms full of abandoned equipment hint at all manner of disturbing experiments going on in the dark past of the doom asylum.
Sadly although the design and make up is great for the central villain the Coroner’s jokes don’t quite cut it against other wise cracking horror maniacs such as Freddy or even the Leprechaun which is a shame. However there are some other great comedy characters to make up for this deficit including Patty Mullen’s weird airhead Kiki who asks her boyfriend if she can call him Mum and Ruth Collins insane turn as Tina a kick ass anti-heroine with a funny fake laugh and more than a few screws loose.
Best of all performance wise is William Hay as Mike the kind and caring muscle headed boyfriend who is incapable of making a decision. Any scene featuring him is instantly more enjoyable due to his constant inane questioning and it is the more surreal moments of comedy such as this in Doom Asylum that work best by far.
Arrow as ever deliver the movie in a brilliant Blu-ray package packed with more extras than the Coroner has kills including a brand new 2K restoration from the original camera negative, audio commentaries with screenwriter Rick Marx and The Hysteria Continues and interviews with Ruth Collins, director of photography Larry Revene and special make-up effects creator Vincent J. Guastini amongst other things.
Entertaining throughout especially for 80’s slasher aficionados Doom Asylum is an enjoyable horror comedy which should be appreciated on its own merits rather than due to who debuted in it. It’s also way better than both Sex and the City films and that is a fact!
Doom Asylum – The Arrow Video Story: