Tuesday, May 3

When the Cover Lies - Insanitarium (2008)

From the back: Jesse Metcalfe (TV's Desperate Housewives) stars in this horrifying thriller about a man who cons his way into a mental hospital in order to break out his beloved sister. Once inside, he discovers that a doctor (Peter Stormare, Fargo) is mercilessly using his patients as lab rats and is turning them into bloodthirsty killers. Trapped inside an inescapable labyrinth, will he and his sister find a way out before the relentless cannibals hunt them down?

Reading that bland synopsis, with the mention of being a "thriller", certainly doesn't conjure much hope. The film's goofy title and sterile cover also offer no solace. In a sea of false marketing of horror indies, extremely enticing covers are often designed for mediocre outings. This well worn equation is reversed in this case. Insanitarium is a splatter flick at its heart and writer/director Jeff Buhler deserves a round of applause for bucking a disheartening trend.

This is one horror fan that is tired of genre low-budgeters by young filmmakers being approached as a mere springboard to "better" things outside of horror. It's hard for talent to break free of the horror flick cycle once in, just ask Vincent Price, but there's too damn many examples of pussyfooted direct-to-video horror. Almost as if newcomers dread being shunned from the industry if they turn out a red-blooded, honest-to-Ash horror movie. Even if the plot is fucking boring and there's nothing distinguished about the final product. Hey, as long as it's well made maybe you'll get to be second unit director on some multi-million dollar Matthew McConaughey backwash in a few years!

Insanitarium's story, which heavily echoes Brett Leonard' fun The Dead Pit (1989), is no great shakes. In fact, it's usually a chore to wade through since there's zero mystery in where it's all leading. Then, like Peter Jackson's Braindead (Dead Alive), a deluge of grisly horror lets loose. Feline decapitation, bloody boobs, meatcleaver chops, creative machete use, Peter Stormare, arterial spray, flesh chomping, and again... bloody, heaving rack o' boobs.

It's nowhere near the same pedigree of Jackson's crimson epic, but it's refreshing to see an otherwise okay indie try to please horror fans without solely existing as an excuse for special effects or straight up lying to us. To get pull quote happy, Buhler's Insanitarium stands and delivers at being an abashed horror movie without the condescension. And oh yeah, everyone's favorite ex-G4 hot dog inhaler Olivia Munn has a supporting role as a psychward nurse.

1 comment:

Jeremy [Retro] said...

this is one i too enjoyed... i felt it held my attentions.

...do you dare tread upon the staircase?

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