Synopsis: A young psychiatrist interviews four inmates in a mental asylum to satisfy a requirement for employment.
Stars: Sylvia Syms, Peter Cushing, Barry Morse, Ann Firbank, John Franklyn-Robbins, Britt Ekland, Charlotte Rampling, James Villiers, Megs Jenkins, Herbert Lom, Patrick Magee, Geoffrey Bayldon, Robert Powell, Sylvia Marriott, Daniel Johns, Frank Forsyth, Tony Wall
Director: Roy Ward Baker
Running Length: 88 minutes
TMMM Score: (6/10)
Review: I’ve reviewed anthology horror a bit in previous 31 Days to Scare entries (see From Beyond the Grave, After Midnight, & Cat’s Eye) so it’s only fitting to kick off another year with one of those forgotten gems from the 70s that were so popular. Asylum is another product coming out of British based Amicus Productions, a company as synonymous with anthology horror as Hammer Studios was during the same era for its revisionist takes on legendary horror figures.
As is the case with all anthology films, this one has several short stories all weaved together by a thin framework. For Asylum the set-up works better than the others thanks to a clever set-up finding a young doctor being challenged by his new colleague to figure out which of the patients he’s interviewing is really the recently committed former head of the mental ward they all work at.
Asylum was written by Robert Bloch who made a name for himself with the screenplay for Alfred Hitchcock’s classic Psycho and he brings some of that same wicked sense of humor to the four tales that we’re treated to over the course of a very short 88 minutes.
The stories run the gamut from quite frightening (in the case of Frozen Fear, a revenge tale) to the ho-hum (the unfulfilled promise of the otherwise interesting The Weird Tailor) but none of the stories lack for substance or interest. Even though it was made in 1972, the film holds up nicely today considering modern audiences unnatural bloodlust.
I’ve long hoped that anthology horror makes a nifty comeback and with the advent of shows like American Horror Story I think we’re inching closer to a revitalization. Films like Asylum and its countless copycats have provided some textbook examples of how to make entertaining films that don’t waste your time or your brain cells. They’re largely a lark but what fun it is to be scared!