The camp value in Gregory Gieras’ “Dark Asylum” is priceless and might have been able to stifle the fun but all things considered it only increases it. There’s the humorous opening as a cop car is chasing down a car with two surprise drivers, hear the screams and are led to a sewer where they find the Trasher’s lair. I was laughing at the notoriously bad acting by the police as they gave some incredibly humorous screams. I was in stitches as you could hear the horrible dubbing over the main character’s daughters voice. Despite all of that, this film has a potential to be a really good horror flick.
After the police finally catch a crafty serial killer called “The Trasher” (Larry Drake), doctor Maggie Bellum (Paulina Porizkova) visits him for an analysis after a long retirement. He manages to kill all the police in the asylum, and now Maggie and another mental patient named Quits (Judd Nelson) must outwit him as they play a game of cat and mouse, and survive long enough to be rescued by the police. I have to admit this had me at the edge of my seat in certain parts of the film, and the tension is right. All of the characters are wickedly interesting, including Porizkova’s character who has a shady past, and the dimwitted but oddly intelligent Quitz played so well by Judd Nelson.
Larry Drake is very intimidating and scary as “The Trasher” and manages to take his part whole hog. I loved watching the scenes in which he runs circles around the officers, outwitting them and creating elaborate traps. There are a lot of parts in the movie that had me jumping in fear, especially when the characters are hiding from the psycho, and constantly running from him throughout the confines of the insane asylum. Director Gregory Gieras is a gifted director who manages to convey the grim tone and tense nature of the film with great skill. Often times I was pretty impressed as the setting and dark tones Gieras managed to show off so well.
That said, the film takes turns in being completely ridiculous and there are lots of turns that didn’t manage to fare well with me. If this killer is so intelligent why would he let out a scream that would lead the police to his hide out? If he’s such a genius wouldn’t he find a better place to hide body parts? There’s possibilities for this film to become an all out gore packed horror flick but manages to take the safe route out and relies on suggestive gore. We watch as the Trasher smashes a cops head into jail bars only to have the camera cut away where we hear a loud squishing sound. Should we assume he crushed his head? Gieras seems to have the right formula for an all out ballsy horror flick but goes about the formula the wrong way by cutting away at the truly interesting and creepy scenes.
The film manages to become completely campy during portions of the movie, including the climax where the cops enter the scene. Poor Judd Nelson gives a charming but embarrassing performance as the mental patient who helps the Maggie character throughout the film. Often times he acts truly goofy and then acts coherent prompting the audience to figure why he’s in the asylum in the first place. The movie goes great with the chasing scenes throughout the asylum, but manages to drag on and on to a stand off scene between the Maggie character and The Trasher, and includes a tiring finale in the Trasher’s lair that just seems tacked on to increase the running time to the movie.