To welcome my arrival back at HCF Headquarters after having been off for nearly three months, my order of the day was to review The Asylum Tapes, a new horror that bares all the markings of yet another “found footage!”. Now I have to be honest and say that out of the six of us who run HorrorCultFilms, I am probably the worst one to have been handed this in my lap and even before I pressed play on the DVD, I shouted over to Matt to watch it simply because out of all of us, he still finds the love in this genre, but having to write up tons of news stories, he give me the “Wavish” look that simply simply stated “Don’t ask…. I am busy!”
So I found myself all alone, in a dark room, cup of tea in one hand a box of Pringles in the other, hoping that some how The AsylumTapes would differ from what has been done before. Even before I pressed play, thoughts were lingering in my head. It was about the same time last year that Matt and I got into a real heated debate about Grave Encounters, a film which he really liked and I hated and with this film looking very much similar in style and tone…… I must admit that I had to swallow the negative thoughts an just go with the flow. At the end of the day, I love my straight to horror DVD’s. Over the years I have discovered so many gems through this path that every week I get excited when I get my hands on a new one and I live in hope that it turns out to be another undiscovered beauty. While I admit, most of the films suck beyond belief, I was beginning to hope that maybe I was judging TheAsylum Tapes just too damn hard. The famous saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover” was ringing through my mind so as I finally pressed play I was overcome with a feeling that maybe this could be the all new found footage horror to actually be any good…
The film starts with a huge shock, one that had me rocked to the chair and my Pringle crisps flying through the air. Here right in front of me, staring back was the figure of Mr Oliver Stone, yes the legend of the film world and I was stunned wondering “what the heck he was doing appearing in a straight to DVD horror film. It was then I realised that I really should have looked at the notes that Bat gave to me and realised that The Asylum Tapes or for our readers in America where it is called Greystone Park,is the directing debut of non other than Sean Stone. “Who?” I hear you cry, well in case you have not clicked by the surname, he is in fact the son of the Natural Born Killer’s director and so it seems the old man was pulled into the film to give it some quality and while its a brief cameo in which he tells a ghost story (not quite in style or quality of the fisherman in Carpenter’s The Fog) it still a nice touch and the horror starts well.
The film like them all tries its best to be different but the blueprint of Blair Witch overshadows everything. Here instead of Heather we get Alexander Wraith, who has been to the abandon asylum before and wants to put proof on camera. Wraith who co wrote the film along with Sean is the typical character you have seen so many times before and with Sean himself also starring in the film as a guy who does not believe in all this shit, you can see why many viewers will sigh at what is going to develop. To make up the standard trio is that of Antonella Lentini, a beautiful actresses who really offers nothing in sense of plot, just this nice to look at girl who is there for a laugh, a notion that she will soon come to regret.
The setting like in Grave Encounters is perfect. You can not get any better than an old Asylum, but with Session 9 being one of my favourite horror films of all time, I could not help but feel that I have seen all this crap before. When the trio enter the empty corridors in the middle of the night, you can’t help but be sucked into what is going to happen. That is the beauty of the found footage genre, you need to keep on watching even though what you are seeing is a load of crap. Its like human curiosity, we watch to see what actually is in the shadow and what kind of force is making that noise, the reveal 95% of the time turns out to be such a waste, but every horror fan longs for that other 5% and even when I was watching this, I was hoping to get sucked in and scared.
What I did love about The Asylum Tapes is the fact that the plot is kept simple and not once does it go down the path of fantasy which marred my experience of Grave Encounters. The simple scares are effective at the start but once we hit the half way mark you soon realise that it is the same thing over and over. Like many before and after this, it offers nothing new and soon I was quite bored because its only so much you can take of “What’s that noise?” “Quick Run!”…..”What’s that noise?” “Quick Run!”……over and over again….
The one thing I will say is that the film offers a glimpse of what the younger Stone could bring to this field. Its a confident debut that die hard fans will love and I expect our Matt to really like this film, but how can a horror film be scary when its only showing a recap of what the Blair Witch offered way back in the late 90’s…..and as for the end……well….you have to make your own mind up on that one!
Since my mother sat me down at the age of five years of age and watched a little called Halloween, I have been hooked on horror. There is no other genre that gets me excited and takes me to the edge of entertainment. I watch everything from old, new, to cheap and blockbusters, but I promise all my readers that I will always give an honest opinion, and I hope whoever reads this review section, will find a film that they too can love as much as I do! Have fun reading, and please DO HAVE NIGHTMARES!!!!!!
Oh man, I forgot you reviewed this. Watched it last night and it is by far one of the worst found footage horrors I have ever seen. Its a good thing you reviewed it mate as I would not have been that kind!
I liked it. The opening sequences were compelling and eased you into the film. They also brought to light the very intertwined nature of psychiatry, brainwashing (electroshock and ‘psychic driving’) and the occult by depicting the building as having all-seeing eyes and black-and-white tiles, the latter the pattern on the floor of all Masonic lodges, which are attempting to recreate the Temple of Solomon.
This strange mixture of these three elements is understood only to those who study the darker side of history. What appears to many viewing the film as a smorgasbord of unrelated creepiness is actually an esoteric revelation as to the true nature of mind control. The inclusion of the mysterious “witch,” who occupied one of the creepiest rooms seen in the film, though we’re never allowed to know much about her. This simply serves to create a danger that places emphasis on the occult aspect of the facility, just as Billy Lasher, the masked subject who was stripped of his identity at birth and subjected to brutal experimentation, is a danger that places an emphasis on the brainwashing experiments that took place there. The two are symbols of the darkness that converged here under the banner of “mental health.”
The “ghosts” of this film are “shadows” – shadow people, described by Alex at the beginning. This is a somewhat more contemporary and realistic approach of the subject, as the phenomenon of “shadow people” is well-documented and it appears that these are the “evil spirits” we have
Early in the film, we learn that Antonella carries with her a charm bearing the face of Medusa. She explains that the feminine perspective is that she was once a beautiful woman who was turned into a demon by the gods, and that she is now a symbol of death. Once one sees her there is “no going back.” Behind her is a whiteboard with notes on the occult and mythology. We clearly get the impression that Antonella, like Alex, has a strong interest in the supernatural. Later, we see that Stone has a painting “Witches’ Sabbath” by Francisco Goya on his wall in which the Devil is prominently featured as a goat. He has drawn in wings and comments that he has seen many of the figures in the painting in his dreams. Soon after entering the asylum, they find a *printed paper* with another depiction of a witches’ sabbath presided over by the Devil who appears again as a goat, but this time only a large, horned silhouette is seen. Later they find a circular stone in which Medusa’s face is engraved. This is similar to Antonella’s strange charm. She later notes that she saw one of those creepy dolls in her dreams.
Sean’s image of the witches’ sabbath was a print-out, and it appears that this second witches’ sabbath depiction was also one. The circular Medusa charm worn by Antonella is very similar to the circular Medusa charm they later find in the asylum. This imparts the concept of synchromysticism in an ideally occult context. A synchronicity is a meaningful coincidence. Synchromysticism is the concept that synchronicities are not simply coincidences, but that they carry mystical import. While one view holds that some kind of cosmic force or oder is behind synchronicities. The “godfather of synchromysticism,” the occult scholar James Shelby Downard, held another opinion: that many synchronicities are evidence of a very deep conspiracy by mystical secret societies. Greystone Park appears to depict a hybrid of these two concepts, and the backdrop certainly couldn’t be more appropriate.
It also forces one to recall the theories of Carl Gustav Jung, himself an avid student of the occult, who believed that *symbols* carry with them inherent power over the subconscious mind. Recalling the earlier elaboration of Antonella on the significance of Medusa as a death symbol, this is an esoteric foreshadowing of their deaths.
Before finding the Medusa symbol, they find a chalkboard with “DEATH” written in large letters and Sean becomes agitated, demanding that they find another way. In one area, they find “BILLY” scrawled across wood and Alex becomes agitated. Some clips show all-seeing eyes scrawled on the walls, as well as numerically significant signals such as “777” and satanic messages such as “Jesus Wept” and “Jesus is Dead.” The former is received as a text message by both Sean and Antonella long before they come upon that area of the building, while the latter is conspicuously present on a wall while Sean and Alex have a ceremonial ‘face-off’ of sorts. These signs are clearly imparting esoteric information of a supernatural quality. They, as well as the print-out of the witches’ sabbath and the symbol of Medusa, are a part of a theme of devil worship that is referenced in the beginning by Alex and culminates in the chapel scene.
Earlier, they find an all-seeing eye that appears to have been painted onto the wall as part of the original design, further emphasizing the tie to the occult. Antonella says she’s seen it before, but doesn’t know where. While the all-seeing eye has been subliminally seared into about every mind of the west (at least), she may have been referring to this precise design. We again appear to have a case of mystical synchronicity.
If you have watched the many interviews with Sean on the Internet, you’ll know that not only is Greystone *very* haunted, but that there exist real photographs of “Billy Lasher.” He elaborates that he and his friends had authentic encounters with the supernatural there. He also reveals that he has been haunted by a demonic presence ever since, and has developed a strong belief in the paranormal.
Ultimately, the viewer is left to come to the conclusion Alex offers in the beginning. Greystone is a place of evil. The forces there and what they manifest is incomprehensible. Indeed, this film is a smorgasbord of occult and supernatural topics that may appear to some as a few too many darts thrown at a target in the hopes that one will actually stick. However, this film may one day be looked on with new eyes. I view it as a historical testament to the 21st century status of and views on the supernatural.
*The “ghosts” of this film are “shadows” – shadow people, described by Alex at the beginning. This is a somewhat more contemporary and realistic approach of the subject, as the phenomenon of “shadow people” is well-documented and are a major modern manifestation of the “evil spirit.”