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WICKED COOL: an overview of Asylum horror

this is a re-post of a guest spot I did back at the beginning of the month for, on Asylum horror. in the spirit of the holiday, i thought i'd show it here.

If there’s one constant in the ever-shifting marketing focus of The Asylum, it’s that people love a good scare, whether it comes by sci-fi, creature flicks or straight-up horror. And though The Asylum is best-known at present for its work in the realm of mockbusters, the genre it has been delivering with the most consistency – and originality – for nearly fifteen years, is good, old-fashioned horror.
First a bit of backstory: The Asylum was formed by David Michael Latt, David Rimawi and Sherri Strain in 1997. Rimawi and Strain had been executives at Village Roadshow, and upon leaving teamed with writer/director Latt to start a genre distribution and production company. In the early days Asylum was mainly a distributor, and the films were all over the place – thrillers, comedies, dramas, horror films, etc. – but it was horror The Asylum execs first set their production eye upon. Killers, a hallucinogenic, bloody thriller directed by David Michael Latt, was the first film produced by The Asylum in their first year together. Five years later it would spawn a sequel that would also mark the beginning of The Asylum’s rigorous production routine that would soon make them one of the most prolific independent studios in Hollywood.
For the purposes of closer examination, I’ve broken the horror films of The Asylum into three distinct eras: 1997-2005 – the genre era; 2006-2008 – the mockbuster era; and 2009-present – the (mega) modern era.

THE GENRE ERA (1997-2005)
Approximately fifteen horror films were released by The Asylum between 1997 and 2005, making them the company’s primary production focus until the mockbuster came along. Of these films, the overwhelming majority were based upon some variation of legend or myth, the very basis of genre horror: angered spirits (Scarecrow, Intermedio), vampires (Way of the Vampire), mummies (Legion of the Dead), pirates (Jolly Roger: Massacre at Cutter’s Cove), Frankenstein’s monster (Frankenstein Reborn), werewolves (The Beast of Bray Road), zombies (Death Valley: the Revenge of Bloody Bill) and, of course, demons (Shapeshifter).
No matter how broad their appeal, however, these films got lost – along with so many others from so many other small production companies, many of which are now long-defunct - in a sea of direct-to-DVD horror that choked the marketplace in the wake of the genre’s popular revival in the late-90’s thanks to films like the Scream franchise and The Blair Witch Project. But while other companies reacted to the problem by pushing out even more films in the same vein, The Asylum took a gamble and shifted their marketing strategy, as well as their place in film history.

In 1995, Asylum executives had a game-changing idea. That was the year Steven Spielberg was set to deliver his long-awaited version of H. G. Wells’ classic novel of alien invasion, War of the Worlds. As the story wasn’t original to Spielberg, there was nothing to stop anyone else from making a competitive version but the revered filmmaker’s own clout and ego. And who cares about that? The Asylum rushed a version into production starring former Hollywood heavy-hitters C. Thomas Howell and Judd Nelson, two fine actors who’d had doors shut on them The Asylum was only too eager to open. The result? 100,000 copies ordered by Blockbuster, blowing all other orders on all previous Asylum titles clear out of the water. The rest is history.
On the horror front, The Asylum continued to produce a large number of films in the genre during this era – eleven, depending on how you define the genre – but as with The Asylum’s sci-fi output, across the board these were mockbusters, or tie-ins:
                    THE ASYLUM                                                        HOLLYWOOD
Exorcism: The Possession of Gail Bowers        The Exorcism of Emily Rose
When a Killer Calls                                              When a Stranger Calls
Hillside Cannibals                                                The Hills Have Eyes
666: The Child                                                     The Omen
Snakes on a Train                                               Snakes on a Plane
Halloween Night                                                Halloween
Freakshow                                                           Tod Browning’s Freaks
The Hitchhiker                                                    The Hitcher
Supercroc                                                            Rogue, Primeval, Croc, Black Water
Invasion of the Pod People                              Invasion, Invasion of the Body Snatchers
With the exception of Snakes on a Train, most of these films flew under the radar in terms of cultural awareness, the flashier sci-fi tie-ins like Transmorphers, Terminators, and King of the Lost World garnering the most media attention. But as the mockbuster era continued to flourish throughout ’07 and ‘08 in the arena of sci-fi, The Asylum cut back on the number of horror films it produced. 666: The Beast, arguably the last horror film of this era, would see two years pass and twelve more films made before there was another horror title in the Asylum’s filmography. But this would turn out to be just a trimming of fat, so to speak, a sacrifice in the quantity of years past for the quality to come.

THE (MEGA) MODERN ERA (2009-Present)
In late 2009 when The Asylum released Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus, yet again the wheels in their marketing minds began to turn. Mega Shark, as we all know, went on to become the most notable film in The Asylum’s catalogue and was the eighth-most Googled trailer of the year thanks to a now-infamously-classic certain plane-chewing scene, an astounding accomplishment for an independent studio in arguably one of the most spectacular years in Hollywood history, visually-speaking (Avatar, District 9, Star Trek, Transformers 2, 2012, Terminator Salvation, etc.). As a result of this success, The Asylum began pushing out other similarly-conceived films, including MegaFault, Mega Piranha, the upcoming Mega Shark vs. Crocosaurus (out 12/21/10!!!) and Mega Python vs. Gatoroid. In an interview aired October 2nd of this year on “Last Call with Carson Daly,” Asylum honchos Latt, Rimawi and Paul Bales seemed to indicate this was a direction production would continue to head in. So what does this mean for Asylum horror? Will creature flicks absorb both sci-fi and horror productions, meld them into some composite terror? Not likely.
Though The Asylum has only released four horror films since 2009 – The Haunting of Winchester House, Paranormal Entity, 100 Feet and 8213 Gacy House – three of the four have been completely original (Paranormal Entity was just begging to be made), and coincidentally, perhaps, or perhaps not, all four have been ghost stories. Doubtful this is a specific trend – the ghosts – but what it does seem to be is The Asylum’s return to stand-alone horror, so to speak; original stories that don’t need to draft off of a studio release to find an audience.

Trying to predict the future of the Asylum is like trying to predict what number a many-sided die will land on when rolled; one can only guess. But horror has always been the backbone of The Asylum’s productions – however manifested – and in fact, it’s where they’ve been the most original and most daring. In an era where every half-baked scary story or gore-fest is slapped onscreen, The Asylum, in this modern era, at least, seems to be doing something popular media’s conception of them would find contrary: they’re discriminating. And for us, the committed, this may not mean a horror flick every few months, but it means when we do get them, we’re guaranteed that good scare.

observation notes: 100 Million B.C.

Another stand alone sci-fi epic from The Asylum, with slight ties to Godzilla, the Matthew Broderick version, and Cloverfield, though the latter film was still a year away, and would be later mockbusted by Monster. So then this one's neither here nor there, merely a time-traveling action flick with ties to the Philadelphia Experiment - electromagnetic tinkering undertaken by US scientists during WWII in which a wormhole through time was ripped open. 

The film opens with a Navy Search and Rescue team being briefed by a theoretical physicist (Michael Gross) and a Naval superior (Greg Evigan) on a quite unusual mission: rescue a team sent back in time in 1949 - a team that includes the physicist's brother (Christopher Atkins) - to the Cretaceous Period some 70 million years in the past. (that's the number they reference several times. i guess the title's just rounding up.) The obvious response from the (present) team is, well, if they were sent 70 million years back into the past 70 years ago, how they fuck are we even sure they're still alive? Cave paintings, that's how, recently discovered by amateur spelunkers that irrefutably come from a Twentieth Century hand, though carbon-dating says otherwise. How irrefutably? "Rita Hayworth as Gilda," and "Frank It Wasn't Your Fault." In English. Pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty irrefutable.

To attempt this rescue, of course, the present team will have to undertake the same risk as the past team by traveling through the wormhole. They won't be alone however, as the physicist, racked with seventy years worth of guilt, refuses to let them go alone and insists on joining them. So back in time they go, via a stargate - not a stargate-looking thing, this is just a stargate, unapologetically - and arrive where, rather, when they wanted, smack dab in the middle of the Cretaceous Period, where they immediately begin their search for the past team.

It isn't long before acid-spooging plants, looming brontosauruses and carnivorous marine life make their going a little tougher. They get some help, improbably, when 70 fucking million years in the past, a past where none of the geography resembles that of our era, somehow the present team stumbles upon the physicist's brother and his past team within an hour or two of arriving, and just in the nick of time to get their asses saved from raptors. I studied abroad one summer in England, and over the course of the 4th of July weekend I took an impromptu trip to Amsterdam with a friend. I wasn't twenty feet outside the train station when I bumped into a girl I dated in high school. That's coincidence. When I was 16, on a cross country road trip, I walked into a mall in Salt Lake City and bumped into the man who baptized me, sitting outside the food court McDonald's. That's coincidence. Bumping into your brother who you haven't seen in 70 years because you sent him 70 million back in the past? That's fucking providence, or incredibly accurate mathematics, at least. I digress.

So reunited and somewhat safe, the mission now becomes to get everybody back to the wormhole so they can return to the present (the present team's present, but the past team's future.) It's a short trip, relatively easy but for, you know, the dinosaurs, but just when you think getting everybody home is the solution, it turns out to guessed even bigger problem. Problem 1: someone has to stay behind in the past to close the wormhole, otherwise anything could just come trouncing through, and they don't want that. Problem 2: it has to be the physicist as he's the only one who knows how, and, racked with guilt even now, he's willing to sacrifice himself to get the past team home. Problem 3: he totally fucks it up, and not only bites it (the present version of himself, that is) but allows a quite large, already-pissed and now really-discombobulated dinosaur to enter the 21st Century. And we are surprisingly unprepared for it. 

"The threat is biological in nature, it is bipedal, and it is carnivorous...I repeat, it is bipedal and's a dinosaur...I shit you not."

The above pretty much sums up the human response: humorously disbelieving, overwhelmed and clueless.The rest is spoilers but to say the third act is entirely metropolitan, and the ending is a mindbender, in terms of who's where, temporally.

100 Million B.C.was written by Asylum producer Paul Bales, who also wrote a score of other Asylum flicks including 2010 Moby Dick, Sherlock Holmes, Megafault and Killers 2, and directed by Louie Myman, which is really just a pseudonym for Griff Furst, the actor/director who's been mentioned here a few times for his work behind the camera on Lake Placid 3 and the upcoming Swamp Shark (as well as Asylum films I Am Omega and Universal Soldiers) and in front of it also in The Dunwich Horror (as well as Transmorphers and The Hitchhiker). Asylum regulars Mark Atkins and Nick Everhart edited the film, alongside David Michael Latt. Together, these men managed to craft an enjoyable, engaging sci-fi film, that if reminiscent of other films, intentionally or not, stands on it's own thanks to a spry script and strong performances.

Michael Gross ("Family Ties," the Tremors franchise) balances his performance with shades of brilliance, concern and guilt, though he's not at all believable as the age he's supposed to be (that's a compliment). It is his convictions and inner-turmoil that form the emotional center of the film and make him the most empathetic of our characters. Greg Evigan (6 Guns, Journey to the Center of the Earth) is largely contained to good-natured imperatives and salutes for the first 2/3rds of the film - though authoritatively charming as always - but in the third act his role really widens and he takes control with the ease of a seasoned wingman. But my favorite was Christopher Atkins (The Blue Lagoon, Shakma), who's essentially a younger, more awesome John Schneider (sorry, John) and here fills each scene with a  larger-than-life spirit; he plays the role as a pure adventurer - he could be a time-traveler or an astronaut, a pirate or explorer; his restrained zeal, his tempered (by peril) passion for the moment, is nothing less than infectious.

Other cast standouts include Geoff Meed as present team chief, Marie Westbrook as one of the female soldiers of the past, and Dean Kreyling as the chief of team past.

The FX are okay so long as they're not onscreen with actual people, in which case they look totally fake (a few shots are used a few times, pretty obviously). The main dino looks like some sort of zombie dino: it's hide is red with refined musculature as though it's been skinned. Gross (And not Michael). Even the Mega Shark moment - you'll know it when you kinda see it - relies more on your imagination than any actual FX. The city scenes are okay, though too deserted; as long as your CGI-ing the shit out of things, toss in some dying crowds.

Overall, it's a neat adventure story, although a little too reminiscent - for me - of Journey to the Center of the Earth but with less hot chicks (not less-hot, the women here are comparably hot, there are just fewer of them, I mean) and The Land That Time Forgot, but maybe that's a compliment, because if it had popped up that this story was based on another by the likes of Jules Verne or H.R. Haggard, I would have totally bought it. So definitely worth a watch if you enjoy films of that ilk.

One thing got me, however: where, in the Cretaceous Period, did 1940's female soldiers find form-fitting halter-tops? Another mystery for the ages, I suppose

977's Unsolicited Yet Copyrighted Pitch #4: CASUAL ENCOUNTERS

In the tradition of Sex Pot, The 18 Year Old Virgin and, most recently, MILF, I humbly present this raucous sex comedy that I'm calling Casual Encounters. Like many other Asylum comedies, it centers around two friends, young men in their mid-20's, tentatively named Walt and Roddy (the latter name alone should provide three to five minutes of jokes, easy). Walt is our lead, a clean-cut nice-guy who's too nice for his own good. Roddy is his best friend, the more crass, vivacious and stoned of the two (Seth Cassel could be good here.).

Our film opens on graduation night, Walt and Roddy both having graduated that day, Walt from a journalism Master's program and Roddy from his 7-year Art History program (insert "it's where the chicks are" jokes here). Roddy has convinced a reluctant Walt to come with him to the big party that night, a thing Walt never does, being the quiet, bookish, stay-at-home, mild-mannered sort he is. But, since his girlfriend Jessica, another graduate, is busy with her girlfriends that night, and on account of the cajoling he's getting from Roddy in reference to his impending desertion of Roddy and this town for Jessica and the big city, Walt concedes. 

The party is an affair of debauchery, a mixture of college kids, grad students and the like, all enjoying a well-deserved break. While Roddy is revealed to be a natural reveler, Walt is the obvious awkward wallflower, standing alone, avoiding conversation, all-around not enjoying himself. But out of the corner of his eye he sees a girl running playfully upstairs, Jessica, he thinks. He makes his way across the party and goes upstairs, finds himself in an empty hallway with several doors, all of them open but one at the end. He goes to it, hears a minor skirmish and a squeal from inside. Thinking Jessica in trouble, he opens the door. In the room he finds Jessica, topless, her breasts covered in chocolate syrup, and two eager young men, naked, ready to clean her. All are a bit shocked. What follows is a difficult, awkward, and chocolate-breasted break-up (that the naked dudes observe) in which Jessica says they've been together too long, since high school, and she'd been feeling cooped up for a while now, like she was letting her sexiest days pass her by. Until recently he was the only man she'd ever been with (was?!?), and she just can't continue to waste all this (chocolate breasts) on one guy. Walt counters that they're supposed to move to the city (any city) the next day. Yeah...she's not coming. Maybe later they can get together, settle into that grown-up life Walt seems so eager for, but for now, she's young, she's hot, her moral compass for the moment is out of whack and she wants to flaunt it. Walt, spineless, concedes and even leaves the room, closing the door behind him so Jessica and her new friends can get back to business.

Roddy spots Walt, dejected, leaving the party and follows him out, gets the story. Walt is freaking out, he's got a deposit on an apartment in the city, needs to start looking for jobs, but going alone freaks him out even more; he's ruined, his life is over. Roddy steps in and says he'll move with Walt, he's spontaneous and unattached like that. So it's settled.

We pick up with the two friends in the city where in the process of moving in Roddy meets a comely neighbor and disappears to sex her up, leaving Walt alone to move in by himself. When Roddy returns Walt confronts him about this, how it will be, Roddy with the ladies and Walt all alone, and Roddy assuages him by saying all they have to do is get Walt back in the game himself and it will all balance out; he's a free man for the first time as an adult, the first time ever, he should get out there and hump anything that will let him. To prove his point, Roddy takes Walt to a nearby bar that night, tries to help him meet women, but Walt is hopelessly awkward, doesn't know how to talk to women, certainly doesn't know how to pick them up. It's a disaster, in short, and Walt leaves embarrassed, ashamed and alone, while Roddy scores again. When Roddy returns later that night, he and Walt have a talk about the problem, how Walt can't communicate with women in the moment like that, his brain seizes up and he can't think of anything to say. If only there was a way to pick up women without having to look at them. 

There is, Roddy declares, and grabs a laptop, directs Walt to a community message board that comes with a Casual Encounters section. Roddy explains the CE principle to Walt and why he thinks it's ideal: he's not looking for anything other than sex, he doesn't want to play games, and he doesn't want to talk face to face. He can communicate honestly and directly through writing, his strong suit. Walt doesn't know, he isn't sure, it sounds kind of, well, desperate and sketchy. It is sketchy and desperate, but so it the best sex, which Walt wouldn't know, having been with only one woman his whole life; he has to trust Roddy.

So trust he does, and allows Roddy to post an ad for him detailing what he wants in a sexual escapade. Walt has to get drunk as he does this, so nervous and timid he is, so it gets progressively lewder and thus funnier as he goes. Walt passes out before the ad is posted. Roddy finishes it for him by snapping a picture of Walt's package to post with the ad. As it turns out, Walt happens to be well-endowed, causing Roddy to curse all the time he spent writing when they could've just posted the pic.

When Walt wakes up in the morning, his inbox is flooded with willing women wanting to get down. Funny sequence going through the women, the pictures, the shapes, the sizes, the ages, the kinks, the personalities, all this, until he finds one that suits his purposes, someone, like him, that seems normal and even demure, bespectacled, quiet, just a mousy thing looking for a good time.

Now, from here we get into - pardon the pun - the meat of our movie, the encounters and how they effect him, so I don't want to give away much more than generalizations. What I can say is that the demure chick turns out to be the opposite, kinda dominatrix-y, the signs were all there in conversation but Walt didn't get it, and this rough but hilarious encounter freaks him out. Roddy convinces him to try again, promising this time to help him decipher the lingo via  "micro-blu," an inner ear blu tooth device (a dash of Cyrano de Bergerac never hurt a comedy). This is where the vagaries in description begin.

Walt goes on another encounter, Roddy talks him through to the good stuff. Things get a little freaky, and when it's over Walt forgets he still has the blu tooth in, allowing Roddy to have heard everything, which disturbs him and disturbs Roddy as well for how much it turned him on, so both agree this plan was a one-time thing.

As Walt continues to navigate the strange world of no-strings sex he meets an array of characters: cougars, BBWs, curious lesbians, goth girls, good, old-fashioned trashy sluts, other kinksters, and among these one girl, different from him, fiercely independent, edgy, but cautious, who answers his ad a few times, but takes it slow, talking only the first encounter, standing close without touching the second, progressing like that, because her kink is the build-up. Walt is falling for her in a weird way, but she'll have nothing of it, because once they consummate, the build-up is over. 

So as these aspects of our story wind around each other - the casual encounters eventually giving him the experience and confidence he needs to feel independent as a man and his burgeoning real affection for a girl he met that way - the monkeywrench of Jessica re-enters the picture. She's back, says she's been around and all she's found is that she had the best right where she was. She wants Walt back, wants to pick up where they left off, leaving Walt to make a difficult decision between his old, safe, static life and love or his new, exciting, dangerous and thrilling life, with it's possible new love (is there anything beyond the build-up? can it ever be more exciting?).

This one has it all: jokes, boobs, comic sex and a nice array of women characters sure to appeal to a broad range of men. Plus, I can't think of another sex-personals comedy off the top of my head, so it could be virgin territory, but without a single virgin. Would also work as a horror movie with minimal tweaks.

I'm just sayin'.

So Much New Stuff I Can Hardly Keep Up

Jeez I'm getting run ragged this week with breaking Asylum news. But, really, who am I to complain? I love this fucking stuff.

Which means I especially love this report from Killer Film about the recent American Film Market conference at which our favorite movie studio released three posters for upcoming films not listed anywhere on their website. The first is the well-known and frequently referenced (here) Mega Python vs. Gatoroid, the poster of which can be seen in the post before. But beyond this,  the article also reveals two new projects I've heard nothing about, and provides no information whatsoever besides the posters. One is The Almighty Thor, an obvious tie-in to the impending Marvel pic, not to be confused with SyFy original "Hammer of the Gods," in which the follically-gifted son of Odin was portrayed by Tim Allen's oldest boy Brad from "Home Improvement." The other film noted is called 2012 Ice Age, the third film with that prefix (behind Doomsday and Apocalypse). 

IMDB has nothing for either of these, nor does the trusty intraweb other than more references to this same story. But some news is still good news, especially when it's about new Asylum flicks coming down the pipe.

Mega Python vs. Gatoroid Poster Revealed

So, only days after the release of the utterly awesome Mega Shark vs. Crocosaurus poster, The Asylum has dropped an equally amazing if not  - dare I say it? - more amazing poster for the most eagerly anticipated film of 2011, the Debbie-Gibson-Tiffany catfight vehicle Mega Python vs. Gatoroid

Even without the starring beauties on the cover (the human beauties, I mean), this is a pretty spectacular image (courtesy of ). If the movie contains even one scene like this - plus that catfight - I've already gotten my money's worth. One detail worth noting, this is the first look we've had at the Gatoroid, and as it appears, at least, doesn't seem to be robotic, cyborgian, or in any way mechanical. If anything, it looks vaguely Crocosaurusish, but that's splitting hairs, I'm sure. No date on this one other than early 2011, but it's a SyFy debut, so rest assured there will be mad publicity surrounding this one. Enjoy!


Let me go ahead and apologize right off the bat for that headline; I couldn't resist. I will not, however, apologize for the picture. 

Regardless, run don't walk to your local, independent video store RIGHT NOW to score your copy of the latest sexy romp from The Asylum, MILF. If the title isn't convincing enough, check out my review to seal the deal. The film just hit shelves TODAY so stop reading this and get going before some uninformed pervert gets his filthy hands on it first!

outside the walls: Non-Asylum Inkings

So I'll admit it, there are films not produced by The Asylum. There always have been, always will be. These glasses I wear are not rose-colored. They are clear, and occasionally smudged with fingerprints. A sampling of non-Asylum films due soon and news that might spark the interest of Asylum fans. Just remember, Sweet 'n Low ain't Sugar.

Today's installment features two new films out on DVD today that might be a nice balance with the lascivious and gut-busting hilarity of MILF.

This tense supernatural thriller starring future contender for sexiest woman alive Jessica Lowndes and former "O.C."er Ryan Donowho concerns a young woman, Lowndes, who years after losing her mom to an amateur aviation accident, takes off with four friends for a Coldplay concert (really? in 2010? huh.) via a twin engine plane she - as a hot teenager - is going to pilot. I'm pretty sure every pitch at the Lifetime network starts a little like this, though the Lovecraftian element I bet they leave out. Oops. Did I say "Lovecraftian element?" I'm getting ahead of myself. Back to our flight, our fivesome: the catch? Well, maybe that's something else you should discover for yourself. Needless to say, our anthemic-piano-rock-lovin' teens take off (literally) and that's when the fun starts, for us, at least. When they encounter a storm bank, our pilot, who isn't instrument rated - meaning she can't fly through clouds - has to climb above the storm, a.k.a. she has to gain altitude. A glitch in the tail prevents her from being able to level off again, meaning the plane can't stop gaining altitude. So they're constantly climbing into this dark cloud it from your local independent video store and see for yourself. End result: awesome, taut supernatural thriller with classic elements and a modern payoff.

P.S. watch out for that last half hour; it's a doooooooooooozy

Lake Placid 3
I've already reviewed this one, directed by Asylum-mainstay and COMMITTED-favorite Griff Furst, so nothing more to add here, other than to say it hits shelves today, so check it out if you're in the mood for comedy and horror. Just horror? Try the above. Just comedy? There's no other choice this week but MILF. Bon observation!

Big Asylum News Day! Tidbits Galore!

So The Asylum site is all abuzz today, and there are some real gems of information being bandied about. First off, we get the first official trailer for 2010 Moby Dick, starring Barry Bostwick (in what looks like the most intense performance of his career) and Renee "Xena" O'Connor. I'm a big "Moby DIck" fan (tattooed half-sleeve to come), so I've been anticipating this one like a mofo; from what I see, this could satisfy my irrational expectations. Dig the Mega Shark look to the whale. Check out the awesomeness right here.

Furthermore, it's been reported that Battle of Los Angeles has wrapped principal photography as of today, and the first stills from the film have been released, including this badass shot of the lovely Nia Peeples in a scene that would have looked perfectly in place in Machete. Check out the other stills here, where you can also dig on the poster, also released today.

Also announced today, The Asylum is having a pumpkin carving contest, giving we committed fans the opportunity to memorialize our favorite Asylum films in the oh-so temporary medium of pumpkins. The prize is pretty awesome: an advance, autographed copy of the best film of the year, Mega Shark vs. Crocosaurus, complete with bonus behind-the-scenes footage. Check out the rules and entry information and get ye to carving! 

And finally, though there are no links or any info whatsoever, another title has appeared in the Coming Soon box in the bottom right corner of The Asylum's homepage: Born Bad. I can't imagine what this one's about, but it better be a Paul Logan or Geoff Meed vehicle. More info as soon as it's available, promise!

Creature Feature: The Ghost of John Wayne Gacy

As if being a psycho-clown wasn't scary enough, The Asylum had to go and up the ante by making John Wayne Gacy - a contender for America's most fucked- up serial killer, a tough contest - a dead psycho-clown continuing his killspree from beyond the grave. (I particularly like that the evil spirit that inhabited the body of one JWG and now comes and goes as it pleases from the netherrealm does so still decked out in its creepy-ass clown makeup.)

But truth be told, despite the barrage of usual ghostly powers - invisibility, super strength, general imperviousness, et cetera - the ghost of John Wayne Gacy has a long way to go before it catches up with the man John Wayne Gacy. Gacy the ghost killed a measly six people over the course of 8213 Gacy House. Shit, in real life Gacy the man killed more than that in 1976 - that we know about. All told, Gacy-man racked up a confirmed kill-count of 33 dudes in the 1970's, but that's just a minimum. Who knows how many more were sent downriver or otherwise disposed of? Bottom line, there will need to be a few more Gacy-ghost movies before those figures get equivalent, meaning for now, Gacy the ghost is only 1/5th as frightening as Gacy the man, so it's a good thing that sick son of a bitch is dead.

Still, suggestions for Gacy-ghost sequels: 

  • a home-makeover show tries to turn the land Gacy House was on into a shelter for abused children, who fight back against the biggest abuser of all, kind of like a pint-sized version of A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors.
  • an eccentric and macabre millionaire builds a mansion with the original materials from the Gacy House then invites half a dozen complete strangers to the mansion in order to participate in some fiendishly lavish and fake treasure hunt that in reality is just a ploy to enact revenge upon the strangers, each a cog in some long-past plot that somehow ruined the life of said millionaire. Then Gacy-ghost kills them all.
  • just after being executed, Gacy-ghost finds himself as the guardian spirit of a trio of young, sassy siblings whose parents are both dead. All these rascals need is a little guidance,a lot of love, and a dash of divine intervention and they'll avoid the pratfalls of a parentless adolescence. Instead, though, Gacy-ghost spares them that by just killing them.  

Just some food for thought, something to get those numbers up, cuz right now it's the dude who played "Francis" in Pee-Wee's Big Adventure that racks up the biggest clown-faced body count, and nobody wants that.

observation notes: MILF

There are certain movies, that when they're made, the concept seems so simple and classic that I can't believe it took us as a culture so long to produce it: 30 Days of Night is my go-to example of these; someone should've thought about vampires in a sunless environment long before the 21st century. And MILF, the latest comedy from The Asylum, is another such concept: hot moms have been all the rage for decades now, thanks to the invention of the minivan, the rise in America's divorce rate, recreational youth soccer and the internet. And while yes, there are plenty of films that extol the virtues and myriad pleasures of taking an old lady lover, none of them have had the balls to flat out call themselves, MILF, which is an acronym, but if you don't know for what, then you my friend need this movie more than the rest of us.

MILF is the story of four sexually-frustrated college freshmen ( i guess i could've just said "college freshmen" and gotten the same point across) who have absolutely no game when it comes to picking up hotties their own age. But when one of the four sees a naked cougar - one of the other four's moms, no less - teamed with the discovery of the aforementioned naked cougar caught by the four in the midst of  two-person "passion party" with another of their moms (i knew going into this it was about somebodies' moms as sex objects, i just didn't know it was going to be the moms of half our principle characters. this took some adjustment), the idea becomes planted in the boys' collective dick that the answer to their sexless strikeouts is the tender loving care only someone else's mother can provide. This happens about the same time the cougars in question discover their sons' friends are ripe for the plucking. The end result of this mutual, lustful awakening is sexual exploitation and objectification of the highest, finest order, and where our film really takes off.

Essentially, our heroes concoct an American Pie-style bet to see who can bag the most MILF (yes, i'm using MILF as the plural of MILF, like DEER or SHEEP. the movie will back me up) by the end of the year, then go about attempting to ensnare their prey by stalking the places MILF are known to graze: singles bars, the grocery store, and eventually each others' family homes. Along the way each of our freshmen has their equally raucous, thrilling and emasculating encounters, more often than not with hilarious results. This rampant lust turns complicated and potentially devastating, however, when our main hero finds himself in a full-on Friend With Benefits situation with another of our heroes' moms, the same other hero who saw the first cougar, our main hero's mom, naked and felt so bad about it he hasn't stopped apologizing all movie (it sounds complicated, i know, but believe me, if i can follow it after three vodka/sodas, you can too.) It's at this plot point we realize the true dilemma of our film; it isn't about how many MILF these young men are going to have intercourse with, it's about whether or not our main hero will continue to sneak around with his friend's mom for the best (and only) sex of his young life, or will he throw said sex away for the sake of lifelong friendship? Only in the movies is this an actual question (don't hate, you know it's true. lust always trumps honor, that's why in most religious systems it's an infraction, because otherwise all of us would do it all the time. human nature is ashamedly primal.).

The rest of the story I shall leave unspoiled. As for the performances, I was - as I was with the movie overall - pleasantly surprised. Lead actor Jack Cullison - who makes his feature debut with MILF - is easily the best of the bunch, awkwardly charming where the others are just awkward, and geekily likable in a too-relative way. Philip Marlatt, who plays the hero whose mom is being serviced by his best friend Cullison, tries a little too hard off the bat to be the funniest, which he isn't, coming off a little like a more-realistic version of Michael Showalter's "Doug," but as the film progresses and we get into the thick of his character, he ends up giving the most non-lustful emotional performance of the film. The other guys, the Brit and the Hispanic-American, are pretty much just there - it feels like - to round out the cast, though the Brit has a couple of pretty funny moments.

As for the women of MILF, though the film abounds with them, there are three of particular note: Amy Lindsay as the main MILF doing her son's BFF (and who's filmography makes the 12-year-old CInemax-viewer inside of me very happy), who in this film manages to accomplish the near impossible: she's hot, slutty, kinky, yet still three-dimensional, that is, not a caricature of any of these qualities, but somehow simultaneously believably maternal and the victim of an emotional roller-coaster that has her even considering such a relationship. (MILF surprised me over and over, and most often it was in this sense: at the heart of this bawdy sex comedy is, well, a heart.). Molinee Green plays the mom of the mom-banger, a tigress with a little kinky secret of her own, and she's just pure sex in this one, but she's also my only complaint about the cast, and not because of her performance, but her age; Molinee's currently 28 years old, according to IMDB, and no matter where you're from, that's a little young to be the mom of a college freshman. But she looks good naked, and that's the point, so what am I even talking about? And finally there's Jamie Bernadette, who plays the actual love interest - because every bawdy sex comedy in truth revolves around an actual love story - of our mom-humping hero. Another relative newcomer, hopefully we'll see more of her in the future.

Now, what I'm about to say, I don't mean it as criticism, but as a compliment, I really do: I found this film to be much tamer than most other Asylum comedies, not in terms of content, but in delivery, it was more subtle with it's humor - not that it wasn't delightfully crass and lewd, there's ample cross-generational nudity, lesbian coeds, wet sports bras, nipple slips, circle-jerk jokes, requisite fist-bump explosions, ball gags, pasties, sexting, inappropriate son-mom banter, further inappropriate son-friend's mom interactions, chips, dip, chains, whips, lollipop innuendos, hernia tests administered by non-medical professionals, eastern sexual philosophy, dessert toppings, more fake boobs than a fake boob factory, unintentional threesomes (Mike Gaglio is the funniest single moment of the film), sex lies and digital video and everything else you'd hope to find in a sex comedy - the film doesn't smash you over the head with these elements, rather it weaves them into an actual story, a higher level of comedy that results in a sophisticated yet blissfully sophomoric romp that entertains and scintillates all at once.

The first observation notes I posted were for #1 Cheerleader Camp, which I began by saying I wasn't the biggest fan of Asylum comedies, and concluded by saying #1CC had caused me to reconsider that stance. With MILF, that stance is hereby reversed. I really liked this one, mostly because it really surprised me by being attentive to character and not just situation. It's a damn funny movie, not near as drastically distracting  as some other films in this vein, and ultimately a touching cautionary tale about the real-life emotional ramifications of balling your buddy's mom, or just old chicks in general. 

So, you laugh a little, learn a little, and get to see a bunch a boobs. And isn't that what the movies are all about? In my world, they are.

inmate profile: Leigh Scott

Leigh Scott is a born filmmaker. Raised in Wisconsin, Scott moved west to California at the age of 18 to attend film school at USC. While there, he interned for Roger Corman's Concorde Pictures, giving him his first glance at low-budget, high-imagination, creature-feature filmmaking. Scott first rose to prominence in Hollywood in 2004 via his films with The Asylum, where he worked primarily as a writer/director, but also as an editor, a cinematographer, a digital artist and a second unit director. Like Hitchcock, he also typically appears in his own films, usually in speaking roles. Though currently there are no plans for him to direct for The Asylum, Leigh Scott has been keeping busier than...well...I can't think of a metaphor, but he's been busy as shit, writing five scripts and shooting four films over the last two years, most through his own company, SweetPost Productions, a team that includes other Asylum veterans Kristen Quintrall and Justin Jones. His latest effort, the much-touted Witches of Oz 3D is in a similar vein to his work for The Asylum, and even stars Asylum perennial Sarah Lieving, among many, many others. A list of Mr. Scott's more notable work within Asylum walls:

  • Frankenstein Reborn...writer/director
  • The Beast of Bray Road...writer/director
  • King of the Lost World...writer/director
  • Exorcism: The Possession of Gail Bowers...writer/director
  • Hillside Cannibals...director
  • Dracula's Curse...writer/director
  • Pirates of Treasure Island...writer/director
  • The 9/11 Commission Report...writer/director
  • Dragon...writer/director
  • The Hitchhiker...writer/director
  • Transmorphers...writer/director
  • Invasion of the Pod People...writer
Leigh Scott, consider yourself saluted

Nope, THIS is the Mega Shark vs. Crocosaurus Poster!

And it exceeds my wildest dreams. Look at that ferocity, that chaos, that carnage. The only thing I have issue with is the tagline, because from the looks of this, whatever the end result, everybody wins. 

This future classic drops December 21st of this year. Anyone who's keeping score, I'll take a mega-sized poster of this in my stocking.

Inmate Updates: Asylum Regulars' Other Work

Just as I have to admit there are films made by companies other than The Asylum, I also have to admit that some of our most notable inmates occasionally take work outside the walls. This is not a cause for concern, but rather a chance to broaden our horizons and see shark movies made by other people. So in that spirit, here's a quick scan of some upcoming non-Asylum projects by a few prominent members of the Asylum family:

Griff Furst (actor/director)

In addition to numerous acting gigs, Furst the director (100 Million B.C., I Am Omega, Universal Soldiers) has three projects of note coming up in the next year: there's Movin' In, a comedy co-starring the non-famous and less-annoying child actor from "Even Stevens", Maskerade, a horror film he co-wrote starring the 2001 Azalea Festival Queen, which might not means much to most of you, but to native North Carolinians like myself, it means the world, and a film that's already received mention in these virtual pages in the form of a trailer link, Swamp Shark.

Sarah Lieving (actress)

The most-frequent acting contributor to Asylum films has other work coming out soon in the wake of the destined-to-be-wildly-popular Mega Shark vs. Crocosaurus, most of which still manages to have an attachment in one way or another to The Asylum. First there's Super Shark, directed by B-movie great and father of MSvC director Christopher Ray, Fred Olen Ray; then there's a picture that, again, has had a mention or two among these pages, director Leigh Scott's fantasy spectacular Witches of Oz 3D, in which she plays the Wicked Witch of the East. This film will mark the eighth time Scott and Lieving have collaborated, the first six being Asylum Films. Lieving can also soon be seen in the indie musical Sunset Junction.

Geoff Meed (writer/actor)

Though IMDB currently has no listings for a Meed script in development, you can bet he's working on one or two and that notation will soon change. In the meantime, the Bo Jackson of The Asylum (still trying to make that catch on) can next be seen flexing his acting chops in a film I'm at least pretty hyped to see, Fast Five, the latest installment in the Fast and Furious franchise, where Geoff will be mean-mugging alongside some of the greats like Vin Diesel, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Paul Walker and muthafuckin' Ludacris.

Rhett Giles (actor/producer)

Having just finished the sci-fi thriller Quantum Apocalypse for Justin Jones and Leigh Scott, Giles is stepping behind the scenes to produce the action-thriller Fight or Flight starring a few names familiar to Asylum fans: Judd Nelson (The Day the Earth Stopped), C. Thomas Howell (War of the Worlds, War of the Worlds 2, The Day the Earth Stopped) and Jason London, not the one in Terminators, but the one in Maskerade, directed by Griff Furst.

See what a small, small world it is?

observation notes: War of the Worlds 2: The Next Wave

Daring to go where no other incarnation before it has dared gone - into sequel territory - War of the Worlds 2: The Next Wave, once again stars C. Thomas Howell, who also directs this go-around, (script by Eric Forsberg and David Michael Latt, cinematography by Mark Atkins) as the astronomer who survived the original invasion a couple of years earlier and has now, along with the rest of society, started to regain some sense of normalcy. C. Tom has been reunited with his son (his wife has died between films) and together they've begun to settle into domestic hum-drum, post-apocalypse-style, eager to put the aliens behind them. That is, until the aliens return.

C. Tom gets hip to the impending re-invasion and takes this info to the culture's last scientists (Kim Little and magician Jonathan Levit), the three of whom together proceed to engage in a bunch of science-talk that's way over my Creative-Writing-MFA head; stuff about atmospheres and viruses and rates of speed, all spot-on, I'm sure, just beyond my intelligence level at the hour I popped this one in. Bottom line, if the aliens are indeed coming back, mankind is probably more prepared than we were the first time.

This theory is put to the test - with mixed results - when alien scouts land and begin to pave the way for invasion, killing every little pest that gets in their way, namely us. C. Tom finds himself again a cursed soul wandering the landscape alone until he is captured, along with others, by an alien paddy wagon where they are intended to be cocooned and drained to feed the invaders. Thus the shit hits the fan.

The story splits here between the scientists' battle on Earth, and the crew aboard Spaceship Suck trying to avoid drainage; both situations get worse before they get "better" - on Earth it gets all Independence Day-esque and in space it just gets gross. Long story short - C. Tom and crew return to Earth just as our defenses push the invasion into deep space, chasing after, and from here the path to resolution is paved in spoilers, so I'll step off.

Overall, I found this to be a strong, sharp film, helmed expertly by CTH the director(Da Vinci Treasure, The Day The Earth Stopped), who managed a satisfying balance between sci-fi-action and character-driven chaos. As an actor, C. looked better here than he did in the original, the grizzle is working for him now, not against. He's a little more empowered, crafting a progression in character from the last film and its unseen aftermath that finds him harder now, more capable, more adept, more adaptive, not because he wants to be, but because he has been forced to be. In this world, scientist also means warrior, and C. Tom comes ready to scrap. As good as he was in part one, he's twice as good in part two. Quite frankly, any part Kevin Bacon's up for, CTH should at least be getting a callback.

Kim Little (Supercroc, 30,000 Leagues Under the Sea) as a scientist of some sort affects her best Southern accent - Savannahan, I believe - and turns in a very austere, even-tempered and thus controlled performance, even in the face of crisis. (it should be noted that Ms. Little is not reprising her role from the first film)

And finally there was Christopher Reid. I read the name on the box*. I knew I knew it. I saw it in the credits. I knew I knew it. But in my head, the people this name conjured weren't this person. I thought it would be Christopher Atkins (100 Million BC) for a while, but he never showed up. Then I though it was Jonathan Levit, but it wasn't him either. Then a man came onscreen, and I knew I'd known that name. Christopher Reid is fucking Kid, as in Kid 'n Play, one-half of the dopest duos in the history of hip-hop, and one-half of the star power behind the ridiculously successful House Party film franchise. The massive flat top is gone, so it took me a minute to place him. Fucking Kid. He's awesome.

The FX for this film were taken over by Tiny Juggernaut, and the difference is astounding (noting that I liked the FX in the first film): the alien craft look far more formidable than they did, the blast-scenes were fast and furious, the mass destruction tangible and the dogfights between jet and spacecraft were exquisite, all totaling up to the finest work I've seen from TJ in an Asylum film.

It's a daring risk The Asylum took here, treading on holy ground and staking an acreage of their own. Ultimately, though, it seems to pay off: what you get is a film that retains the paranoia of the original while extrapolating believably into a world where the nightmare recurs. If you liked the first film, the second will more than suit your fancy.

I'd actually be up for a third.

* looking at the box again at the head of this post, I see it actually says CHRISTOPHER "KID" REID. so then, i'm just an idiot.

observation notes: War of the Worlds

This is it, the one that started it all, the film that shifted The Asylum's focus from DVD horror toward the tie-in, or "mockbuster," market. For better or worse (better), this is where The Asylum began to become what we know (and love) today.

The plot here should be rhetorical, being that it's the most famous radio broadcast ever, the direct basis for two other big screen adaptations and, as the best-known and arguably first alien invasion story in the English language, the indirect basis for at least 65% of all sci-fi films ever made. So story then isn't the issue here; the issue becomes how The Asylum handles the story. And as was (or would be) the case in regards to Allan Quatermain and the Temple of Skulls and 30,000 Leagues Under the Sea, the fine folks at The Asylum aren't necessarily making a tie-in as much as they are their own adaptation of the same source material. And in this adaptation, H. G. Wells' narrative becomes a picaresque apocalypse story, kind of like The Road if we the audience had encountered these characters as the apocalypse was happening, not after it: one man(C. Thomas Howell, naturally)'s journey to find his family among unimaginable chaos, and the array of bizarre events and characters he encounters along the way. By setting the weight of the entire story of the sole shoulders of one character, the film becomes less an action-spectacular - though the action is indeed kinda spectacular - and more a philosophical characterization of the variations within the spectrum of human responses to global catastrophe.

And speaking of the catastrophe, by proxy the special effects, they weren't Tiny Juggernaut good, but for whoever did them, they were effective, especially if the aim was to try and attempt a sort of old-school sci-fi feel: the bug creature things looked like they were made for Starship Troopers by Ray Harryhausen at the dawn of CGI. Does that sound harsh? Rude? I don't mean it to, honestly, I liked this. The death rays and toxic gas, too, I thought, were nods to classic sci-fi, specifically George Pal's incarnation of this story with its iconic green glow. I really hope these nods, this effect I felt, was in fact a nod to classic sci-fi, because it's in regards to this vein that I most often view the work of The Asylum. Like George Pal or Samuel Z. Arkoff, I see David Michael Latt (who directed this film) and his crew as innovative imagineers (a term I think I'm stealing from Disney), testing the bounds of what we can believe, not afraid to tell a story you might have heard before because of confidence in their ability to tell it differently than all others; not better, not best, but not the worst, either, just different, theirs, which is the aim of every artist - to make that which is universal, unique.

"Slow down, asshole," some of you might be saying, "We're not exactly talking about art here."

To which I say: that's pretty narrow-minded of you. If all you can find art in is pretentious heavy-handedness, if you can't see it in the creation of fictional bug creatures, or in the neon glow of vaporizing death rays, or in the lines of C. Thomas Howell's face when he laments the fate of his wife and son - then you're not seeing half the art that's out there (and you're probably reading the wrong blog).

Back to it though: the main distinction I found in this telling of the story was that The Asylum has made a more intimate film than other versions; instead of focusing of the global scale of things their version is largely centered around one man alone in pursuit of his family, and, like they did with I Am Omega, The Asylum puts a heavy emphasis on the emotional toll of such a fate, allowing stress to dominate reason and cast the scientist as all but useless, just another rote survivor. Latt and crew also played up the faith angle a little more than others, okay, a lot more, specifically in reference to the alien attacks as a version of the Christian Rapture. Though here it isn't driven home as fervently as it would be in the pictures distributed through their Faith Films off-shoot, the character of Pastor Victor (the always splendid Rhett Giles) is absolutely inserted to give a theological perspective on the end of days.

All in all, this story isn't new; The Asylum's perspective on it, however, feels fresh, and is made so through the direction of David Michael Latt and the performances of his capable cast, a virtual who's who of Asylum films: C. Thomas Howell (Da Vinci Treasure, The Land That Time Forgot), Andy Lauer (Legion of the Dead, King of the Lost World), Rhett Giles (Frankenstein Reborn, The Apocalypse), Kim Little (Jane White is Sick and Twisted, Supercroc) - whose three minutes on screen are by far the most memorable - Sarah Lieving (in her first film role) and notable non-inmates like Jake Busey and the guy who played "Zed" in Pulp Fiction as C. Tom's brother.

Truth be told, I liked this better than Spielberg's version, I honestly did. Are the effects better? Of course not, the other version was directed by Steven fucking Spielberg. But H.G. Wells' original story isn't about effects, it's about fear, it's about chaos, and it's about the integral character of man being tested in the face of such adversities. And in that sense, in my opinion, Steven Spielberg is no David Michael fucking Latt.

Let the hate mail commence.

On Set Featurette From Battle of Los Angeles!

Exclusive to The Asylum Facebook page there's a brand spankin' new 42-second on-set featurette from the gang's latest production, Battle of Los Angeles starring Kel Mitchell and Nia Peeples, and directed by Mark Atkins. Check out the video - nothing too revealing other than the general look of the picture - then come back and scroll down for more details.

whispers from another cell: News From Within The Asylum

1st Furry Valentine Details Released

Last week The Asylum put up the page for their first announced feature of 2011, 1st Furry Valentine. I linked to the page the other day, and while I mentioned the director - Rachel Lee Goldenberg - and the plot - a princess(?) comes to live with American relatives and befriends a pony(??) held by a mean carnival owner(?!?) - but didn't get a chance to acknowledge some of the details, like cast.

Here's the low down - Fiona Perry, first-billed, is a little girl. My guess? She's our princess. Then there's Bobbi Joe Lathan, an older actress who's done a lot of TV; an American relative, perhaps. Also older, Ron Hajak, whose first film was The Swinging Cheerleaders, so, props there, and who recently returned to acting after a nearly two-decade hiatus; another American relative, probably. And finally there's Bill Oberst, Jr. a creepy-looking fella I'm willing to bet is the shady carnival owner.

So them's the deets for now. A family film. From The Asylum. About a princess and a pony, the two, like, greatest things in the history of ever as far as girl kids are concerned. Early prediction, this one's gonna do real well for The Asylum. I manage a video store (shock, I know), and the amount of direct-to-DVD schlock that comes out aimed at kids makes the direct-to-DVD horror flow look like a trickle. Kids'll watch anything with a bright cover, and their parents will let them. So put that pony nice and big on the cover, boys, and get that princess all princessed-up in the saddle, and I guarantee it'll bolt off the shelves like Secretariat at the Preakness. Ooh pink! Can you put the princess in pink? Awesome.

This one lands January 25th, in the New Year

Yet Another New Title Announced

But I covered this one yesterday, so click here or just scroll down a bit for all the juicy details (that exist thus far) on The Battle of Los Angeles, due out February 21st of next year. 

The one update I can give here, today, is another picture from The Asylum's twitter feed, this one of director Mark Atkins and actresses Nia Peeples and Theresa June-Tao on set. I can also tell you that the event the film is based on, is kinda true. That's it for now, but rest assured when I know more, you'll know more, guaranteed.

Keep 'em coming, guys!

Brothers in Blogs

A couple of foreign-based Asylum blogs have cropped up over the last couple of months. There's this one in Russian, and this inventive fella here in Hungarian. I don't understand a word of what's going on here, but I'm glad there's an international community of Asylum aficionados taking to the web to spread the love. Give 'em some hits, even if you don't speak the language.