Asylum of Darkness Reviews


"This is a super cool, kind of retro supernatural horror film. Asylum of Darkness brings me back to staying up late watching horror films with my dad, when we both knew I was too young. It’s the kind of film that makes you want to grab a camera and make a horror film yourself because you know it was such a labour of love for Jay Woelfel."
Bears Rebecca Fonte, Founder Other Worlds Austin

"This is the kind of horror film that can only come from filmmaker Jay Woelfel. As with his films BEYOND DREAM'S DOOR and CLOSED FOR THE SEASON, this one is unusual and way more cerebral than the stuff being churned out to VOD. And that's not even mentioning this one being shot in 35mm. And if you truly hate your job, there is an unforgettable corporate massacre scene in this movie that will give you a great big smile."
Osvaldo Neto - Touch of Terror

"This is what a David Lynch film would look like if it was directed by David Cronenberg."


Review By Andrew Buckner
Rating: ***** out of *****

Asylum of Darkness (2017), from writer-director Jay Woelfel, is wildly ambitious, surreal and undeniably imaginative; a mind-bending masterpiece of modern horror. These attributes are augmented by the visible inspiration Fellow Ohioan Woelfel draws throughout the entirety. This primarily stems from the brilliant contributions of avant-garde maestros David Lynch and David Cronenberg. We note this instantaneously in the second sequence of the picture. It is set inside the office of Dr. Shaker (in a brilliant, near final exhibition of acting from Golden Globe nominee Richard Hatch). In this two and a half minute segment, our likable lead, Dwight Stroud (in a harrowing, relatable performance from Nick Baldasere), finds himself questioning his reality. But, what arises is an unforeseen, horrifying glimpse into Dr. Shaker’s true self. The manner this is presented in, as well as the apparent randomness of the event, is a telltale sign of the Lynchian and Cronenberg style sensibilities that help jolt the affair to such triumphant life. For instance, this aforesaid instant itself had me recalling Cronenberg’s masterful remake of The Fly (1986) as well as his ground-breaking adaptation of William S. Burroughs’ 1959 novel, Naked Lunch (1991). Yet, this occurrence would also be as comfortable in a colorized rendition of Lynch’s debut, Eraserhead (1977), as it might be in Lost Highway (1997) or Mulholland Drive (1999). One can even perceive echoes of John Carpenter’s political minded reworking of Ray Nelson’s alien invasion tale “Eight O’ Clock in the Morning” (1963), They Live (1988), in this section. But, what this quick bit does just as well is showcase the heavy 1980’s impression that hangs over the proceedings. In this commencing arrangement, we also get the first flash of the delightfully nostalgia-laden effects, courtesy of Brian Spears, which propel the effort. They are also comparable to what one may find in a feature from Italian genre champion Lucio Fulci. This initial glimpse only makes the unbridled affection for the previously stated decade, visible in both the attitude and veneer of this one hundred and seventeen minute and forty-four-second long affair, increasingly apparent. The heavy gore in the movie, as well as Scott Spear’s gloriously grainy cinematography, only further proves this point. Additionally, there is a beautifully fashioned happenstance at sixty-nine minute into the endeavor. It is reminiscent of the tree attack scene in Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead (1981).

Still, Woelfel has far more than just wistfulness and a symmetry to cinematic trailblazers to illuminate his labor. Woelfel’s direction is astonishing. Congruently, his penning of the piece is intelligent and intense. Woelfel’s script is pulse-pounding and deftly erected. It is also lightning paced. This specific component is also noteworthy in its ability to transform an often-utilized terror modus, seeing the world through the eyes of a patient in a mental refuge through his own rational perspective, into something that consistently feels fresh and new. The engrossing plot itself, which uses a quote we hear at fourteen minutes in from the 1853 born painter Vincent van Gogh about the insane being the only ones who view the world as it is as its thesis statement, shares this same blending of turning the familiar into the unpredictable. Woelfel’s dialogue and characterizations are also superbly fashioned and envy-inducing. His capacity to convey a relentless barrage of twists, which start early on and are delivered at a rapid clip throughout the runtime (especially in the riveting and undeniably elegiac final twenty minutes), is further proof of Woelfel’s top-notch storytelling ingenuity. Such makes the fabrication wholly ingenious. This is especially evident in the way it continually immerses audiences and defies their expectations.

Woelfel chronicles Stroud awaking in a padded room. Confused as to how this transpired, he quickly formulates a means of escape. Yet, when he successfully executes this plan, he uncovers that the outside realm is even worse than the institutional confines he previously shattered. For he soon realizes that, upon his departure, a supernatural menace is taunting him. Forced to put the pieces of this puzzle together himself, while battling the wickedness that is making itself ever-apparent, Stroud is pulled through an unpredictable barrage of ghastly situations. They challenge his impressions of all that surrounds him. It is a test of his own personal strength as much as his own mental stability.

Though the principal cast is small, everyone involved potently delivers in their respective roles. Amanda Howell is terrific as Ellen. Frank Jones Jr. is enchanting as the artist, van Gogh, Dwight frequently encounters throughout the opus. Tiffany Shephis, in a depiction of Dwight’s Wife “Hope”, is haunting and memorable in her representation. Though she is only seen in the first act and well into the third, the gentle to trepidation immersed contrast present in her part is certainly noteworthy. Scott Summit is excellent as Oscar Werner. The same can be said for Tim Thomerson’s transcendent portrayal of Detective Kesler. From a technical standpoint, John R. Ellis, Laura Lozano, Linda A. Fields and R. Kent Burton’s few computer effects blend in smoothly with the impressive on set practical effects from Brian Spears—an effects artist known for THE WALKING DEAD, STAKELAND and other excellent independent genre offerings. Woelfel also issues a striking, largely orchestral musical soundtrack. It is as creepy as it is immediately classic. Also, Robert B. Haining demonstrates seamless and sharp editing.

Distributed through Wild Eye Releasing, Woelfel’s presentation is undoubtedly one of the best genre films of the year. He has crafted a 35mm experience that will leave you pondering its symbolism as well as its beautifully, carefully constructed moments of shock long after seeing them. Asylum of Darkness is the type of fright-filled rarity that demands to be re-watched. This is to further understand its myriad underlying themes and ideas. Correspondingly, this is instrumental in being able to fully appreciate the incredibly well-put together nature of Woelfel’s narrative. Given the outstanding quality of Woelfel’s exertion, moviegoing patrons will have no problem satisfying this request. I highly recommend you do so.

Reviewed by Barb Breese

From Jay Woelfel and Wild Eye Releasing comes Asylum of Darkness – a beautifully dark and horrifying trip into a battle between sanity and insanity via a David Lynch/David Cronenberg-esque gorefest. An all-star cast leads us into the world of the weird, including the late Richard Hatch (Battlestar Galactica), horror favorite Tiffany Shepis and the legendary Tim Thomerson. Nick Baldasare plays the deeply conflicted lead character of Dwight Stroud.

Basically, this film is one in which nothing is as it seems. I guess that’s fitting, as sanity is the overall theme of the story, whether fighting to keep it or losing it altogether for the sake of survival. I won’t bog you down with details as to what happens, because so much happens within Asylum of Darkness, that I probably couldn’t do it justice even if I tried.

I will say that I really enjoyed this movie more than I thought I would. Even though this is a nearly two-hour long movie, it kept my attention for the entire time and never got boring, slow or stale. It had the feel of one of those epic late-‘70s/early-‘80s late-night movies that I used to watch with my dad when I was a kid. I believe I read that it was filmed entirely on 35mm, and it’s just really fantastically done. I’d go so far as to describe it as eyegasmic.

What’s also eyegasmic are the effects in this film. Highly influenced by horror classics such as The Evil Dead, the gore factor is absolutely and gloriously brilliant. Before I go on, I must tell you, Asylum of Darkness includes one of the most gory, explicit, blood-soaked business meeting scenes I think I’ve ever seen, and that’s saying something. It was extremely satisfying to this horror fan. I literally stood up and applauded the scene once it ended.

Again, I enjoyed this entire film very much. It’s weird as hell. It’s bloody enough to make the whoriest of gore whores happy. As stated earlier, the runtime is nearly two-hours long, but the story is solid enough that it doesn’t feel like it’s that long at all, and you want more after it ends. The only slight complaint I have is that while the acting is spot-on for the most part, it tends to be a bit stiff in a few scenes, but it doesn’t take anything away from the overall feel of the film in general. Asylum of Darkness is just a damn good movie. You can currently find it on Amazon Video, so pop some corn and cozy up for a fun ride.

Review by Mike Haberfelner

True, my synopsis of Asylum of Darkness might read like a rather pulpy piece of psycho horror, and even some of the welcomely old school creatures and tentacle effects in the film might suggest the same, but in approach, Asylum of Darkness is something quite unique, a film that seems to very much enjoy getting you lost in its intentionally mazelike plot only to find shortcuts and detours that one might not even have thought of, that likes to mix horror with the unapologetically grotesque, and that refuses to give too simple answers, instead lets the viewers piece together the story by themselves.

This though is all carried by a restrained directorial effort that invariably puts atmosphere over spectacle, a solid ensemble cast, and a great use of some classical music intermingled with the film's enjoyably old school score.

Worth a look, but be warned, this one will probably stay with you for a bit ...

Review by David Duprey

Homage to classic horror with genuinely clever story.

Asylum Of Darkness is a 2017 graphic horror film about a man who escapes from a mental hospital only to find the outside much worse than the inside.

The limitations of low-budget indie films often render a viewer’s expectations of the movie, predisposing them to less than favorable opinions. Admittedly, many of these films deserve the criticism, with poor direction and acting reducing familiar stories to Z-grade trash, often trying to piggyback on a big budget title. However, there are many experimental filmmakers working in the genre that are pushing themes and concepts to places most large studio-backed films won’t go. With Asylum Of Darkness, the story is the thing, and given the chance, this is a smart, genuinely challenging bit of psychological chill well worth a look.

Written and directed by Jay Woelfel, Asylum Of Darkness is a demented odyssey of sorts that while restricted by its budget and some flat acting moments, is nonetheless, a compelling bit of horror drawing upon the genre-defining films of the 80s and early 90s, employing graphic practical effects to create grotesque creatures and bloody mayhem. Fans of that or not, and whether convincing or not, the more effective side of the film is its twisted story, which is the real hook, even if it runs a bit longer than it should. Woelfel, who has been doing this since the late 1980s, invests a lot of the runtime into setting up one path and veering it into another, which involves numerous dream sequences and jump scares that layer in plenty of symbolism and metaphor with Dwight’s twisted visions.

Baldasare, who is in nearly every scene, does well enough, narrating and offering hinting exposition as we go, but it’s the supporting cast, including Amanda Howell, playing Dwight’s wife in a round about way and veteran film and television actor Tim Thomerson as a dogged detective who offer the most fun. Well, that is, aside from the creepy lo-tech visuals and clever story, both of which are the real reason to stay with this.

With a mix of heavy, purposefully trope-ish music (composed by Woelfel) and public domain classics, Asylum of Darkness is a film that, beneath its B-movie horror exterior lies a highly-satisfying tale of breakdown and damnation that despite its gore, is open for plenty of interpretation.

Review: by Kriss Pickering

They say there are no original ideas left these days, and that every new film, TV show and song we see and hear are simply rehashed versions of old ideas. In fact, the horror genre that we all know and love is a prime example of this theory. Out of the droves of indie horror movies that are released every year, I could probably count on one hand how many are not either possession, masked killer, haunted house or insane asylum based (or even a mixture of them all).

On the surface, Asylum of Darkness (written and directed by Jay Woelfel), which I’m sure you have already guessed is set in an insane asylum, is no different. But if you can see past the cliched setting, and ignore the film’s lack of budget, you will find it is a cleverly shot bit of psychological horror which goes out of its way to challenge your way of thinking by blurring the lines between reality and the malfunctioning mind of a mental patient.

From the off, we the viewer see things from Dwight’s perspective, which is a clever ploy by writer/director Jay Woelfel. Because everything is so fucked up we naturally question Dwight’s sanity. On paper, this is a really good idea, but unfortunately the execution doesn’t really work. In the end, it’s just too much and lacks subtlety. In my opinion, the effect could be better achieved by toning down the insanity which would really make the viewer think. However, I did like the decision to shoot using 35mm film, which gives the movie a gritty and dreamy effect.

The big plus for the film is in fact the messed up plot which, while probably being a little too long (2 hours is too long for any horror film), is brilliantly layered and expertly sets up an expectation in the viewer’s head, before harshly taking the story in the opposite direction! It is also packed full of symbolism that gets the viewers mind working, as well as some decently executed jump scares scattered about too!

The second big hook is for old school horror fans. There are some brilliant practical effects in the film, which in these days of dirt cheap, and even cheaper looking CGI is always a welcome sight. And if you are a “gorehound” then you won’t be disappointed. If you combine these with the 35mm film it was shot using, it feels like you are watching something the likes of Sam Raimi would put together.

Acting wise, Nick Baldasare is the face you see the most, appearing in virtually every single scene as well as narrating, and to be fair he does a decent job. Sure, there are one or two flatly delivered lines and a couple of awkward facial expressions, but overall he should be pleased with his level of performance. The supporting cast, however, is where the real acting quality is! Richard Hatch’s experience shines in his portrayal of Dr Shaker. And credit should also go to Amanda Howell who makes the most of a limited part as Dwight’s wife.

To sum things up, Asylum of Darkness may sound like a B-Movie flick, and on the surface it is. But if you are willing to ignore the overused “insanity” and the slight pacing issues, beneath the surface is a satisfying psychological thriller, with plenty of gore and refreshing practical effects!

Reviewed by M. L. Miller

Reminiscent of the Bill Pullman/Bill Paxton/Bud Cort descent into madness shocker BRAIN DEAD, ASYLUM OF DARKNESS does a decent job of plopping the viewer right into the brain pan of an unsettled mind.

I admire this film for trying something experimental in terms of the narrative. While it isn’t as effective as say, a JACOB’S LADDER or even the aforementioned BRAIN DEAD in terms of the weightless and grounded-less existence of mental breakdown, Baldasare does a decent job of communicating this unwell mind. While Baldasare is not a typical leading man type at his age (sorry, but I have to call it like it is), his age and physical form does give the role an everyman feel that is surprisingly successful at pulling you in.

The late Richard Hatch and Thomerson are decent in their roles, but again they don’t really stand out. I did like a few of the twisted moments of dementia such as Dwight always seeing his doctor in some form of decay and Van Gogh sacrificing his eyes for Dwight to see. The story itself is strong in terms of weirdness and twists.

Beneath the Underground
Review By Jim Morazzini

Since directing his first feature BEYOND DREAM’S DOOR in 1989, Jay Woelfel has amassed a long list of credits, not just as a writer/director but also as a composer for his own and other people’s films. His latest, ASYLUM OF DARKNESS is an interesting mix of Lynch, Cronenberg, SOCIETY and THE TWILIGHT ZONE, with an extra dose of blood.

The film’s running time, is just short of two hours. But those two hours are filled with an incredible assortment of twists, turns and general weirdness. Characters appear, disappear, reappear, die, reanimate and aren’t what they appear to be. This is all punctuated by some grotesque and bloody practical effects. The end result is something that has the feel of a nightmare to it, hard to follow at times but with its own twisted logic.

Give the plot the attention it requires and enjoy seeing some familiar faces and you should have a great time.


I am not going to give the whole movie away here but I will say this is one of the most unique and craziest movies I have seen in a while. After the first half hour I said this looks like it could have been an episode of the Twilight Zone. And it continued as so all the way to the end. The film is filled with supernatural and psychological horror but it is also filled with mystery which keeps the audience glued to the screen for its entire run time which is a long one at an hour and 58 minutes.

The film also makes good use of some very cool and excellent practical effects which just adds to the fun. Writer/Director, Jay Woelfel has been around the block a few times and is no stranger to horror but this has to be his best film to date. The film is well-written and it does a great job at keeping the audience off guard as they try to figure out what is really going on. It is creepy, suspenseful and extremely engaging as well.

Another thing that made the film so good was the cast, for starters this is Richard Hatch's final film and he gave a terrific and creepy performance as Dwight's doctor. The film also stars the great Tim Thomerson and the beautiful and talented Tiffany Shepis herself. But to me the best performance came from Nick Baldasare who is simply amazing and very convincing as Dwight.

I am not sure it is a film for everyone but if you are a fan on Independent Horror then you owe it to yourself to check out this little gem that is sure to become a hit through strong word of mouth. Like any other low budget film it is not perfect and could have benefited from a little more money but in the end there is very little I would change about it. Easily one of the most original and entertaining horror films I have seen in a good while. **** 1/2 Out Of *****

Review by Lucas Liner

Jay Woelfel's 'Asylum Of Darkness' Is A Visual Nightmare

The presentation of the visions is a real treat. As a makeup artist, I will always appreciate the use of practical effects, and the work in that regard stands out here. The gore looks good, the creatures look harrowing, and visually, the film is actually a gem. The crawling, viney tentacles of a particular monster reminded me just a bit of the trees in the original Evil Dead, a reference that any gore hound will appreciate, should they catch it.

Dwight Stroud is one of the more difficult characters to figure out whether to love or hate. On one hand, his plight is an understandable enough one. He’s not crazy, he doesn’t need to be locked up. On the other hand, Dwight has this thing where he doesn’t seem to be able to shut up. Even in moments that could benefit from a lack of dialogue, he fills what he perceives as dead air with whatever internal monologue he has going on at that time. It’s one of the biggest critiques I have of the movie. It doesn’t leave enough time for the big moments to breathe.

Speaking of letting things breathe, this film runs close to two hours (118 minutes, actually), and it feels longer than it should. There are moments where the film shines, such as the boardroom massacre and the entirety of the final act. The visuals in Asylum of Darkness are well done and tie it all together.

Review by Derek Anderson

Asylum of Darkness: "'Wild Eye Releasing unlocks the doors to award-winning filmmaker Jay Woelfel's supernatural horror feature Asylum of Darkness.

Woelfel’s stirring cocktail of supernatural suspense and goosebump-inducing horror features a superlative cast of sci-fi and horror icons including Golden Globe nominee Richard Hatch (Battlestar Galactica), in one his final film appearances.

Review by Matt Boiselle

Performances are admirable, with Hatch and the lovely lady Tiffany leading the pack – both manage to hoist the film on their shoulders in a Herculean attempt at maintaining some sense of normalcy. Overall, Asylum Of Darkness is one of those presentations that will have fans of practical horror drooling at the lips, and lovers of psychological frights bending their gray matter into contorted shapes strictly to grasp the complex plot pathway laid out here. I’m all for some seriously deranged movie-making, but even this one made me want to strap on a straightjacket and hope for a little quiet time.

Review by Vicki Woods

The late Richard Hatch gives a bloody final performance in Asylum of Darkness

With a tagline of THERE IS EVIL IN ALL OF US, you would expect Asylum of Darkness to have some monsters. The movie does not disappoint in that respect. There are practical effect creatures, eyes torn out, decapitations, intestines everywhere, and blood…lots of blood!

We lost TV legend Richard Hatch earlier this year, who is best known for playing Captain Apollo in the original ’70s series Battlestar Gallactica. In the time before he passed, he appeared in a handful of low-budget genre films. Among them was Asylum of Darkness, a mental hospital horror directed by Jay Woelfel. Asylum of Darkness also stars the incredibly busy actor Tim Thomerson, Nick Baldasare and indie horror icon Tiffany Shepis.

The movie was shot on 35mm film which, with digital, is unusual these days. I have to say that made it look like it was a movie pulled right out of the ‘70s.

I hate to speak ill of the dead, so I won’t. I liked Richard’s performance as gory, tongue-in-cheek Dr. Shaker. He gave his all to the character, and I appreciated that he was a professional to the end.

If you liked Battlestar Gallactica and want to watch Richard Hatch one more time, then give Asylum of Darkness a look.

Morbidly Beautiful Site Editor’s Note:

I feel Asylum of Darkness is a film that will either drive you mad…or make you absolutely mad for it. For those with a real taste for the surreal (reminiscent of Cronenberg and Lynch), there’s a lot to love here. But, as unique and trippy (often delightfully so) as the film is, it ultimately feels like it’s trying too hard to blow your mind. The movie’s penchant for mind games leaves the viewer in a constant state of confusion and disorientation that feels a bit frustrating and exhausting.

There’s some truly great stuff worth mentioning in this film, including the satisfying old school horror vibe and the outstanding practical effects. Though Asylum of Darkness is never truly scary, gore hounds should be satiated. The movie definitely keeps you guessing throughout, and it’s never not interesting. There’s some solid dark humor, great performances, interesting storytelling, and a particularly fun and insanely bloody boardroom scene about an hour and a half in that alone is almost worth the price of admission.

Ultimately, I thought there were some real bright spots to be had throughout and appreciated the effort. The potential is certainly there.

If you do give it a watch, be forewarned that it’s a movie that takes your full concentration and commitment. This is certainly not a popcorn flick you can watch and enjoy with casual abandon.

REVIEW: by Philip Rogers

Asylum of Darkness creates a surreal reality which creates more questions than answers. Playing out like an extended version of the Twilight Zone, as if it had been directed by David Lynch, so it’s almost impossible to predict the outcome. Amidst all of the confusion, one of the highlights of the film are the film special effects, which have taken inspiration from John Carpenter’s The Thing and They Live. The main film itself may be a surreal, dark descent into madness, but the over the top gore effects really add to the film by creating a natural 80’s feel which are further complimented with the film being shot in 35mm. Nick Baldasare remains central to the role and has a good performance as the delusional Dwight. He does well to keep the character balanced and under control, avoiding the temptation to exaggerate his madness. I liked subtleties of his performance which reminded me of Kevin McCarthy in the original Invasion of The Body Snatchers.

One thing I would like to have seen developed more in the film is Tiffany Shepis, who’s character remains unnamed. She makes a sporadic appearance throughout the film, with her involvement only coming to fruition towards the end of the film. I can see why they saved her twist for the end of the film, but I feel she should have been used more as it would have added to the consistency of the main story.

Fans of Battlestar Galactica will have an interest in the film, with Richard Hatch playing one of his last roles as doctor Shaker. He only has a small part in the film but he looks to be having fun, playing the role with an element of tongue and cheek.

Asylum of Darkness does well in creating a surreal atmosphere and is worth watching for some creative special effects and a good performance by Nick Baldasare.

Review by Jason Minton

Asylum of Darkness is an interesting journey into the disturbing mind of an insane asylum patient with an upbeat ambiance. Little did our patient know that once he escaped his confinement with the mentally deranged, the outside world would be more insane than an asylum of the demented.

Imagine a movie where you never know what’s going to happen next. They can take this movie anywhere, without explanation, because everything that’s happening is from the mind of an insane man. That provides incredible freedom to the filmmakers where the possibilities are only limited by the creative minds behind it. What we ended up with was a movie that felt like a segment of Creepshow. Possibly even a story from Twilight Zone or Tales from the Crypt. This movie, is simply insane.

It has one of the most peculiar score’s I’ve ever heard. It adds to or is the reason behind, every word I’ve used to describe this film so far. The score doesn’t fit this movie at all, yet adds so much it cannot be replaced. It’s like walking through a funhouse of terrifying clowns while they play music from a Jack-in-the-box or the back of an ice cream truck. A wonderful combination of creepy.

Asylum of Darkness was a wonderful time travel experience. A perfectly shot throwback to the 1990’s horror television style. It has a good cast, top notch score, appropriate corniness and a keep you wondering storyline. Television from that era could only be so good. However, for someone to duplicate it so much later, I don’t think I’ve ever seen it pulled off better. It genuinely looks and feels like it time traveled from 25 years ago. That kind of nostalgia isn’t easily found in film. Many try to duplicate various era’s but it’s seldom successful. The humor, corniness and lack of a simple storyline may not be for everyone. For those older horror fans, I think you’ll at least find some appreciation in this film.

Review by Dani McKinney

What drives a person to the edge? Would they become insane seeing things that are not there? Would that person be tempted to hurt or even kill someone? Insanity is a big question in Jay Woelfel’s new film Asylum of Darkness. The ideology of what is sane and insane has been seen in many horror movies. If we see something strange that we are not supposed to see we are labeled as insane. This movie starts off in an asylum and will answer the questions of sanity and how far one is willing to go to prove that they’re not insane.

Although story for Asylum of Darkness is unique it can also be confusing at points. Now, maybe this is intentional to show the confusing parts to reflect insanity. Along with this, the images are very much of Cronenberg and body horror, which is pretty awesome. There were many moments in the film that were full of blood and gore which is always a plus for some viewers.

The effects are all practical, no green screen here. I love when horror movies use practical effects versus CGI, it gives it more of a realistic feel and it suited this film perfectly. One of my favorite effects was seeing a character who had both his eyes ripped out.

Final Thoughts:

The effects were what I enjoyed most. The images were very gory and detailed. If you are a fan of body horror and practical effects this is the film for you.

Review by Luce Allan

Asylum of Darkness can be appreciated both for its campiness and creativity. The special effects are pleasantly reminiscent of those used in the 1980s, and dark humor is sprinkled throughout the narrative. While horror movie tropes are definitely present, the standard concepts of supernatural creatures and body-switching are enhanced with original imagery and an intriguing backstory, although some elements could have been clarified for a more cohesive plot. The lead actors, Nick Baldasare and Amanda Howell, buoy the surreality of the plot with the heart and sincerity that they lend to their characters, and while delving into Frank Jones Jr.'s character would reveal too much about the plot, his performance must be noted for its strength and versatility.

Overall, Asylum of Darkness is an entertaining watch that has a cult-following essence to it, and can be enjoyed when its campy fun shines through its flaws.

Review By Vassilis Giannakis

To Asylum of Darkness is a surreal horror movie signed by Jay Woelfel.

If like me you hate the type scenarios which are "all in the mind" you will Brainstorm enough with this film, but I assure you, you will become informed as to what is happening eventually, something which may require a second or third viewing--you will be rewarded. It seems that Woelfel is greatly influenced by my favorite Lost Highway by David Lynch, as it negotiates about the same issues: How can one make a new start in a new body and conquer the woman of his dreams. Of course all this has to do with my personal interpretation of the film, which as I said is so surreal that anyone might explain it very differently from me. This is undoubtedly the horror version of Lost Highway, which is filled with gore and gruesome events. The basic problem is that at some point the film has to resort to quick exposition and explains, somewhat casually and quickly in order to solve the mystery. It is as if Woelfel realized that the film had already used much of its running time; and decided to give very bulging explanations. But if one carefully monitors these explanations, it will definitely end up allowing the audience to decide the explanation of the whole mystery, which the director perhaps has not decided whether he wishes to perfectly explain everything, or if the film prefers to be open to many interpretations. And somewhere there is where Asylum of Darkness suffers, but not so sharply as to discourage this hip joint of a movie. Besides, as you may have understood so far, it is a very original idea for the horror genre. The execution is excellent in terms of directing, editing, interpretations and all the technical parts, although perhaps the visual effects look fake in some places. In any case it is worth giving this film a chance.

Review by the unholy dark lotus

Asylum of Darkness is a new horror film written and directed by award winning filmmaker Jay Woelfel who is also a composer. Asylum of Darkness is a mix of psychological horror and old school monster horror. There is a strong cast of much loved icons from within the sci-fi and horror genre including Golden Globe winner Richard Hatch, Tiffany Shepis and Tim Thomerson. These guys have done it all—between the three of them they have an astonishing 433 credits on the IMDB.

On to the movie though which has a synopsis of – after awakening in a mental asylum a patient plans an escape to freedom, but finds an even more disturbing, supernatural world outside, one that threatens to keep him trapped in madness forever.

Sounds pretty good right? Well, there is more goodness. The whole movie has been purposely shot in 35mm to give it a classic horror look and feel as a nod of respect to genre icons like Lynch and Cronenberg. Partnering with the old school style comes brilliant orchestral compositions as in film music. Acting as the soundtrack to key moments within the movie, it makes everything feel very authentic.

So we start off meeting a chap called Dwight Stroud, Dwight is played by Nick Baldasare (They Bite, Beyond Dream’s Door). Dwight is in a mental asylum. He doesn’t appear too crazy at first, instead seeming quite focused and keen to be released.

Within a very short space of time that starts to change as strange events start to take place. We viewers are left a little baffled by some of the events as it is purposely unclear whether we are seeing real things happen or delusions of a madman.

We see Dwight talk to his friend, a painter and fellow lunatic nick named Van Gogh played by Frank Jones Jnr. (George Clooney’s film, Ides of March). Van Gogh paints a bird and instantly a dead one falls from a tree at his feet. We see a meeting between Dwight and his consultant, Dr. Shaker (Richard Hatch). In that meeting we get hints that Dwight has done something terrible but is in denial. He cannot be released and cannot heal until he admits it. The screen pans to the doctor and he is a deformed mutated, oozing monster.

After the meeting, a strange woman in white comes to visit Dwight. Her name is Hope and she is played by Tiffany Shepis. She talks with Dwight, is kind to him and acts as well, a beacon of hope.

So far, as a viewer, you may find yourself completely convinced that Dwight is off his rocker. He very well may be but if nothing else, you may find yourself a little confused as to actually what is going on here.

Movie Reviews 101
Review by newguy87

Thoughts on Asylum of Darkness

Characters/Performance – Dwight is in a mental asylum patient that is trying to escape only to find himself living someone else’s life, leading to him to question everything in the world he is now living in. Dr Shaker is treating Dwight and continues to follow him after his escape from the asylum. The rest of the characters all add to the puzzle going on through the film.

Performance wise, Nick does a solid job in this role having to be in nearly every scene with Richard Hatch doing a good job as the doctor who keeps appearing.

Story – When it comes to the story we must look at things in two ways, the first is that this does keep us guessing to what is actually going on, but this is also the flaw because it becomes difficult to keep up with each twist going on. While it is great to have a story that keeps you guessing and guessing I do feel this one is slightly too much at times.

Horror – There are good horror moments…a lot of good practical gore effects.

Settings – Each setting is used to add to the mystery for Dwight to go through but they also add to moments of confusion in the story.

Special Effects – The practical effects are all good gore based horror but when the film turns to CGI not everything looks as good.

Final Thoughts– This is a horror that will keep you thinking from start to finish. Overall: Solid horror that you will need to give your full attention.


4 out of 5 stars
By The Movie Guy

Okay I am not sure what I watched and don't know if I am giving away plot spoilers. I felt like the first time I watched "Naked Lunch" after watching "Twin Peaks."

Dwight Stroud (Nick Baldasare) is in an institute for the criminally insane, a patient of Dr. Shaker (Richard Hatch). We are informed Dwight used the insanity plea, but Dwight claims he is innocent while not remembering anything. He has hallucinations and is aware of the fact. He also is friends with a fellow inmate, Van Gogh (Frank Jones Jr.) who paints the future. Dwight manages to escape and oddly finds his consciousness in a new body, that of Artemis Finch, also someone who was committed. We are given clues, the soul is like water taking the shape of its vessel.

We are told "being insane allows us to see the true reality."
May take a second viewing. Not for everyone.

4 out of 5 stars
By Brian Thewlis

Wow! I wasn't prepared for this one. Not to all your typical horror film. It's a mind bender I may have to watch more than once to completely understand. It was great to see Richard Hatch in one of his final roles, but I thought all the lead actors were first rate. It's a strange ride and an unusual, thought-provoking, gorgeously hallucinogenic film.

By Generations - 75867

Some will not like this movie. It's allegorical in nature and requires a lot of patience. But if you're in the right frame of mind, what you end up with is a lot to chew on. My girlfriend and I had a two hour discussion on the various merits and flaws of this film. We agreed that the performances were outstanding. We thought the direction was solid as well. It kept our interest and the movie flowed in a sort of dream logic that made it a surreal experience. I've pretty much decided it's a low budget masterpiece. My girlfriend agrees, though she thinks it's flawed because of budgetary limitations. She loves the ending wherein the hero finds redemption and chooses love over madness. I just think it's a helluva interesting ride. Not sure what it means but it leaves a lot to ponder.

By Gettherapy

I haven't seen a film this strange in a while and appreciate it's attempting to be different. Does it succeed as a good movie though? Depends on what you’re looking for. Positives: the lead performances were all convincing for a low budget genre title. Nick Baldasare had the arduous task of portraying a person on the edge of sanity. His performance could have warped into a lot of cliché "crazy" type acting, but he made it believable. Richard Hatch also delivers the goods in one of his final roles. I thought the look of the film was also a plus and the effects, while old school, had a nice retro feel that added to the fun. The only negative was the film's length. I thought it could have been cut by 20 minutes and been a little better experience. All in all, you will like this movie if you don't need details and plot points spoon-fed to you. Expect the unexpected and enjoy!

By Richard Dominguez

This has a very Love-Craftian taste to it (Although there is no reference) But I thought this was a bit of a good surprise ... An escaped patient tries to make sense of the world outside the asylum as everyone sees him as someone he isn't ... As the truth of what is going on unravels itself he finds that to make things right he must delve deeper into the insanity ... The story is interesting and captivating ... Fans of H.P. Lovecraft would enjoy this one ...

By This Guy Mike

My wife and I had a lot of fun watching this movie! While it comes off a bit amateurish (I am sure that turned off many viewers and is the main reason there are so many negative reviews here), you can tell a lot of love went into this project. I got a kick out of some of the practical effects, too. The story is strange, but refreshingly so, and it is a bit convoluted, sure, but the plot unfolds coherently without the film having to condescend to its audience and spell everything out. You have to piece it together, like Dwight put the music box back together, and you have all the pieces to do so.


I am a Jay Woelfel fan and a huge fan of his Beyond Dream’s Door, an HP Lovecraft-like oddball of a dream and monster sequence. After many years Woelfel picks up the Beyond Dream’s Door ball, still spinning in its cult status, with a similar effort and tone, this time based on the edge of sanity rather than nightmarish dreams. In both worlds we get a hodgepodge of clips that we never quite understand, likely no one does, but we are intrigued by them…at least, I am. Both of these movies can be and are dismissed as trash. I won’t argue too loudly, but I myself see beauty in them. Clearly, we’re talking B-movies – low budget horror films with borderline, production, writing, acting and oftentimes sloppy continuity. But Jay knows what he has to work with. He adjusts the movies to fit what he has and chooses themes that best fit the limitations, using the limitations to the advantage of his themes, in these movies - confused dreams and insanity. Discontinuity and unpolished writing, acting and production become a part of the confused moods. All gore effects are good old-fashioned real fake stuff – no computer graphics in sight! Also, absolutely no found-footage, pick-up-a-digital-camera-and-I’m-a-film-maker trash. A B-movie that knows it’s a B-movie and relishes in the production struggle, enhances, rather than detracts from the work, while an A-movie wanna-be is doomed. Jay Woelfel is proudly a B-movie maker who takes joy in the challenge of making as great a venture as can be done with the resources at hand. He and the actors and crew apparently have fun making the movie. I have fun watching and re-watching them. On very low budgets Woelfel cobbles together more clever works than most trash passing for mainstream and certainly more than the sea of comparable budget flicks out there. My favorites of his are Beyond Dream’s Door, Asylum of Darkness, and Closed for the Season (a.k.a. Carnival of Fear); also, the more straight forward, and fun, vampire flick Live Evil. (The acting is actually pretty good in this one and the music is good and well-stitched into the film; I like music that gets into the foreground at times, generally enjoying sound-and-vision flicks.)