One stormy evening, while the patients are in the cafeteria, the power in the building goes out. The cooks are terrified to learn that the electronic security doors leading outside have locked, trapping them in darkness inside the asylum. With the guards spread out across the building and no way to reach them, J.B. deputizes the trio and another cook named William (Marcus Garvey) to escort the patients back to their cells. Little do they know that a few of the populac have already begun to rise up and attack the guards. They soon find out, however, when the insurrection spreads through the population, sending the cooks into survival mode as violent atrocity after violent atrocity begins to pile up.
The End Result
Despite -- or perhaps because of -- its strengths, Asylum Blackout is more style over substance. The story is thin, the characters are undeveloped and the script introduces several extraneous plot points that aren't fully explored. It then shoehorns in a twist ending that's more perplexing than it is impactful, in part because there's not enough foreshadowing along the way to make it feel plausible. The myriad of characters make for some confusing moments -- and make us wish up-and-coming writer S. Craig Zahler (who has had a script top the esteemed Black List and has another with Michael Mann attached to direct) had more concretely established the patients' identities and personalities before "the incident" -- and the confusion is exacerbated by muffled dialogue that seems to be a combination of murky sound and mumbly delivery.
All that said, Asylum Blackout is still a thrilling, visceral experience. It's a survival horror movie that might turn off those with little patience for nihilistic violence, but it captures the inhumanity of man on a horrifying scale, playing like a contained zombie apocalypse -- but with the living.
- Acting: B- (Some of the dialogue is overly subdued and mumbly, but otherwise the cast is effective at capturing the moment.)
- Direction: B (Grim but still picturesque and cinematic, downplaying clichéd scares.)
- Script: C- (A thrilling concept, but the characters need more delineation, and dangling plot points need to serve more purpose.)
- Gore/Effects: B+ (Gruesome and realistic gore.)
- Overall: B- (Slow buidling but invigorating, gritty and gruesome.)
Asylum Blackout is directed by S. Craig Zahler and is not rated by the MPAA. Release date: May 4, 2012 (in theaters and on demand).