Remake director Marcus Nispel mixes slasher gore into the demonic possession-vengeful spirit-teen humour combo
Finally, film directed by Marcus Nispel (Conan the Barbarian 2011, Friday the 13th 2009, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2003) that's not a remake or adaptation of any kind, although its plot would sound tiresomely familiar already to the fans of horror. A group of friends organise a party at an abandoned asylum called the Exeter School of the Feeble Minded. Things begin to go supernaturally wrong after they attempted levitation from an online guide and one of them gets seemingly possessed by a demon.
For a group of rather unknown actors in a non-blockbuster horror flick, the performances are actually not bad, although none of them are likable. At least it didn't suspend my belief that they're a bunch of typical teenagers -- high, horny, stupid, possessed. However, they could've at least slightly for convincingly afraid than they are after witnessing the stuff they did. Kelly Blatz (Aaron Stone Disney series), who reminds me of football star Lionel Messi and a bit of Christian Bale with the voice and style of Shia LaBeouf, plays Patrick, pretty much the "white virgin" protagonist of the genre. Speaking of which, there isn't a single black character here at all.
Anyway, Patrick works at the asylum during its renovation, helping out Father Conway (Stephen Lang), a priest who's watched him grow up. Patrick's friends find out the abandoned asylum and organises a massive party there. Patrick initially disagrees with the idea but meets a nice hot chick named Reign, played by Britanny Curan who reminds me Melanie C of the Spice Girls. After the party is over with most of the people already left the place, the group decides to stay longer to hang out and do some naughty stuff. After attempting to levitate Patrick's brother, Rory (Michael Ormsby), he gets possessed seemingly by a demon or spirit of some kind -- whatever it is, it's never clearly revealed in the film.
From then on, we all know the formulaic drill -- they'd uncover the dark history of the place, they'd get trap and they'd probably die one by one leaving only the white virgin to face the antagonist. The villain's name is Devon, by the way. I found out that Exeter and Devon are actual places in England and the name of the film was released as The Asylum instead. There might be satires or hidden meaning behind the film but not that I could relate with. The set of the abandoned and apparently burnt-down asylum looks creepily good but sadly, the audience are kept unfamiliar with how the place and surroundings are mapped out, making some incidents and scenes way too out of place. The makeup, effects and gore are very convincing but the overall of the film just isn't really that terrifying. It relies heavily on cliched jump scares and the very few graphically gruesome scenes to hopefully please the fans of the genre. There's one sequence that shows one of the possessed crawling upside down on the ground where none of the characters are near. What's the point? Is it just for show? It doesn't even make the atmosphere scarier.
Although the film has a twist that's tightly planned out with some typical plot conveniences and confusion, none of its premise or concept seems original, borrowing ideas as though it's yet another knockoff of The Exorcist (1973) and The Evil Dead (1981). It tries to also be humourous like Drag Me to Hell (2009) and Cabin in the Woods (2012) but it's not as self-aware and only mildly funny due to the immaturity and stupidity of how these kids today would deal with such situation, like how they never even attempt to break the windows to escape from the haunted asylum. As for Devon, why not invite more than one demon/spirit over to quicken the process of its plan? At the end of the day, Exeter offers nothing truly new to the genre other than mixing different elements up with a seemingly original twist that almost completely makes sense.
Malaysia censorship: Due to graphic violence, gore, nudity, sex and drugs, it was heavily censored even for the press screening.
Second opinion: My girlfriend covered her eyes for most parts of the film but also laughed at some scenes while questioning the probable flaws in the plot.
Verdict: If it wasn't so heavily censored here, it might have been decent to watch for those who enjoy jump scares and slasher gore.
Rating: 2 / 5
Alternative Titles: "Backmask", "The Asylum"
Running Time: 92 minutes
Director: Marcus Nispel
Screenwriter: Kirsten Elms
Cast: Kelly Blatz, Brittany Curran, Stephen Lang, Brett Dier
Malaysia Release Date: 9 July 2015
Local Distributor: GSC Movies
Production: (no info)
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