Asylum Blackout a.k.a The Incident. 2011. Directed by Alexandre Courtès. Screenplay by S. Craig Zahler & additional material by Jérôme Fansten.
Starring Rupert Evans, Dave Legeno, Richard Brake, Anna Skellern, Kenny Doughty, Eric Godon, Darren Kent, and Marcus Garvey.
Artémis Productions/Marquis Productions/Vertigo Entertainment/Wy Productions
Rated R. 85 minutes.
There are so many things I love about horror movies. Some of them are terrifying, others are just dark and interesting. Many are darkly comedic. Now and then I’m unsettled for days. Above all else, one of the major things I always talk about on this site is the atmosphere of a film. Whether it’s horror strictly, thriller, drama – whatever – the atmosphere, the tone and feeling any film gives me is of utmost importance. Now, that doesn’t mean I’m saying it’s the be-all end-all; no, indeed it isn’t. What I mean is that, even when a movie falls short from time to time, as long as its atmosphere draws me into that world, whatever world it may be, there’s a good chance I’m able to walk away feeling it was worth my time.
Asylum Blackout is absolutely a beautifully grim horror-thriller, its atmosphere is on point. What I dig is that, though the plot isn’t exactly flowing over the filmmakers are able to craft such a small, intimate story into something very intense and ultimately pretty damn creepy. There’s also a more subtle nature to a lot of what director Alexandre Courtès does in this film, as opposed to other modern horror going for either lots of blood and effects, or lots of jump scares to try and get you. With a haunting score behind it, rich and dark visuals, as well as a couple really solid performances, Asylum Blackout is an especially effective little horror-thriller that has plenty of psychological terror in store for its viewers.1989. George (Rupert Evans), Max (Kenny Doughty) and Ricky (Joseph Kennedy) play in a band together. They also work as a shift of cooks at an asylum, which is under the guard of J.B. (Dave Legeno). The building is locked down via a complex electrical system.
One day George has to go in early at 7am. Having played a show the night before, out late, he heads in without really sleeping at all; only a hot shower to go. Later that day during work, as he and the boys start cooking up meals for the inmates, a hard storm hits the isolated area where the asylum is located. The electrical system locks everyone inside and also messes with the building’s operations. When J.B. and other security guards are murdered by some of the more insane inmates, including Harry Green (Richard Brake), George and the other cooks are left on their own to defend against the onslaught of maniacs and murderers… all in the pitch black.There are lots of small plots in horror films. Many of their downfalls end up coming from lack of character development, or a general lack of interesting characters/situations between them. One particular aspect of Asylum Blackout I enjoy so much is how the characters seem real. They’re a bunch of dudes who play in a band, one of them is a bit of a flake, one’s a douchebag and George is just trying to get by, live with his lady and play rock n’ roll. The tension between these guys is part of what makes later bits of the screenplay really work; they aren’t at each others throats all the time, there’s simply an added level of tension with their personalities once the big blackout hits.
Aside from the characters, I like Rupert Evans. He was also in another horror I saw recently, The Canal, which I LOVED until the finale; regardless, he was awesome in it. Something I often harp on about is authenticity, and I find some horror films end up lacking because either there’s none in the script itself or the actors can’t bring any to the characters. Evans is a guy I think who feels more like a stage actor, not sure why he just has good sensibilities. In that sense, he’s a type who brings authenticity to a character: I never see him playing a character, I only see the character. Comparing something like this film with the aforementioned The Canal, he has great range. Not only that he’s doing a nice American accent.
There’s also Richard Brake as Harry Green, the psychotic inmate who sort of corrals the others into doing his crazy bidding. He starts by getting others to spit out their medication. Throughout just about every last scene he appears in, Brake is completely silent. Only his menacing looks as weapons. I’ll be damned if he doesn’t chill my bones, there are a few times he conjures up the pure devil in his face and it’s really a god damn stellar performance! Most horror movie villains need a ton of scenes with a bunch of dialogue or monologues in order to establish how scary they can get, but not Brake, not with this character and the way he plays him. Especially as the plot wears on and things get wilder at the asylum, Green becomes a more savagely intense character than his lurking sense of menace near the beginning. Great stuff and really made his part memorable by doing so little, yet so much at the same time.Some of my favourite scary moments…
One of the first comes when George and William (Marcus Garvey) have to escort some patients back to their cells following the blackout. They find a crazed, naked guy running around in the dark. Honestly jarred me for a second! Really nice, brief scene. Further than that, George sort of proves he isn’t a pushover. Might not be Chuck Norris, but he’s capable of handling himself a little.
Almost immediately afterwards they have an encounter with an inmate named Carter (Dan Sluijzer), who is pissing in one of the huge pots over the stove. He’s also carrying a cleaver. This guy is SPECTACULARLY CREEPY. Just the look in his eyes – “Hey chef, you like my cooking?” – and his entire demeanour is horrifying. Plus a quick mini-jump when he tosses the cleaver. It’s so gnarly, I love this moment. Gets the blood pumping in your veins.
But perhaps the most tense, in my mind, is when the inmates break through a pane of thick glass to get themselves into the kitchen where the cooks thought they were safely barricaded. This is a solid scene, everything is running full steam: the sound design, the light score and its occasional bursts, and the characters themselves watching those awful inmates trying to get in. My pulse quickens each time I watch this part, no matter that I know what’s coming. It still gets me. Such an impressive, tense minute or two, it’s hard not to feel for the cooks. The way its shot is great, too – very grim, very dark. Puts you right in the shoes of these guys, hiding, waiting, not knowing what’s going to end up happening. To make matters worse, three of the cooks end up having to leave the other in the pantry; he’s locked inside, but still. Overall, this is where things start to get ridiculously intense and the film ramps up with lots of thrills until the finish.
An even bigger jolt comes when George finds a doctor sitting behind a desk, white coat and all; in fact, it looks like he’s doing nothing except sitting there. The reveal comes when the man stands: he’s wearing only the white coat and a pair of tighty whities. You might find that funny to read, but it is downright disturbing to see. A nice little addition I did not except at all. Strong and subtle scare.
There are more of these moments (can’t spoil ’em all) – both outright savage and also the quieter kind. So buckle up for a nice few scenes that will absolutely creep the hell out of you, right to the bones. The score lurking behind and underneath everything will keep it all connected, as the movie flows from one bit of terror to the next almost never really stopping to let things sink in, never letting you catch your breath. Kudos to Christophe Chassol whose music makes this movie all the better for its inclusion.The ending of the film is misunderstood. Some people seem to think it indicates he was dreaming things up. But no – he’s traumatized in the finale. He’s broken off and in the deep end. He screams “They got inside!” and he means HIS HEAD.
I love this movie and I’ve watched this a handful of times every year since it first came out. A 4 out of 5 star horror movie, I think there’s so much to enjoy here. Do yourself a favour and watch it if you’re looking for an unusual horror with a load of style, some good acting and some damn fine scares.