The GeeksverseAsylum Presents:

Asylum Presents:
Published on Friday, August 19, 2011 by

After a long day of working, reading comics, and spending time with family, a DVD is often in order. On occasion that DVD begins with ASYLUM PRESENTS:. The Asylum is an American film studio and distributor which focuses on producing low-budget, usually direct-to-video productions often featuring titles that capitalize on productions by major studios dubbed “mockbusters.”

The Asylum work schedule is typically four months from decision, creation, to finished product. Asylum’s budget for a production is reportedly under a million dollars. Surprisingly, the typical Asylum movie breaks even after about three months. Impressively, Asylum has never lost money on a film.

Current Release: Ballistica

Because of the quick idea, creation, production, and sales model, Asylum has been compared to Roger Corman and other 60s-70s independent B-movie production companies that churned out drive-in then direct to video movies. The Asylum could also be easily compared to Charles Band’s Full Moon. Since The Asylum pictures are less likely to be found in drive-ins the comparison to direct to video cult favorites, such as Full Moon, is probably more appropriate. Asylum’s films have found their way to SyFy, Lifetime, Chiller, and the Movie Channel. Corman helped start the careers of James Cameron and George Lucas. Only time will tell if any of the director’s from The Asylum escape to create reputations away from the production company. Several show promise on a shoe string budget.


Like Corman’s notorious drive-in movies, Asylum’s production values are inconsistent. The quick production turn around can turn out movies that look rushed, although it can equally turn out polished movies.

sexually charged comedy

Like independent studios from the bygone era, Asylum’s products are all over the map in content, theme, and subject matter. Their productions range from films with strong religious themes, such as The Apocalypse to sexually suggestive comedies such as 18 Year Old Virgin. This diversity resulted in creating a division, Faith Films, in order to distribute religious titles separate from movies such as Milf or Barely Legal.

One hallmark of Asylum’s mockbusters is the heavy relationship between their titles to major releases while creating completely original stories. Asylum’s version are usually released on video shortly before the theatrical release of the major studio counterpart. While similar in themes, story lines, or titles Asylum produces a completely new product. A recent example is Asylum’s Almighty Thor being released ahead of Marvel’s Thor. Since the mockbusters are not petitioning for ratings from the Motion Picture Association of America, trying to sell toys or secondary merchandise, they often feature more blatant sexuality or graphic violence than the major studio counterparts. Often this sexuality and violence is woven in neatly, although on occasion it seems to be gratuitous as in the Vaginamite in Death Racers. The two hot girls that comprised Vaginamite succeeded in being both gratuitous violence and sexual thrusting. Transmorphers featured an accidental lesbian sub-plot because an actress was substituted for an actor last minute and the script was not changed. On the smaller budget and quicker turn around time, The Asylum often pulls from no-name actors and actresses. Some faces become familiar between productions. Occasionally odd celebrities are used such as ICP and WWE’s Raven in Death Racers, WWE’s Scott Hall in Almighty Thor, and Debbie Gibson and Tiffany in Mega Python vs Gatoroid pop up.

Haunting in...somewhere familiar sounding

The production of each Asylum title is quick. Some scripts take only a few hours to work up, while others take days to weeks. The production, effects, and editing also vary drastically. Watching Death Racers is difficult. The script is thin. The camera work is limited and unimaginative. Most of the sets are confined. The action is slow (which is doubly bad in a movie which should be a racing film). The acting is so bad overall that ICP doesn’t seem to be able to portray themselves. The sound mix leaves some lines inaudible under the over looped ICP soundtrack. In contrast, Allan Quartermain and the Temple of Skulls is a reasonably well executed adaptation of the H. Rider Haggard novel, set in South Africa, during the age of Imperialism. The film is well made. One of the main changes from the H. Rider Haggard novel is the age of the protagonist which is brought in line with Indiana Jones’ more famous hero. The same company distributes both ends of the spectrum from exceedingly apologetically bad movies to nice independent films. One of the risks viewers take with these movies is not knowing which end of the spectrum they are picking up. Luckily, since most of these films are purchased to be rented the end consumer has very little investment. They can take a gamble.

every genre including western can be found in Asylum's diverse catalog

To help sort out the good, bad, and ugly of The Asylum, I want to take a few moments and highlight some strengths and weaknesses of several Asylum films that have found their way into my DVD player and DVD collection.

voodoo on the rails

Snakes on a Train
Snakes on a Train does not have the inventive camera work and coordinated intricate set design of Wes Anderson’s The Darjeeling Limited (2007). Although for the lower price point, Snakes on a Train is arguably better than Snakes on a Plane. The voodoo angle is a nice addition to the plot. Copious snakes keep multiplying on a disastrous ride on the rails. Plenty of quirky characters are caught up in the story. Until the end, this is a fun DVD. The end is a bit disappointing and has CGI that doesn’t not quite work. While I won’t spoil the ending, the DVD cover does.

Dragon Quest
Dragon Quest is a fine story with a small cast. Unfortunately the cast is small even though they are trying hard. The CGI is better than on some Asylum films but the hardest thing to believe is that the epic battle takes place with a handful of actors in acceptable costumes. More extras in similar outfits could have help bolster parts of the film. Some of the film lags with slow pacing but overall it is effectively telling a simple tale. Time was not spared on character names or back story but it is a fun movie rental. This movie rests comfortably in the middle of production values and script writing. Suspension of Disbelief is required when approaching this film so it may not appeal to everyone.

Street Racer
130 mph is when life and death are both the closest. Street Racer is supposedly based on true events. Street Racer tells a story of regret and payback. A speed demon cripples a young boy and serves time. As part of his parole he has to volunteer. He volunteers to help the boy learn to walk again, befriending the family that does not realize who he is. Meanwhile, to complicate the racers life a crooked parole officer forces him to race. Very few bangs for the buck but good story telling wins out. Almost none of the cars featured in the movie belonged to the production. Most were cars on loan to the production by street racers that wanted to be featured in the film which meant that they couldn’t rub paint and smash off spoilers. That does not hurt the movie at all. This film could have used larger crowds of extras. Both the original Fast and the Furious and Tokyo Drift used volunteer street racers to line the streets for miles, by comparison the small authentic group of racers in this film seem small. Comparing this film to Fast and Furious is not out of place, but that does sell short this completely original script. This is a successful film presented by Asylum.

ICP in a Death Race to eliminate a terrorist

Death Racer
Death Racer was released to the revamped Death Race movies about convicts being pitted against each other in monster machines. In Asylum’s Death Racer, a terrorist lives in the Red Zone, a city sized penal colony, and must be eliminated. The Governor sends in criminals to kill a criminal. This seems like Death Race meets Escape from New York but without being as good as that sounds. Media satire is mixed into the uneven script with better sound mix and visuals than the race itself. Unfortunately the race itself moves so slow that media recaps seem to be there only to fill out the 83 minute movie run time. Death Racer is the low end of Asylum production values from script to finish product. This is a painful rental and a regrettable purchase.

House arrest haunted by a ghost of her tormentor

100 Feet
100 Feet is a modern take on a ghost in the house film, the leading lady is trapped in a house because she is under house arrest. She cannot leave to escape the ghost from her past. The look of the film is consistent and the story is enticing. Overall this is a nice package. This is a good film at an affordable price.

Asylum Presents could mean anything from wildly successful to wildly painful. All of the films feature independent film makers creating whatever screen magic that they can muster. Some of these movies have found their way onto cable television rotation while others live on video store shelves. When choosing titles from their catalog pick genres that you enjoy for more than just the effects. Also be sure to read reviews carefully. Fans of stunt casted actors, like ICP, can inflate online reviews without addressing merits of the film itself. Asylum is inconsistent but worth taking the time to rent.

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