After beginning her job as a janitor at High Hopes Hospital in Amityville, Long Island, Lisa Templeton begins to experience horrifying hallucinations and visions of terror that lead her to believe something is incredibly wrong within the walls of the asylum. Once she learns the origins of the hospital, the lines between reality and nightmares blur as inmates and orderlies begin to die mysteriously.
“Kill them. Kill them all.” an unseen spirit coaches the residents of High Hope Hospital in Amityville Asylum, as an inmate screams, “Get out!”
Amityville Asylum needlessly draws in the literary legends and cinematic mythology of The Amityville Horror to color its story, but only just around the edges, just outside the lines. Other than an opening reference to the Defeo murders and how the house was sold to become High Hope Hospital, writer/director Andrew Jones’ low budget horror thriller has little to do with the source material or the iconic, infamous New England home. That alone sours the film from the onset, but the script continues to misguide its cast and audience into a boring first and second act with a third act that promises far more than it delivers. Buried in this mess, is a relatively good idea for a film where an employee of a mental institution begins to lose her grasp on reality the more she discovers about the hospital where she works. Screwing around with perception and mucking with the lead character’s confidence in their own sanity is terrific favoring for this kind of horror sauce, but Amityville Asylum fails to completely serve it all up with the right ingredients in place. An under-cooked mess, you bet it is.
Sophia Del Pizzo plays the lead, Lisa Templeton, with a natural curiosity and, sometimes, unquestioning, spirit that keeps Amityville Asylum moving along. She also is able emote past the dialog drawing the audience in to her character’s plight, confusion and concerns. That the audience cares for her is a huge bonus for the film. The sole problem with her protagonist is that Del Pizzo is never afforded the opportunity to fully commit into the insanity the role demands in its third act. Her madness is too reserved. It’s a case where injecting a little more Jack Torrence into the portrayal would go a long way to ignite the story behind Amityvilly Asylum. Hell, even a dash of Shelley Duvall would be an improvement. Del Pizzo does the best she can and it shows she is invested in the role so much so that when ever the film’s attention dwindles to its dimmest, it is Del Pizzo that keeps the audience from clicking the off button.
The plot of Amityville Asylum is a big bore. It clumsily starts off with an obscure presentation without an ounce of context to the Defeo murders of the Amityville Horror that has no impact whatsoever. It picks up with Lisa Templeton applying for any job she can in order to pay the rent. She ends up at High Hope Hospital, answering the call for a janitor position where she believes she tanks the interview. To her surprise, she lands the job. Only later does she learn that she was the only candidate to apply. The film slowly introduces the cast of residents and employees of the asylum without much depth or engagement. It’s all very bland and stereotypical with demented inmates and despicable co-workers who abuse the system and the sickly. Oh, yeah, and there is one co-worker who is just sweet enough for Lisa to trust and rely upon. Soon, ghostly spirits begin to appears gaining Lisa a poor reputation. As these events increase, her sanity continues to come under question until the secrets of High Hopes Hospital become awkwardly uncovered. The final twist is predictable and under utilized. It is a sad affair.
Amityville Asylum is a victim of its low budget as well. Many independent film makers can overcome the constraints of the budget, but this film struggles to do so. The lighting is poor, the sound quality is weak and the special effects are adequate at best. In many scenes, the light is too strong and harsh on the cast. However, occasionally, the director manages to score such as when the Satan worshiping inmate is glimpsed in her cell. Other times, such as many of the death scenes, the shots are lacking composition and visionary care. The sound design is underwhelming where gun shots are muffled reducing their impact. And where are the screams? The special effects do their job but the never reach a level that impresses. Director Andrew Jones really gets behind the events when the ghosts appear or Lisa experiences a horrific vision, but he struggles with the quieter moments.
Boredom is a tough impression for a film to overcome when it swarms over the first act so completely. Amityville Asylum never overcomes that initial reaction to its script and direction. The inclusion of The Amityville Horror feels forced and unconvincing. And, it is never used to great effect; it is totally unnecessary to the story. Without it, the film is no better or no worse – with the expectation that is carries with it a hefty baggage of expectations that are never met. The cast of characters are far from unique and involving. There is very little to make the film stand out on its own. The actors do their best, many far exceeding their dialog, such as the lead, Sophia Del Pizzo. Amityville Asylum stumbles over itself trying to find its way to its own predictable conclusion. Steer clear of this mess.
1 out of 5