Check into the Sanitarium with Our Top 11 Insane Asylum Horror Films
The nut house. The loony bin. Whatever your term for it, we all know it well... the insane asylum. It is one of the more unsettling settings in which a horror film might play out. To celebrate the December 31st release of Image's Sanitarium, we bring you our Top 11 Insane Asylum Horror Films.
As far as honorable mentions, one of my all-time favorite horror moments is in the insane asylum at the end of Psycho when Norman has completely become Mother. As the scene is very short, we kept it off the list and simply gave it an HM.
Other notable nuthouse films include the Santa-themed sequel Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 and more hillbillies gone awry in Wrong Turn 4. Give us your picks below.
Now, on to the ....
A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors
This film was a turning point for the franchise. In Dream Warriors the Freddy Krueger personality really began to come forward. The now infamous one-liners and the over-the-top, super-creative kills began in Westin Hills Psychiatric Hospital. Many of Krueger’s most memorable slaughters occurred here, including Freddy TV, the tendon marionette and the syringe fingers. Although Westin Hills might not be the most haunting asylum ever, as Krueger’s comedic turn began here, it was the home of some truly memorable kills.
The Collingwood Psychiatric Hospital is the setting for the found footage romp entitled Grave Encounters. This one raises the bar as we are dealing not only with the criminally insane but also with ghosts of the criminally insane, which is a theme you’ll find throughout this list. Directed by the Vicious Brothers, Grave Encounters is a very realistic look at the recording of a haunted location documentary. With all of the paranormal encounter television programs we have on the air today, this film works nicely as you could actually suspend disbelief and imagine Zak Bagans or a number of other ghost chasers in that same situation.
Bruce Willis and a frantic Brad Pitt scored big with 12 Monkeys. Directed by Terry Gilliam, 12 Monkeys was a sci-fi thriller that took audiences on a futuristic post-apocalyptic joy ride. Pitt was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Jeffrey Goines. (He lost to Kevin Spacey's portrayal of Keyser Söze in The Usual Suspects. No shame there.) Pitt would go on to win the Supporting Actor Golden Globe. Aside from the asylum scenes, 12 Monkeys features time travel, conspiracies and undercover missions. It's great fun and shows Pitt at his most manic. The crazier he gets, the more you enjoy him in this one.
Any film with Leonardo DiCaprio is going to draw big interest, and Shutter Island was no different. Directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Leo with Mark Ruffalo, Max Von Sydow, Ben Kingsley and Michelle Williams, Shutter Island, based on the novel by Dennis Lehane, brought in nearly $300 million on a budget of $80 million. That's impressive. Slick and mysterious, Shutter Island had a bit of a mixed reception, but the combination of DiCaprio and Scorsese kept audiences piling into theaters.
"American Horror Story: Asylum"
To enjoy "American Horror Story: Coven," all you really have to do is suspend your disbelief that witches could exist, and the whole show seems plausible. With "Asylum" you have to go way beyond that. Set in Briarcliff Mental Institution, "American Horror Story: Asylum" is a veritable cornucopia of horror, featuring possession, surgical experimentation, a serial killer, alien encounters. Hell, Anne Frank even turned up for two episodes. Couple this with perhaps the hottest sex scene to open a television season ever (featuring Jenna Dewan-Tatum and Adam Levine) and Jessica Lange leading a nuthouse sing-a-long of "The Name Game," and "Asylum" proved to be an incredibly horrific good time.
A Clockwork Orange
What do you do with a bunch of ultra-violent youngsters who just won’t stop terrorizing the good people of London? You can put them in jail, but when they get out, they’ll probably be worse than when they went in. How about using them for experimentation? In this case our hero, Alex, is subjected to the Ludovico technique, where he is strapped to a theater seat and forced to watch countless hours of violent video while being exposed to nausea-inducing drugs. Two weeks of this treatment, and viola! The criminal is rehabilitated. Well, kinda.
Yes, most of Halloween was shot in Haddonfield. But before The Shape made his way into town, there were some very intriguing moments in Smith's Grove Sanitarium, located a mere 150 miles from the sleepy town of Haddonfield. In fact, this is where the film draws its strength and ability to build tension. Donald Pleasence's excellent portrayal of Dr. Sam Loomis illustrates the backstory of Michael Myers in a way that has the viewer already scared of him before his adult form ever steps on screen. And indeed the escape scene with the wandering lunatics is one to be remembered!
Session 9 is a dream movie for fans of great atmosphere. Set in the abandoned Danvers Lunatic Asylum, an asbestos removal team attempts to clean up the structure when strange, haunting things begin to happen. The beauty of this film is the masterful pace of the unraveling of the mystery. Tension builds well, and we are drawn deeper and deeper into just what happened at Danvers. As the story of patient Mary Hobbes and her multiple personalities becomes unveiled, the film gets progressively darker. Excellent vocal work provided by Jurian Hughes helps add to the already creepy film. Not a box office juggernaut by any stretch of the imagination, but it simply must be considered a success as every real horror fan is more than familiar (and usually impressed) by the sharp work in Session 9.
Alone in the Dark
One of the more under-appreciated horror films, Alone in the Dark features an incredible cast including Jack Palance, Donald Pleasence, Martin Landau, Dwight Schultz, Erland van Lidth and Elizabeth Ward, who was voted Best Actress at the 1983 Sitges Film Festival for her role as Lyla Potter. This was the directorial debut of Jack Sholder and also the first film ever released by New Line Cinema. Palance leads a group of criminally insane asylum escapees on a killing spree during a power outage. Determined to kill their new doctor, the nuts on the loose converge on his home, leaving a trail of bodies along the way. Incidentally, the character of Skaggs the Bleeder is seen wearing a hockey mask in Alone in the Dark. As this film was released in 1982, I think we all know another famous character that started sporting a modified Detroit Red Wings hockey mask right around the same time.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
Okay, so this one is a little hard to classify as horror, but there are definitely some intense moments and chilling ideas that are broached in this classic picture. Additionally, horror heavyweights Brad Dourif and Michael Berryman are featured (with Dourif playing a very significant role in the film). One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, of course, revolves around the brief stay of Randall McMurphy (Jack Nicholson) in the Oregon State Hospital (where the movie was actually filmed) and the power struggle that ensues as the dictatorial Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher) attempts to maintain control over her once sleepy ward as McMurphy tries to bring the patients back toward true humanity. The nurse's tactics go from passive-aggressive to downright brutal as the film progresses. A legendary movie that will uplift, entertain and shock you. There's even a bit of F/X in there as well. Fantastic!
Jesse Metcalfe (who had been previously famous for his role as John Rowland on "Desperate Housewives," which gave him the opportunity to roll around with Eva Longoria on a weekly basis… lucky!) stars in this wild film about a man who fakes insanity in order to be institutionalized with the hopes of freeing his sister who is being held at the same asylum against her will. Maybe not the best course of action, but you can see how the plan has possibilities. We come to find out the doctor running this particular operation (the always entertaining Peter Stormare) has some seriously bad intentions in mind. A couple other notable actors that you don't normally expect to turn up in a horror flick show up as well, including Kevin Sussman (Stuart on "The Big Bang Theory") and the lovely Olivia Munn. This one goes completely over the top during the climax and is great for a bloody good time!
Anthology film Sanitarium features the work of directors Bryan Ortiz, Bryan Ramirez, and Kerry Valderrama. Malcolm McDowell, Lou Diamond Phillips, John Glover, David Mazouz, Lacey Chabert, Chris Mulkey, and Robert Englund star. The film is available on DVD and digital download December 31, 2013, for an SRP of $27.97.
SANITARIUM is an anthology that consists of three tales based on particular patients of a mental institution. Each tale begins with Dr. Stenson (McDowell), the primary physician at the Sanitarium, commenting on the recent arrival of a new patient. As Dr. Stenson speaks, the individual's story begins. SANITARIUM explores the different narratives of the insane patients – tales which led to their crazed states of minds.
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