Reviewed by Johnny Butane
Starring Jesse Metcalfe, Peter Stormare, Kiele Sanchez
Directed by Jeff Buhler
Distributed by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
The directorial debut from Midnight Meat Train screenwriter Jeff Buhler as about as basic a horror story as you can get, but that doesn’t make it any less of a fun time. Strap yourself in!
Insanitarium follows Jack, brother to Lilly, a girl who’s been having mental issues ever since their mother died. Jack is forced to commit his beloved sibling in order to keep her from harming herself, but little does he know that the psychiatric hospital he sends her to won’t let him anywhere near her. She’s a ward of the state now.
So he does what any caring brother would do in his position; he acts crazy and gets himself committed! After meeting the strange and creepy Dr. Gianetti (Stormare) and the somewhat common cast of crazies, including a poor man’s Hannibal Lecter (Armin Shimerman, whom “Buffy” fans will remember best as Principal Snyder), he sets out to find his sister. Of course, when he does, she wants nothing to do with him. She only wants to stop this horrible progression of terror known as life and sees him as yet another thing standing in the way of her goal.
Meanwhile, the evil Dr. Gianetti is conducting experiments on the patients under his care, utilizing a new drug called Orpheum. Don’t call it a drug to his face, by the way, or he’ll likely throw you against a metal rack and rape you like he does one of his assistants. Yeah, his bedside manner leaves much to be desired, but he does get results!
Orpheum strips away all that junk in our brains that makes us sick (read: human) and gets right down to the “lizard brain”, that barely-evolved primordial gray matter that tells us when to eat and fuck and sleep. It is only when this level has been reached that the good doctor can start building up “healthy” personalities, something that never comes to fruition during Insanitarium. Maybe the sequel? Instead, everyone exposed to Orpheum becomes even crazier and starts craving the flesh and blood of anything alive, which makes it exceptionally hard for Jack, Lilly and their kind of crazy pal David (Kevin Sussman) to get the hell out of the building.
Mucho buckets of blood are thrown throughout, and as the situation escalates, so does the gore factor. To an impressively high degree, I might add. I mean, when your story involves a group of crazy people eating each other, you can’t really skimp on the gore, and Buhler knows this very well. Sure the characters are a bit on the thin side, but really the whole story is just a setup to get the aforementioned crazies out of their cells and out munching on man tartar.
While overall Insanitarium is well-paced movie, it does drag down a bit towards the end. You really get a feeling this hospital is huge, if for no other reason than the characters run around it for 45 minutes without ever finding a way out, which may lead you to wonder why there’s only one orderly in the whole place. But you can’t help but love the old-school effects, the copious amounts of body part munching and the frantic pace most of the movie goes down at. Pop it in with some friends, and I’ll bet you’ll be cheering by the end. In a good way of course.
On the features side, things are about as thin as the characters, I’m sad to say. You’ve got three deleted scenes that are actually a rejected subplot about Jack seeing his dead mother at inopportune times, which I’m glad they took out since it really doesn’t fit with the rest of the film at all. It does makes the rooftop scene at the end of the actual film make more sense, however; as it stands it’s a bit bewildering and choppily edited.
Then you’ve got an 8-minute chat with Jeff Buhler and Jesse Metcalfe talking about what they did to prepare for their roles as director/actor, respectively, and an 8-minute look at what went into preparing the “insane” to do what they do best. This is the only time we have a chat with Stormare behind the scenes, which is too bad cause he’s a fucking weird guy that I’d love to hear more from. A storyboard gallery and trailers round out the disc.
All in all, it’s not a bad little package for a direct-to-DVD horror flick. I’d like to see Buhler try his old-school methods on something with a bit more soul next time, especially if he can line up such an interesting cast again. But believe me, you could do a helluva lot worse than a good dose of Insanitarium!
3 1/2 out of 5
2 out of 5
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