Director: Richard Friedman
Code Red

After the mid 1980s arrival of sharp-tongued killer Freddy Krueger and the thrift store punk antics of like films RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, independent“body count” and gore movies took an extreme humorous turn. The latter half of the decade brought the cheapest, most absurd offerings of this nature (at least things were for the most part still shot on 35mm), with most of the titles in question ending up on USA Network’s popular “Up All Night” weekend TV program. Filmed in New Jersey, DOOM ASYLUM, a perfect example of this sort of cinema, now arrives on DVD in all its uncut, cheesy glory.

After a violent car accident, a man discovers his mutilated lover’s body beside him (he clutches her bloody hand while crying like a baby). Burnt and mutilated himself and thought to be dead, he awakens from the coroner’s slab, killing the two men hovering over him and taking refuge in the basement of an asylum which eventually becomes abandoned. Ten years later, a mixed group of leggy yuppies and nerdy types arrive at the asylum one sunny day, running into an obnoxious all-girl punk band practicing there. The two rival groups become fodder for our flesh-rotted killer, who bumps the teens off using a variety of medical instruments.

With absolutely no budget to speak of, the filmmakers were able to shoot in a real abandoned and crumbling insane asylum (permeated with authentic graffiti) to at least give the juvenile proceedings a unique ambiance. Obviously meant as a satire on the slasher scene, the rubbery-made up killer (Michael Rogan) constantly spurts wisecracks, delivering such lines as “I hate rap music” when devouring a hip-hopping teen. The gore effects are for the most part too over-the-top to be effective, but the scene were an electric drill is jammed into the forehead of a geeky baseball card fanatic is worthy of Lucio Fulci. Another outrageous bit – where a character has his toes sliced off one at a time – was removed from the old VHS edition, but reinstated here, justly warranting the “uncut” moniker on the DVD’s front cover.

The dialogue here is (intentionally) absurd, heightened by the various New York/New Jersey accents of the cast. The T&A quotient is limited to a flash of Ruth Collins’ (a busy and busty 1980s scream queen) breasts, but at least former Penthouse Pet Patty Mullen (FRANKENHOOKER) spends most of her screen time in a red bikini. Years before her “Sex and the City” success, Kristen Davis plays a brainy type in a blue one-piece swimsuit, and it’s very doubtful she still lists this title on her resume. To pad out the 79-minute running time, scenes from some old black and white Tod Slaughter films are spliced in (the reason being that the killer is watching them on television), and as nonsensical as that is, some of the footage is actually ingeniously intercut.

Code Red presents DOOM ASYLUM in a full frame transfer. For something that was shot cheaply and originally released direct-to-video (with video-generated titles and all) it looks quite good. Colors are stable, detail is excellent, and the mono audio is very clear.

An audio commentary with director Richard Friedman and production manager Bill Tasgal is jovial, and the two men reflect with great enthusiasm. Sometimes they tend to overate what’s on the screen (“this is great!”) but make up for it in the end by commenting that the film would’ve been perfect for Mystery Science Theater 3000. Friedman and Tasgal are joined by Alexander W. Kogan Jr. (president of Films Around the World Inc.) for a set of brief but enjoyable video interviews. An Easter Egg has more video footage of Fiedman talking about some of his other films as a director (DEATHMASK, PHANTOM OF THE MALL, SCRARED STIFF, DARK WOLF). Rounding out the extras are trailers for some of Code Red’s current and upcoming DVD titles: BOARDING HOUSE, THE DARK RIDE, THE FARMER (can’t wait for this one!), SILENT SCREAM, THE FOREST, DEVIL TIMES FIVE, HUMAN EXPERIMENTS, NIGHTMARE (1981), STINGRAY, LOVE ME DEADLY, GANG WARS, DEATH PROMISE (aka ENTER THE WHITE DRAGON) and THE REDEEMER. (George R. Reis)