Asylum: Twisted Horror and Fantasy Tales (2020) is an anthology featuring chilling chapters of slashers and monsters, available November 20th on VOD. The line up of terrifying tales is hosted by a man selling his own story of woe between each short, effortlessly changing character and tone frequently. The first tale is Damien LeVeck’s 2018 thriller that follows a pseudo-priest filming scripted exorcisms for his live-stream channel, “The Cleansing Hour”. One evening, an actress is booked to play the latest possessed victim, however, once the streaming begins, they realize that it is not special effects, but rather the antics of a real demon causing blood and mayhem in their studio, and eventually, across the world. Heather Morris, who I loved in her role on Glee, continues to prove that she is not only quite the comedienne but can also deliver an engrossing body-horror performance with her role in this short. The special effects were well-choreographed and the short even managed to work in moments of comedy and social satire.
The following short, Drudge (Kheireddine El-Helou, 2013), paid homage to Scream (1996), beginning with a young ingenue, home alone and waiting for her boyfriend to arrive. Unbeknownst to her, a killer with a self-customized hand-weapon is stalking her, and he soon interrupts their night of love-making with killer plans of his own. I enjoyed this short, but it was pretty much a remake of Drew Barrymore’s infamous opening scene, only El-Helou replaced a butcher knife with a hand attachment that was a Swiss army knife of horror to try to up the ante. Though the killer’s aesthetic was imposing, the contraption made him seem like he was ripped from the pages of a comic book. Next was A Father’s Day (Mat Johns, 2016), whose zombie premise initially excited me, but the story quickly turned sentimental, showing daddy zombie and a daughter zombie finding and recognizing each other amongst the decay of humanity. Giving this movie monster emotions seems counterintuitive, as zombies represent the loss of mindful thinking — should zombies have brains and eat them too?
I was impressed with the following short, Albert Pinto and Caye Casas’ RIP (2018), a Spanish-language piece that turned out to be a disgustingly hilarious dark-comedy. The performances were pitch-perfect, each character delivering perfectly timed comedic relief, which was thanks in large to the short’s razor-sharp and black writing sentiment. If Wes Anderson were to make a horror movie it would probably look and sound something like RIP , especially since its narrative shares Anderson’s notion of how family can be the death of you, spiritually and literally. This short was followed by Alejandro Damiani’s M.A.M.O.N. (2016), another Spanish-language project that is without a doubt the boldest piece of content I have seen all year. Its story pits a giant Donald Trump robot that is operated by Donald Trump against recently deported people at the US/Mexico border wall. As many heroically stand-up to this kaiju Donald Trump to defend the culture and people of Mexico, the battle escalates to an explosive and daring ending.
Not to be outdone, these two great shorts were followed up by quirky and heartfelt claymation, The Death, Dad, and Son (Walgenwitz &Winshluss, 2017), that sees the Grim Reaper’s son learn about life and death in a series of unfortunate events that lead to him accidentally starting a zombie outbreak. This short subverts the typical actions and mannerisms of Death without trying to rewrite the character’s motivations and purpose in the horror-universe, unlike the aforementioned zombie short. Then from out of nowhere, the film rolled into a sci-fi short that I would summarize as a cross between Gravity (2013) and Interstellar (2014) — directed by Andrew Desmond, Entity (2014) goes on a wild, intergalactic ride that is heart-pounding and visually gorgeous, detailing an astronaut lost in space. The movie takes a dip in pace after this short, subsequently featuring Adam O´Brien’s short Bloodbath (2011) — a short about a blood-bathing slasher that, thankfully, was short and sweet, allowing the film to also wrap up the host’s woeful story, Asylum directed by Carlos Goitia, which turned out to be a tale about him committing a crime of passion. I feel that the movie should have ended here, but the anthology continued with a short that should at least please any gorehound and/or clown-horror enthusiasts. Directed by Hendryk Witscherkowsky, The Last Show (2015) is set at a carnival that is overrun with killer clowns carrying out a sadistic mass murder.
Asylum: Twisted Horror and Fantasy Tales, overall, was a delicious horror buffet, full of eclectic shorts that varied in style and premise. There appeared to be no overarching theme connecting these shorts and the host’s story seemed shoe-horned in, and worse, outdone. The feature felt a little aimless, however, it was a pleasant watch because of the quality of the film’s individual parts. Just a tad shy of 2 hours long and 9 featurettes deep, A:TH&FT felt too long, in my opinion, and since some shorts were stronger than others in narrative and creativity, the anthology could have edited out one or two chapters. This collection of short horror films is definitely worth a watch, each nearly better than the last, though it may have made a minor misstepped in placing quantity over quality.
Adrienne Reese is a fan of movies - the good, the bad, and the ugly - and came to the horror genre by way of getting over her fear of... everything. Adrienne also writes for the Frida Cinema, and in addition to film enjoys cooking, Minesweeper, and binge-watching Game of Thrones.