OnePlusYou Quizzes and Widgets


Insanitarium (2008)

I don't know what to say. I still have goosebumps and that blissful, happy smile on my face with the wide eyes with a lot of white in them. That is my "OHMYGODIJUSTWATCHEDTHEPERFECTHORRORMOVIE!!!!" - expression, in case you are wondering. Combined with frantic giggling and a very fast-paced way of speaking (as I just realised during a short phone call).

The Hills Have Eyes and Dawn of the Dead both got excellent scores in my reviews. I am sorry to say that I have to edit them now. Insanitarium is WAY better.

I am officially in love with this movie.

*takes a deep breath*

Ok, I'm a bit calmer now. On with our regularly scheduled movie review.

"If you're reading this letter, it's because I have been committed to an insane asylum."
- Now that's what I call a promising start. Also, we get treated to beautiful shots of all sorts of various medical equipment. As I am desperately in love with medical equipment of various kinds, this is almost pornographic for me. And beautifully shot, I might add (again).

Generally, the camerawork in Insanitarium is very good. I watched it again with a friend today (after my initial viewing for the sake of this review, which resulted in me ranting about how great this movie is on the phone), and he (I already mentioned him - the guy who is responsible for treating me to Narok and likes good horror flicks and despises cheap B-Movies) was equally impressed. So, you see, it's not just me. Sometimes, other people actually agree with my assessment of a movie's qualities.

Ok, on to the plot (as this is a fairly new movie - DVD release in the US today, so you get treated to something that you might not have watched yet!):

Jack (our protagonist, convincingly played by Jesse Metcalfe of Desperate Housewives "fame") is desperate to talk to his sister, who has been committed to a mental institution after a failed suicide attempt. She didn't take their mother's death easily, and is mentally unstable. Jack tries to talk to her, but the asylum doesn't allow any visitors, and a wall of silence surrounds it. So he figures that the only way he can find out how his sister is doing, possibly get her out of the asylum again, is to... get himself committed and then break out with his sister, Lily. Sounds like a crazy idea to me, but then again, who am I to judge?

But as soon as he is in the aforementioned institution, he finds out that Dr. Gianetti (a great performance by Peter Stormare - he truly shines as the mad scientist/insane psychologist) is treating patients with a new drug called "Orpheum"... which is designed to strip away the layers of the higher brain functions where the sickness resides... so that he (Gianetti) reduces the patients to their lizard brain (read: Limbic System, my favourite part of the brain) in order to reintroduce "normal behaviour". Not a bad idea. The only problem is that, as you may or may not know, the limbic system is also the part of the brain that controls our aggression. So, "Orpheum" (which is awesome, by the way) has one little side effect: It makes people a bit... violent.

Welcome to the Middleton Psychiatric Institute!

The way Jack gets himself committed is awesome, by the way. However, aforementioned friend of mine noticed some minor plot holes and inconsistencies in the scenes of him playing insane, getting himself into the asylum and those immediately after he arrives there:

- Plothole #1: Considering the viable risk of blood-borne diseases, it is unlikely that two members of the altruistic American police would touch someone who is bleeding out of a variety of wounds without gloves ...or touch him in the way they do at all. HIV and other nasty things are just too much of a risk.

- Inconsistency #1: Jack is seen to violently cut off his own hair. When we see him in the asylum (in a nifty strait jacket that I want to have), he has a perfect haircut (note how perfect he managed to cut the hair on the back of his head). I severely doubt that this specific asylum, or any mental institution, would give a guy a haircut to make him presentable, so... well. Minor, but they exist.

One thing that might be a particularly personal thing with me, Insanitarium and my personal opinion of this movie is that the mental institution from this movie is eerily reminiscent of an asylum I have personal experience with. It's just creepy as hell to watch a horror movie about an asylum just to realise that the one you are familiar with looks and feels exactly the same. Maybe it's an international thing and all of those nice institutions look the same (down to the vomit-pus-yellow walls of the psych ward and the people just sitting around and... staring... into... no particular part of nothingness, see below) and that the orderlies behave in pretty much the same fashion all over the world... although, granted, we didn't have a blindingly white maximum security tract in the CDK. We just had a separate building, although it did have a lot of, well, white in it.

Eerily familiar, that...

Another thing that might have had an influence on how happy I am with this movie is that I love lunatics. Granted, I don't like asylums (unless I can walk out of them without any problem and am not obliged to come back the other day), but I like talking to crazy people. Well, the interesting crazy people (no insult to the numerous cases of bi-polar, conversion disorder, depression, agoraphobia etc., but really, schizophrenics and paranoid people on a quest to find the brain's daisy receptor in order to create the perfect drug out of daisies and thereby free humanity from its earthly bonds are more interesting to talk to).

It's easy to make friends in a mental institution. Trust me on that.

But yes, it's really creepy how Insanitarium manages to perfectly imitate my experience with a mental institution. Well, not the whole movie, obviously.

Welcome to Maximum Security. It is nice here... really.

One thing I particularly liked about the movie is how Jack has to face the reality of an asylum:

#1 - Yes, psych wards are scary if you're not insane yourself.
#2 - No, you can't get out if you're not supposed to.

So... back to the movie. Jack tries to free Lily with the help of Dave (a very convincing Kevin Sussman), a paranoid conspiracy theorist who can move around through the asylum more or less freely (at night, if no one catches him).

Say hello to Dave.

Here we are introduced to Plothole #2: How does Jack know the different security codes of the asylum? It's still believable that he knows about the wiring because he studied blueprints and all that jazz before getting himself committed, but the security codes? You'll hardly get those off the internet, or by walking into some office and nonchalantly asking for them.

He finds out that "Orpheum" is not actually a biochemical agent, but something far more awesome (I won't give it away, though - watch for yourself). He also finds out that there is much more to the drug than he thought - it's not just making people's eyes white and increasing their tendency for violent behaviour... it also makes them hungry. Hungry for ...warm stuff.

THAT kind of warm stuff.

And this gentleman (Mr. Loomis... *giggles*), who gets regular doses of Orpheum, if I might add that, has it bad. Very bad. I know what I'm talking about.

Notice the cramps and the silent screams. You can't see it on the screenshot, but his body is twitching. Poor bloke.

There's food directly in front of him.

AND on the floor, carelessly being wasted by just... dropping... onto... floor...

Instincts... taking... over... Need... taking... over...


Incidentally enough, he finds out about this whilst we get treated to something I'm not sure whether I should classify it as rape or consensual sex. My friend wasn't sure either, so I'll just not give a damn how to call it. But trust me, dear readers: It is awesome. Really, this movie has EVERYTHING!

(That's her slip in her mouth, in case you can't tell)

Bondage + Scalpels + Blood + Sex = Ultimate Awesome

And no, I am not a sick, perverted freak. Just because I think this is the best "sex"-scene I've witnessed in a horror flick thus far doesn't mean that there's anything wrong with me. I am not crazy! I have a certificate to prove it! ...damn, they took that away last month. Ah, well. *sighs*

Insanitarium also gives the proverbial nod to the epitome of all horror movies featuring cannibalistic patients of an asylum: Mr. Hawthorne (Armin Shimerman). Man, I was happy to see his performance. I've read reviews in which people complained that the character of Hawthorne is a total ripoff of our dear Dr. Lecter, but hey, what happened to paying homage to a good movie/character? I personally enjoyed it.

Also, Mr. Hawthorne is the first person who shares my views and opinions about what constitutes proper food:

Hawthorne: "This food is DEAD!"
Assistant: "I'll see if Gianetti can whip up a steak. How do you like it?"

Hawthorne: "...alive."

Well, our movie turns into a gorefest after Jack's discovery of the dangers of Orpheum and his attempt to flee the asylum together with Dave and his sister Lily.

Did I mention that the gore is awesome?

In short, let me give you my personal impression of Insanitarium:
The camerawork is perfect for this kind of movie. Sure, it's not something someone would win an Oscar for, but it works in this instance - and it works very good. Some of the shots are literally works of art, and the use of colour also warrants to be mentioned. Very good, very convincing.

The blood and gore are top notch. I'm hard to satisfy in that department, and damn, I didn't think "Meh, there could be more graphic violence and blood and gore" for one second of this movie. It's a crazy ride full of violence, blood and gore that should satisfy every gorehound. At least it satisfied me. A lot.

The pacing was awesome. The movie never failed to deliver the wonderful feeling of suspense that so many other movies in the great and glorious world of horror lack.

The directing is awesome, the editing is awesome, the soundtrack really gets into you and adds to the suspense (it is also perfectly adjusted to the fast pacing of the movie, something that I appreciate - there is nothing more infuriating to me than music or sound effects that just don't fit the pace of a movie... well, besides other things, but that's one of the most infuriating things I can imagine pertaining to movies). A+ for all of those points.

Also, let's not forget the acting. All of our main characters were really good (as I am lucky enough to be able to say that I've never seen one second of Desperate Housewives in my whole life, I didn't have any preconceived notions about Metcalfe), and I enjoyed their interaction. The dialogues never really seemed forced and appeared to come natural.
What impressed me most, though, was the acting by those who played the crazies. Kudos to you, ladies and gentlemen. Having some experience with psych wards and maximum security wards myself, I can honestly say that they really got the crazies down to a T. There was nothing artificial in their portrayal of insane people. I've seen the real thing, people, and this wasn't far away from it. Not at all.

I love this movie.

10/10 icepick lobotomies.