For Science: Eight Hours of Film Inside The Asylum


A few weeks ago, I did Neil a favor by replacing his normal Saturday routine of watching Bad Boys II with a full day of watching French New Wave director Eric Rohmer’s films. His full write up proved that he found a new director he really enjoyed.

So of course, he’s decided to repay me the favor by challenging me to watch 5 Asylum films in a row. As an added bonus, he got to choose the films, and he also requested that I attempt to find at least one good thing about each of them.

Since I’m the most easily McFly’ed of the Reject bunch, I refused to back down from the challenge and set up shop one day (which happened to be MLK Day), and watched all of them with only a ten minute break in between.

Why would I put myself through the hellish torture of watching Z-grade movies?

I do it all For Science.

The Terminators

8:01 AM: Pressing play on The Terminators – the movie about sentient robots that begins attacking mankind in a foolish attempt to take over the earth. The premise sounds familiar.

I’ve prepped for the day by eating a hearty breakfast of Berrios, yogurt, and a T-Bone steak. I’ve also stocked a ton of water, and made the couch here at Reject Headquarters into a pile of pillows fit for a sultan’s harem. If I’m going to go crazy, I’m going to be comfortable doing it.

8:04 AM: So far, nothing CGI has ever shared the screen with actors. It’s just close-ups of people yelling/shooting and shots of the best CGI robots from 1991. A fear this will be a trend.

8:09 AM: “I feel like we’ve been breached.” – Getting things started right with a spaceship captain that goes with his gut instead of on-board equipment.

8:14 AM: We’ve been introduced to 7 characters in 3 minutes. One of them is pregnant, and her husband is cheating on her with the town skank. Sadly, the small town seems to be a cement factory near an unusable field. I think they were going for a Mayberry feel.

8:20 AM: This is the most inefficient extermination ever. They’ve sent 3 Terminators to kill an entire town. Who the hell would do that?

8:23 AM: Nevermind. I’ve just been schooled that every household in America has one of these cyborgs gone haywire. That’s right. Every household has an intimidatingly muscular, Eastern European cyborg.

8:40 AM: Dramatic irony! We, the audience, know that Chuck is dead, but his pregnant wife (Chloe) and the town sheriff (Sheriff Something Or Other) are hoping he’s okay. This is some Shakespearean-level writing.

8:50 AM: Jeremy London has just elevated this film from eye-gougingly bad to mildly intolerable. “It doesn’t make any sense,” – never before has a character so succinctly nailed down the heart of the plot.

8:55 AM: To be honest, I keep expecting someone to suggest fucking. It would instantly explain the set design, script, acting, camera choices, and dialogue. All it takes is for one guy to say, “These cyborgs are out of control!” and a woman to rhetorically ask if he knows what else is also out of control while ripping her top off.

9:05 AM: After a 12-minute long chase scene, we arrive back at that damned field where it all started.

9:08 AM: It seems like they shot this movie and then wrote the script.

9:16 AM: I’ve noticed that whenever someone screams, they add an echo effect to it. I have no idea why. The characters aren’t in a cave or anything, and it doesn’t make the scream more dramatic. I have to assume the same sound engineer who did all of Hall and Oates’s albums got hired for this movie.

9:18 AM: The decent amount of casual traffic in the background makes me think this Robo-pocalypse isn’t nearly as bad as we thought.

9:20 AM: Hell. Yes. A robot just put his fist through a guy’s head execution style!

9:22 AM: It should be noted that Sheriff Something Or Other’s delivery is awful. The only justification would be if he’s a robot.

9:23 AM: He is.

9:33 AM: Good news, everyone. Hyper-space travel can be achieved using a 386 E-Machine.

9:38 AM: Echo Scream!

9:40 AM: By the way, Jeremy London has had a gun that debilitates the cyborgs this entire time.

9:45 AM: Has anyone ever wondered why the bad robots always have some sort of newer model they are waiting to unleash near the end? Why are they waiting? If it’s in beta, there might still be glitches – but then why would it be your last line of defense? If it’s ready for mass production, why is there only one of them?

Oh, and apparently on screen they just knocked the duck-faced robot out of an airlock or something.

9:46 AM: And…credits! This movie totally lied about its run-time. As you’ll notice, we’re creeping up on 10 AM while the movie claimed to be 90 minutes flat. I was sold a bill of goods!

One Good Thing: That punch through the head was pretty awesome. It was shot in silhouette, so they didn’t have to worry about shitty CGI – just a simple use of minimalism that made it seem like a cyborg fist penetrated the hell out of a soldier’s cranium. Well done, .94% of the movie!

18-Year Old Virgin

9:55 AM: After a 10-minute break, I’m feeling strong despite what was a pretty hefty opening salvo of awful from The Asylum. Next up is a change of pace – an American Pie-style sex comedy called 18-Year Old Virgin. Preparing myself for a lot of sexting.

9:57 AM: You can always tell you’re dealing with a sex comedy when there’s a masturbation fantasy sequence that opens the film.

9:58 AM: Make that three. And apparently the one with the main girl (Katie) was a fantasy within a fantasy. Let that stew in your mind a while. I plan on dwelling on it myself.

10:05 AM: It’s been ten minutes, and I count a total of 4 environmental montages revising the same feel-good, faux ska song.

10:06 AM: Make that 5.

10: 15 AM: Since I’m bored out of my mind, here’s a little multiple choice quiz I’ve come up with:

The house party they are at has

  • A. A grandpa upstairs in a coma
  • B. The hot guy that Katie wants to sex up
  • C. The male best friend that wants to sex up Katie
  • D. Delicious dip
  • E. All of the Above

Choose wisely.

10:18 AM: The hot guy Katie wants to sleep with refuses to sleep with virgins. He’s steadfast, and I have to admire the man for standing up for his principles, especially in this day and age with all that peer pressure teens face.

10:21 AM: Katie’s best friend Rose is the girl from The Terminators. I’m glad she made it out alive and that society returned to normal. Unless…unless this movie takes place before the Robo-pocalypse, in which case, the tone has completely shifted to morbid humanity.

And, after a 3-minute long scene, Rose reveals that there’s a way for Katie to lose her virginity…by losing her virginity. Let the hero’s journey begin!

10: 23 AM: In true Hero fashion, Katie refuses. In true What the Fuck Is Happening On Screen fashion, they cut to an environmental montage and suddenly Katie’s on board.

10:27 AM: Random Side Character is right, everyone. There’s really no other option but to jerk it before having sex with Katie.

10:36 AM: Friends, I just don’t think I’m going to make it. I can’t believe I’m willing to throw in the towel this early in the challenge, but it’s been 30 minutes into this movie, and there hasn’t been a single comedic gag. It’s like a 14-year old wrote this about her boring high school party she went to one time, and everybody drank and stood around and listened to shitty ska music.

10: 40 AM: The unfunny is lasting forever.

10:41 AM: Wait a minute. Did we really need full frontal merkin for that pubic shaving gag?

Sidenote: A comedy bit! In a comedy! We have life! Desperate, terrible, already-been-done, rewarmed life! But life nonetheless! My spirit is renewed!

10:44 AM: And somehow it took 3 full minutes of screen time to play out a gag about getting pubic hair on yourself. What began as a one-off joke just became the Lord of the Rings: Return of the King of pube jokes.

10:51 AM (56 minutes in): Comedic gag count: 3 (that’s one for every 18.67 minutes) Number of songs used in the soundtrack: 2

10:53 AM: So Katie has now gone upstairs to hook up with a high school guy who does trantric sex, and it’s actually pretty funny. A little over-the-top, but this thing needs some energy. Especially the back flip over the bed. Ironically, the tantra gag is also the quickest.

10:58 AM: Okay, admittedly, the idea of the Best Friend Who Wants Katie having to see her go upstairs with guy after guy and assuming she’s sexing all of them is pretty clever.

11:03 AM: Random Bitch makes a good point. Katie probably doesn’t deserve a Good Citizenship Award since she’s being such a slut.

11:11 AM: And the best character of the movie goes to…Guy Dropping Potato Chips Off Balcony.

11:15 AM: Yes! In a horrid case of mistaken identity, Katie ends up sucking off the comatose grandpa instead of the Hot Guy. This is like the Twelfth Night of teen sex comedies.

11:17 AM: I’ve changed my mind. Best character now goes to Guy Who Fell Asleep With Bong.

11:20 AM: And we have a best line! “You! You’re the one that blew my grandpa!”

11:21 AM: Why is the camera shaking? Is the cinematographer nervous he’ll never find work after this?

11:23 AM: And…Katie ends up with Best Friend! The only appropriate ending would be for them to have incredibly sensual sex while “The Age of Aquarius” plays in the background.

11:25 AM: Credits!

One Good Thing: The sidekick girl named Rose is not only really cute, she’s actually not half bad as an actress. However, I feel like that may be because I’m now officially three and a half hours deep into The Asylum.


11:35 AM: I’ve already begun to lose faith. I’m hoping that the acting pedigree of Jason Patric and Samantha Morton will float me through. At this point, drinking water is my only form of entertainment. Expired is the Observe and Report knock-off where Jason Patric is supposed to be really offensive. This should be something Asylum excels at.

11:50 AM: I’m at a loss for words. The movie is just dull. Boring. It’s not even mockable. I’m visibly angry at the idea of Teri Garr being involved with such a cheap flick.

11:55 AM: Well, I guess I can scratch Watching Jason Patric Masturbate off my bucket list.

12:00 PM: So far there was an unnecessary car accident, a Jared Hess-like look at lower class people decorating for Christmas, and Jason Patric has called the main lead (Claire) fat. The height of offensiveness.

12:05 PM: I’m having an existential crisis. How is it that Asylum can offend on accident but then play it so safe when taking creative license to be offensive? He’s intense, and wants to pay for lunch really badly, but the character is pretty tame overall. And they’re trying to give his character a sob story? Why?

12:10 PM: On the plus side, I feel like I’m watching a real movie.

12:11 PM: It’s just a really bad one.

12:18 PM: “Went to work, watched a little TV.” This is what Jason Patric’s character (Jay) did today. Imagine watching a movie about this fascinating guy.

12:26 PM: Fair play, movie. The mom (Teri Garr) was just found face down in the mashed potatoes. Claire reacts as if she just found her mom eating a bowl of mashed potatoes. Yes, friends, there is such a thing as being too subtle in your acting. However, I’m really hoping this plot turn takes the movie toward Norman Bates territory.

12:28 PM: As absurd and poorly acted as it was, that death has brought a sense of gravity to the story and given some great opportunities for offensiveness – like Jay basically date raping Claire the night of her mom’s death. Classy.

Still, I have no idea what this film is building to. It’s like it sets up drama, then gets scared of it when it happens, and shuts it down immediately.

12:40 PM: I feel completely deflated.

12:53 PM: You were right: what this movie needed was a karaoke scene.

1:01 PM: Since I’m glued to the couch, Neil has graciously offered to bring me a sandwich. He, however, still refuses to bring me a hammer.

1:05 PM: This is like watching a character study that refuses to focus on the character.

1:06 PM: Or like watching Sid and Nancy if Sid were stabbing the audience instead of Nancy.

1:07 PM: Life lesson: Do not let a call go to voicemail while making out with your girlfriend if there’s any chance it might be your madame calling about the prostitute you just had over.

1:10 PM: The more I think about it, this movie really feels like if Jared Hess attempted to make a drama. It’s got all the same elements and shitty design, but it’s all so damned serious and pathetic.

1:15 PM: A quick note to aspiring screenwriters: The giant amount of characters like “White Car Owner” and “Woman with Baby” in this film is a dead giveaway that it’s structured poorly. There are maybe 50 characters, and only 5 of them have names. The rest are just one-liners or people that have absolutely nothing to do with the main story. And, of course you assume correctly that I’m watching the…

1:15 PM still: Credits!

One Good Thing: I’m struggling with this one because the whole thing was one giant exercise in blandness. I don’t understand why people think Jason Patric is a good actor. He’s intense. That’s not the same as good. However, Samantha Morton manages some really strong scenes. They’re just unfortunately in this movie instead of, say, surrounded by other great scenes in a good movie. Perhaps the fact that I’m talking about it at all like a normal movie is celebration enough.

Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus

1:25 PM: The one you’ve all been waiting for! My eyeballs are bleeding internally, so I’m actually ready for some cheesy action. Either that, or I’m just putting on a strong face for the children.

After a quick recon, it turns out that Asylum just stamps “90 Minutes” on all of their DVD cases under “Run Time.”

Apparently there has been a very real shift in my mood just by watching these movies as exhibited by Neil asking how I was and my throwing a coffee cup at his head.

Up next is a movie I’ve already seen before. I’m hoping that the familiarity will act as a sedative. Prepare your minds. For. Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus!

1:30 PM: “There’s poetry here,” – yes there is, Debbie Gibson. Yes there is.

1:34 PM: A quick not to aspiring filmmakers: Shaking the camera back and forth while having your cast hop from one foot to another does not make for an accurate depiction of a ship being bombarded. What idiot would even think to do that?

1:37 PM: Because of a small sonar device, a pod of whales has started slamming into a glacier. A helicopter pilot has also done so. This device is a far more effective killing tool than The Terminators.

1:39 PM: Oh, crap. A bunch of whales caused a giant MS Paint-style iceberg to crack, releasing an enormous octopus and an also-largely-sized shark! Second act, ahoy!

1:42 PM: They are trying to claim Debbie Gibson is a rebel because she’s late all the time. If that’s the case, I’m Che Guevara.

1:45 PM: Hell. Yes. Debbie Gibson and her George Wendt-looking partner are bitching about work while tossing back a couple of 40s complete with the paper bag. Those are two down ass scientists.

1:47 PM: I’m pretty sure the Tokyo Federal Detention Center is a concrete facility outside Chatsworth.

1:50 PM: What the. A shark just leapt out of the water to snag a plane out of the air. Now, I don’t pretend to be a rocket surgeon, but I’d like to do some quick math with numbers that I’m making up right now.

Assuming that the average plane speed is, say, 500 miles an hour and the cruising altitude is somewhere around 30,000 feet, that means that a shark traveling from the water would have to be traveling eleventy billion feet per second in order to catch the plane mid-flight. It would also have to anticipate the plane’s arrival at the target jump point by about 3.4 minutes.

Rather than believe that physics was glaringly overlooked in the name of a cool action sequence (which didn’t at all look cool), I choose to believe that we are dealing with a true killing machine here. Earth is doomed.

1:54 PM: Yes! The team is doing science! Science! It’s where you pour colored liquids into different colored liquids and shake your head! Microscope!

2:00 PM: At long last, someone delivers the heart and soul of the message of this film: If you don’t recycle, giant prehistoric monsters will eat your airplanes from the sky.

2:03 PM: U.S. Naval Command is also a concrete factory. Fortunately, Steve Segal-style Lorenzo Lamas is here to explain things and to say, “Cool it, hombre,” a lot. And to be unnecessarily racist. Almost like he’s trying to prove he’s more racist than you are. In fact, he’s more blindly offensive than Jason Patric in Expired.

2:10 PM: You have to admire the consistency of the film. The U.S. Naval Science Station is also capable of manufacturing concrete. And people can do more science in it! Science! More colored liquids in beakers! Graduated cylinders!

But wait. What’s this? After only speaking three lines to each other when they met, Debbie Gibson and Asian Scientist are going to share a moment together. On screen, he’s telling some sort of childhood story about how his family were poor fishermen, so he wanted to do something more with his life that still involved fish somehow. This story seems to have Debbie writhing in her seat.

After a sweet kiss, Debbie leads him into the romantic janitor’s closet at the concrete factory.

And…like any classy film…it cuts away to them lying naked together covered in a sheet they got somewhere. Probably the same one the janitor uses to clean up the puke. Speaking of which, I may need to borrow that from him soon. Fortunately, Debbie and Asian Scientist are going to science geek out after coitus and find a way to trap the monsters!

It’s rare in film where we see a sex scene used to push the action forward.

Go, random, baseless, awkward sex!

2:14 PM: The plan is to bait San Francisco Bay with pheromones that should lead millions of regular-sized sharks to infest the harbor alongside one giant one.

2:22 PM: I’ve been waiting for a wacky Naval officer to spill shark pheromones all over himself and get love-made to death. This has not happened yet but should.

2:24 PM: Well there’s your problem. You keep firing into the air when the shark has sneakily decided to swim under the water. This thing really is fucking deadly.

2:30 PM: A quick lesson in what happens when a nuclear missile is launched underwater, brought to you by Giant Shark vs. The Audience:

  • Massive marine life devastation
  • Fall out
  • Coastal destruction
  • Human deaths
  • Tidal Waves
  • Massive, massive tidal waves

2:36 PM: The three main scientists are now quoting Julius Caesar before the big final mission. It’s good to know that our school system is still pushing for well-rounded education. Now let’s go kill us a giant shark and then go bury it instead of praising it.

2:40 PM: The climax that this thing was building up to probably looked great on paper, but bad CGI and repeating the same shots over and over and over to create the illusion of the fight makes it completely lame.

2:47 PM: And now, for no reason, a crazed midshipman pulls a gun on the captain because he’s gone all Kurtz on everyone in the 2 minutes of character development we’ve gotten from him. The writers really have no idea where their real drama is, do they?

Fortunately, the battle rages with the same shots repeating.

And the scientists win! And they set up everything for a sequel! After all, there must be more extinct comically large monsters out there to stop, right?


2:49 PM …Credits!

One Good Thing: The title.

Sherlock Holmes

3:00 PM: This is it, folks. I’ve spent all day knee-deep in awful, and my reward is to watch the Asylum take on the classic detective with Sherlock Holmes. So far I’ve submitted myself to bad sex gags, boring action films, and now our road has come to this. The finish line is within sight.

I don’t have a thermometer, but I feel like I’m running a slight fever. My hands are clammy, and Neil just told me that I look like my dog just died. In retrospect, we should have hooked me up to a heart monitor to make this experience more science-y (or gotten more beakers filled with unnamed colored liquids) and because I might just end up dying.

Time to buck up and plow through.

If I don’t make it, if I fall just before the finish line, someone go buy me some McNuggets and nurse me back to health.

3:06 PM: This is shocking. It might be just the juxtaposition of this with the other films, but this scene is actually good. The lines aren’t all exposition. The acting is British. The edits are clever. It basically reminds me of a 1980s BBC mystery. Cheap but lovable. This is what Asylum should have been going for all along. Great writing but no budget still usually makes for a decent time.

3:07 PM: Ah, there we go. The same flat line delivery we’ve been used to as the scene shifts to a boat and its startled crew. Something appears to be stalking them in the water, something…oh crap. It’s Giant Octopus again! Again! How did that thing get into this movie? Did it escape the other one? Do we need to warn the public that it might show up in other movies?

3:15 PM: A quick note on how to act when you’re cast as Only Living Survivor: Screaming absolutely everything does not make you manic.

3:20 PM: The actor playing Watson looks exactly like Andy Richter. I have to assume this will be distracting.

3:24 PM: I know almost nothing of Britain, but per this movie, the slums of East London are really tough. People are standing around intimidatingly and there are old women who you can pay to fuck you. In fact, it seems like elderly prostitution might just be the main export of East London.

3:25 PM: Yes! A tiny dinosaur just cockblocked a kid by eating him. No old lady sex for you, young man!

3:29 PM: The framing device at the beginning of the film tells us that this is Holmes’s least known adventure, but now there are dinosaurs roaming the streets and major newspaper reports about it. He must have an amazing publicist.

3:31 PM: Oh, crap. Holmes and Andy Richter are running through the woods to escape something! Nothing is chasing them, but they are running! And the camera keeps panning 360 degrees while the same shots are repeated over and over and over.

3:33 PM: I can honestly say I never thought I’d get tired of watching a guy running through the woods. But I have. This has gone on for two full minutes, and it’s just the same two shots repeated. How is this the standard directing style?

Plus, now that I think of it. There’s no mystery here at all. There are very visible monsters attacking the town. This isn’t a case for Sherlock Holmes, it’s a case for animal control.

3:36 PM: Nevermind. Apparently the dinosaur stole a water pump. Wait, what?

3:45 PM: This thing is one big Scooby Doo Mystery. There’s a mysterious monster, Holmes and Watson just keep chasing it around and then thinking a lot without finding any clues. All they need is a hilarious sandwich-eating dog to round out the tone of this thing.

4:00 PM: Phew. There were only five characters in the entire thing including the two main heroes. Turns out the bad guys were the other characters. Mystery solved! But not before we have a Steampunk Dr. Who episode descend on the proceedings. If this thing was released in 1982, people watching BBC would have gone apeshit for it.

4:10 PM: They also would have gone apeshit for that poorly rendered mecha-dragon that’s now attacking the city. Where’s the Giant Octopus when you need it to come spar Rumble in London style?

4:16 PM: There is some sort of fight scene going on, and I just don’t care.

4:17 PM: I’ve started watching the clock next to our television because it’s more entertaining.

4:18 PM: Fantastic. A lone woman is walking calmly toward the 3 guards that stand by the main gate at Windsor Castle. They’ve asked her to stop, which is all well and good, but when Watson comes riding up on a horse shooting at her, they just stand there dumbfounded. For all intents and purposes they are seeing a young lady mowed down on the road by a lunatic, and they are scratching their fuzzy hats. I imagine that with this sort of protection, the Queen will be dead by breakfast.

4:26 PM: Holy, God. Hurry up and get this over with. We’ve seen the same two shots of a hot air balloon and the mecha-dragon repeated far too much. Balloon: 14 times. Mecha-dragon: 16 times. Those numbers aren’t exaggerated. Apparently the Asylum mantra is to just take two shots, then switch back and forth between the two, and viola! Fight scene! Somewhere, a director in an editing room had to point toward a monitor and say, “I think we need maybe one more repetition of this Dragon to really make the scene sing.”

4:27 PM: So close. So, so close.

4:28 PM: Credits! Sweet, sweet, lovable credits!

One Good Thing: The opening scene showed such promise. The writing was good, the acting was passable, and it looked solid. Also, the film being over means I can stretch my legs, punch Neil right in the throat and never watch anything The Asylum makes ever again.

Final Thoughts

Whereas Neil found a new director to love, I have barely weathered the storm here after only eight and a half hours. Some of the movies are mockable, but others are just simply a chore to drag yourself through.

I have felt a complete shift in my mood since starting. I’m irritable, angry at life, and I feel a profound emptiness – like something that I love dearly has been taken from me.

Still, I’ve learned a lot. My life has been made somehow better by forcing my eyes and mind to wade through the Nuclear wasteland of movies from Asylum. I now know the true cost of trashing our planet, what happens when Lorenzo Lamas’s ponytail attacks, and how a young girl attempting to become a woman can end up reviving an elderly coma patient with her oral skills.

And if that isn’t the spirit of America, I don’t know what is.

Movie stuff at VanityFair, Thrillist, IndieWire, Film School Rejects, and The Broken Projector [email protected] | Writing short stories at Adventitious.