JANUARY 17, 2012
The other day I lauded The Asylum for actually managing to make a real movie for once (Zombie Apocalypse), praising its scope, decent acting, etc. You know, things you people who only see theatrical movies take for granted. However, their gambles to actually produce something of relative merit don’t always pan out; Evil Eyes (which I wasn’t aware was an Asylum flick until it was over) has a cool idea and some good actors at its center, but it mostly fails to deliver any real suspense or thrills, and ultimately becomes too confusing for its own good.
Part of the problem is that there’s almost no buildup – we meet our hero (Adam Baldwin) as he is supposedly having trouble with his screenwriting career, but practically as soon as we learn that he is meeting with Udo Kier, who offers him a job writing a film about a true life massacre that occurred 35 years ago. “Crisis” solved! And other things get raced through just as quickly – he figures out the film’s hook in the first 20 minutes! It’s one of those “writer discovers that what he is writing on the page is happening in the real world” things, which usually takes a couple of instances for the protagonist to catch on, but no! In the first time he sits down to write this script, he writes a car accident, and then his ex-girlfriend dies in the same way moments later. Roughly 12 seconds after that in the narrative, he’s all “It’s my fault! I WROTE it!” So much for the element of discovery.
And hell that could almost work if the movie opened up the story a bit, using this element as a kickoff for some larger plot, but for the next 45 minutes or so it just plays out in a fixed cycle – someone does something to offend him in some way (for example, Crowley from Supernatural gets a gig he had been pining for), and then he writes them dying, which then happens. Then he feels guilty or something, sometimes Udo Kier will show up to remind him to keep writing, and the whole thing happens again.
Worse, as this is a high concept horror movie, it eventually goes off the rails, like pretty much all high concept horror movies. I don’t even know what was happening at the end; it seems his wife might have been the one behind some of the killings, he starts running around with an ax, and Udo continues to just pop up at random without his character’s motivations ever becoming clear. There’s even a scene where Baldwin demands to know the colors of a Rubik’s Cube that are facing her; I don’t know if it’s just a weird continuity error or her fucking with him or what, but she answers the first one correctly and then says red when it’s green – either way, why is he even asking her in the first place? Without a coherent motivation behind his question, it’s unclear what exactly her reason is for answering him wrong. Unless it’s just like some sort of weird, villainous test for color blindness or something.
Not sure if Baldwin is the best guy to play this role, either. He’s an engaging presence, no doubt about it, but if you look at his filmography, one word should come to mind: HARDASS. Here he’s supposed to be a lovable family man, almost a pushover, so that it really blows our minds when he starts going crazy near the end. But come on, it’s fucking Jayne Cobb! His buddy from Firefly, Alan Tudyk, might have been a better choice – HIM I can totally buy as a nice guy/kind of loser, and be weirded out with the sight of him screaming and waving weapons around. You start the actor in his comfort zone and THEN have him go off the beaten path; not the other way around. It’d be like casting Bruce Willis as a pacifist who has to build up the confidence to shoot a bunch of guys.
The direction was awkward as well – all hand-held, shaki-cam closeup shots that rarely cut together, making the film look more like a bunch of kids screwing around with their dad’s camera than a real film (“Film me!” “OK now you film me!”). I’m sure the intent was to make things uncomfortable and erratic, but again, you need to ground us first before spiraling into this sort of “madness”. Without anything to grasp on from the start, it’s just a total mess. And Udo’s not in it nearly enough to make up for it; if he was in every scene at least it would be a delightful train wreck, but his ten minutes of screen time aren’t nearly enough to make up for the nearly impenetrable narrative, ugly visuals, and lack of action (most of the kills are more or less off-screen).
So now I can’t help but wonder, as this was such an early production in The Asylum’s output – did they used to try to make real movies and keep failing, only to strike gold with the “Mockbuster” model they mostly use today? They’re also behind Stuart Gordon’s King Of The Ants, a pretty good (but uneven to a fault) dramatic thriller – hardly the type of thing you’d expect from the guys who gave us Transmorphers. I’d be interested if they would occasionally use the profits from their mockbusters to fund things along these lines; even if it didn’t work out, I’d rather see an interesting failure than another Paranormal Activity wannabe that they shot in 6 days.
What say you?
P.S. Couldn't find the trailer - enjoy some outtakes instead.