Insanitarium (2008)

Certain films exist within a bubble. This bubble allows the viewer to enjoy the film despite whatever (rather obvious) pockmarks that exist on the project as a whole. 'Insanitarium' is one of these types of films. Inherently, there are many things that, when taken individually, could ruin the film. Yet, when all of them are put together and buoyed by some things that the film does rather well, the end product is a damn fun time.

Jack (Jesse Metcalfe) is distraught after his mother dies. Not as distraught as his sister, Lily (Kiele Sanchez) is however. She ups the distraught factor by a million when she attempts to kill herself. She ends up in an insane asylum for suicide attempt, against her brothers wishes. Having lost both his mother and his sister, Jack decides the logical thing to do is to pretend to be insane so he can also be committed and possible rescue Lily, despite the fact Lily doesn't really want to be rescued. He does such a good job of acting crazy that when picked up by an ambulance he is taken right to the same asylum Lily is being housed at - without even a doctors evaluation. While there, he begins to interact with some of the more colorful members of the sanitariums population. Hawthorne (Armin Shimerman, "Star Trek - Deep Space Nine") is a poor mans Hannibal Lechter, cold, calculating and with an overwhelming desire to touch human flesh. He also wants to kill Jack - really badly. Heather (Lisa Arturo) is the resident nymphomaniac. She's currently fucking the security guard (the places only security guard it seems) and wants to add Jack to her bed as well. Jack leeches on to Dave (Kevin Sussman), the seemingly least crazy person there in hopes of finding his sister. His efforts are in vain however, as he continues to run a foul of hospital director Dr. Gianetti (Peter Stormare).

Jack begins to suspect Dr. Gianetti may be up to no good in terms of the methods he uses to deal with his patients. Jack's is right of course, if he wasn't it wouldn't be much of a film now would it? Dr. Gianetti it seems, has developed a synthetic injection that limits the brains functions, therefore curbing crazy. It does have one side effect makes anyone using it ravenously thirsty for warm blood. Something tells me it's not FDA approved but who am I to judge. Jack finds his sister just as the drug begins to turn everyone really crazy. She's not happy about leaving, but after seeing the way things seem to be turning out, she decides leaving might be the best course of action.

'Insanitaruim' really is a fun film. The last 40 minutes or so are a gore hounds dream. There is blood everywhere as, unlike other "living dead/zombie infection" type films the patients actually begin to eat each other and in some cases themselves. Self cannibalism is certainly not something you see everyday and I'll always give kudos for trying something new.

There are several strong performances that balance out one awfully weak one. Peter Stormare is terrific as the demented doctor. Despite the fact that he's performing some of the most heinous acts one can think of, he does a great job of conveying that he believes what he is doing is really for the common good. Armin Shimerman, despite being shackled with a rather thin, one note character really makes the most of his screen time. He's sort of a sub villain to the evil doctor, but in may ways he comes off as much more threatening, and frankly more intelligent than Jacks other foes. The other supporting actors all come across very well, it's unfortunate that Jesse Metcalfe is rather weak as the lead. Metcalfe was still hot off his 'Desperate Housewives' run here, so you can see why he would be cast based on name value alone. He just struggles, especially early where he really needs to act. Once the film turns into flesh eating theater, he seems more comfortable, but early on the best thing he does is fill out his wife beater.

That's not to say Metcalf had the best material to work with. The idea that someone would be able to "trick" their way into a sanitarium as a patient is thin to say the least. Once there he certainly doesn't act "insane" for more than a few seconds at a time. The sanitarium certainly has lax security as well. Patients seem to be able to come an go from their rooms as they please. Other than a floor set aside for the "most dangerous" patients, the rest of the folks their just seem to hang out with each other, level of crazy not withstanding. Writer/Director Jeff Buhler, who previously wrote the screenplay for the wonderful 'Midnight Meat Train' just comes up a little short in the logic department some times. At one point Jack has feed his sister and, along with Dave, they escape the high security area. Rather than head for the nearest door, Jack decides to explore the main floor of the asylum, leading to another 20 minutes of craziness.

That's what the film is though - crazy. Despite the (rather large) gaps in logic, the film is fun as hell. If you don't find yourself cheering for the protagonists as they hack and slash their way through an asylum full of flesh eaters than you may be dead inside. As stated above, 'Insanitarium' is the perfect type of film to throw on, invite a couple of friends over, have a couple beers and just watch the gore flow.

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