Main cast: Jesse Metcalfe (Jack Romero), Kiele Sanchez (Lily Romero), Peter Stormare (Dr Gianetti), Kevin Sussman (Dave), Evan Parke (Charles), Olivia Munn (Nancy), Carla Gallo (Vera Downing), Armin Shimerman (Hawthorne), Lisa Arturo (Heather), Kurt Caceres (Loomis), and Molly Bryant (Nurse Henderson)
Director: Jeff Bühler
After the death of their mother, Jack Romero’s sister Lily, who is already on the mentally unstable side, becomes depressed. After a suicide attempt, she is whisked off to a mental asylum, and Jack is now desperate. He is not allowed to see her or even talk to her over the phone, so he decides to wound himself, pretend to be crazy, and get admitted into Middleton Psychiatric Institute himself. His plan to get in works like a charm. His plan to get out, however, doesn’t – apparently telling people he is not crazy doesn’t make them nod and tell him, “Okay, you can now leave with your sister. Have a nice day!” Imagine that.
While looking for his sister, he discovers an ally in not-so-crazy Dave. He also discovers a heinous plot: Dr Gianetti is testing a drug called Orpheus on the inmates, and the drug is slowly turning them into feral cannibals…
Insanitarium wants to be a homage to gory zombie movies of yore, what with the main character’s last name being Romero and Peter Stormare’s Dr Gianetti being such a cackling mad scientist that will make David Cronenberg proud. However, there is a problem: the cast can be divided into camps, with each camp believing that they are in a movie that is completely different from what the other camp has in mind. Jesse Metcalfe, Kiele Sanchez, and Olivia Munn are playing it straight on one side, while on the other side, Peter Stormare, Molly Bryant, Carla Gallo, and most of those playing the inmates are camping up a storm. In Mr Stormare’s case, he’s camping up a tornado, more like, to the point that his tics and exaggerated snarling are more insufferable than amusing. The result is a few key main characters behaving as if they had stepped out from a more sober movie into a different kind altogether, and the movie suffers from a degree of mood whiplash because of this.
This is an issue because for the first 50 minutes or so of this 90 minute or so movie, it’s all about the more sober characters wandering around and generally blinking haplessly at the lunacy around them. The perpetual befuddlement on Jack’s face must surely mirror mine during those draggy, meandering moments.
When the gore finally happens, it’s quite disappointing. This could be because I was led to believe that this movie is super gory and disgusting, but what I get instead is the standard stuff I’ve already seen many times before in zombie films with some (but not much) budget. Not to mention, the fun stuff is all packed in the last 40 minutes of this episode, so the party basically begins late and ends too early.
This movie tries, but ultimately, it’s too uneven in tone and too slow in revving up the gore party. There are better zombie-ish horror flicks out there with higher body counts and splashier gore, so keep Insanitarium at the bottom of the list – to be watched only when there are no better options available.