Film

This Can’t Be Good: The Asylum

the asylum

When you click on a column called “This Can’t Be Good” you know what you’re going to get. There are things I don’t like, and there are reasons I don’t like them. Also, in addition to legitimate criticism, I’m going to mock these terrible things to the point that it might actually seem mean.

But I’ve never explained why. I’ve never explained HOW. See, over the collective runtime of hundreds upon hundreds of films, I honed my ability to hate. It became practiced. It became an expertly wielded dagger point forged in the flames of stale acting and sub-standard cinematography. And these flowery as hell sentences prove it.

See, you don’t turn a weapon like that on an easy target. It’s not to be used chopping up low-hanging fruit. I’ve watched worse movies that the ones I’ve written about for this column. Way worse. Some real stinkers. I’m talking movies that don’t even belong in the same category with real movies. Movies that break the scale, specifically the bottom of it. We’re talking about a scale that tops out at maaaaaaybe 3.5. Maybe. If I’m feeling generous.

However, I would be remiss if I went any longer without mentioning these movies at all. And when I decided to do that, I discovered the existence of a particular movie studio responsible for some of the worst crimes against good cinematic taste: The Asylum.

If you knew the name before right now, you were already in too deep. You’d already unlocked this dark world and there’s nothing I can do to save you from it. For everyone else, let me give you a small sampling of their catalog, in the form of the list of films I watched for this piece.

Sharknado

Sharknado 2: The Second One

Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!

Sharknado: The 4th Awakens

Sharknado 5: Global Swarming

Atlantic Rim

Oceans Rising

Little Dead Rotting Hood

Zoombies

Independents’ Day

So you see what we’re working with here, right? Nothing. Literally nothing of any value. The river trash of the cinematic form. And even saying “cinematic form” is using the loosest definition. The Sharknado franchise is barely more than a series of 90-minute long advertisements for Comcast Xfinity and against plastic surgery. These are films in only the most technical of definitions.

It’s easy to look at these films and say that The Asylum knows what they are. To say that their low-budget B-movie catalog, rife with parody titles, is a big joke that everyone at the company is in on. But I doubt if that’s true. Even if it is somehow a huge joke, one that I haven’t gotten over the course of nine movies, that’s not an excuse. It’s a bad joke. It’s the film equivalent of a dude screaming “it’s just a prank bro!” after he spits on a homeless guy. Maybe it’s that all these people don’t care what people think because they’re getting paid, but I can’t believe that’s true either. Literally everyone cares what people think. Human self-esteem is weird like that. I hope you like this article and I hope you like me. Please like me.

These movies are a physical, visceral level of bad that you can’t get from standard theater fare. We’re talking about eye-rolling, head-in-hands, throwing-your-phone-at-the-screen levels of cringeworthy. At several points during this movie marathon I had to just give up and pause the movie so I could bang my head on my desk a few times in utter disappointment. That’s not something that should happen during a movie. You should not feel that sort of abject horror during something that was designed to be fun. That’s a huge no-no, in my book. I don’t like spiraling into despondency mid-scene because I’ve just seen the lowest depths of human imagination. It’s not fun.

I mean, look. Maybe I’m taking this all too seriously. I might be just the dumb guy who needs the joke explained and then it’s not funny anymore. I acknowledge that possibility. But what part of the joke is it where they tell all the actors to forget how to act? That might be the punchline. And then the set-up is that the writers didn’t bother to do even a single edit of their terrible plotlines and worse dialogue. (A recurring tactic for stopping sharknados is to add more isotopes. That literally means nothing.) Oooh, and the tag is that the graphics department decided to just fuck shit up with clip art explosions and the ugliest computer generated creatures the world should have never seen. Yes, that’s it. Ah, humor. I love it.

The Asylum is a movie studio that seeks to answer the question, “how much money can we make if no one tries?” I don’t know what the answer is, but according to the Wikipedia page that I used to do all the outside research for this article, they’ve never lost money on a production. At first glance that seems crazy, especially if you’ve read any of the rest of this article, but Wikipedia also says that their movies usually have a budget of under a million dollars. When you look at that figure, you see how they always make money, and why it seems like every scene in all of their films reads like they used the first take. Their dialogue sounds like someone played Mad Libs with a chemistry textbook and assumed every word with more than two syllables meant something scientific. Every prop they use either came from a Home Depot or a Spirit Halloween store. The main antagonist in Zoombies is a medium-sized man in a bad gorilla costume. At one point in Sharknado 3 (maybe Sharknado 4, I don’t care enough to remember), they use football shoulder pads as an astronaut space suit. You’re asking yourself, “Why do they even need a spacesuit in any of those movies?” I can only assume it’s part of a concerted effort by The Asylum to melt my brain and prevent this article from being released. It almost worked. I am significantly dumber for having watched all these movies, but I soldier on.

I don’t think I can stop these movies from being made. The Asylum has been doing this for going on 20 years now, and they show no sign of slowing down. All I can do is teach the public the warning signs: If a movie starts with “The Asylum Presents” turn it off and do something better for your brain, like huffing paint.

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