Director: Alexander Carrière
Writer: Alexander Carrière
Starring: Morgan Kohan, Roc LaFortune, Sebastian Pigott, Drew Nelson, Kjartan Hewitt, Deanna Jarvis
Jade’s Asylum is an interesting and frustrating film that doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be, so it never ends up coming together completely. It’s a supernatural horror that’s also a slasher and a trippy exploration of Jade’s mind. But it never commits to these individual elements with any depth, so I was never truly invested.
Jade (Morgan Kohn) is in Costa Rica with her boyfriend and his friends. One of them just built a new house there, and they’re having a coke-filled vacation/housewarming party for him. Jade and Toby (Kjartan Hewitt) get in an argument, and Jade leaves the house to walk back to town. There are also forest spirits who appear, covered in mud and fungus and bark. They like to kill people, cut their legs off, and sew their lips together, and not necessarily in that order.
That’s the basic premise, and it’s not a bad one. The other big part of the story is in Jade’s mind. She’s dealing with a mental illness and her mother’s suicide when she was a child. This is visualized by her father (Roc LaFortune) appearing to her and berating her throughout the film. The movie is purposely disorienting, especially early on, presumably to put us in Jade’s mindset. Unfortunately, between the jumps in time, the figments of Jade’s imagination, and the fact that the male cast can only be told apart by the various lengths of their facial hair, it gets needlessly confusing. It’s hard to get a grip on the characters or the story for a while.
Things get easier to understand once the killers show up. The movie pays some lip service to the fact that these killers are vengeful spirits, upset that one of the guys desecrated their land by building his house there. The movie doesn’t do much else with the whole colonizer aspect but does make us less sympathetic for some of these douchebags when the creatures start cutting on them.
The killers themselves are neat. The masks and makeup are simple and striking. They look like they’re part of nature, and there are a couple of nice shots with them in the background where it takes a second to focus on them because they blend in so well. Most of the credits run over a shot of one of the creatures, which was a good choice. They’re easily the standout element of the film.
The gore effects are also pretty good, especially for the budget. Obviously, it’s hard to make leg stumps, so there are a lot of corny shots of feet buried under dirt with blood around the ankles. But the closeup shots of lips being sewn together were exactly as cringe-inducing as they sound. Apparently, the working title for the film was The Feet Collectors, which is better and grimier, but Jade’s Asylum probably fits the tone better.
The movie is just over 80 minutes long, which is the perfect length for a horror film, in my opinion. Which is why I was surprised that Jade’s Asylum still felt like it was padded out. There are a lot of repeated scenes and flashbacks. They’re very purposefully done. At a certain point, you can’t help but wonder if they only had enough material for a 40-60 minute film and tried to find a way to stretch it out.
I think the movie actually nailed the ending — I love a horror movie with a good punchline — I just wish I had enjoyed more of the build-up to it. This one just bounced off of me, which is a shame, because the acting, cinematography, and creature effects were all good. It either needed to be a straight-forward slasher or even more weird and ethereal. Instead, it was just a little bit of both, which didn’t work for me.