If you wish to go to the current Fangoria site, you may click the top logo, "Home" or "News" links. Or click here.
It’s easy to dismiss the studio behind such
films as MEGA SHARK VS. GIANT OCTOPUS, TRANSMORPHERS, DEATH RACERS, THE
TERMINATORS and countless others. Low production values, dubious attempts at
association with A-list titles, sub-par acting; there are plenty of reasons one
can dredge up scorn to heap on this studio. It’s almost too easy. That is why
today I’m going to ask you to reconsider those thoughts and look a bit deeper
into The Asylum its place is in the world of cinema.
The film world has always been roughly
subdivided into the A class pictures and the B class pictures. A movies have
the big stars, the proven directors, the big budgets, the ground breaking
special effects. The best of everything. By contrast, the B pictures have to
often make do on a little less. Or make that a lot less. Leaner budgets mean relatively unknown casts
and directors. The crew can be grizzled vets or some guys the director knows.
Your paycheck is often late, sometimes doled out in the form of pizza and beer.
Craft service is Kraft Mac and Cheese and a warm Miller High Life.
So why is it we need these B movies anyway?
Sounds like they kind of suck. Why shouldn’t we be fine with a world where
there is only room in audiences’ hearts for big blockbuster A-list flicks?
Big budgets, big risks. Producers are
staking heaps of dough on a movie and they want that money back. They damned
well want a cast with some proven box office draw, a script that is designed to
put asses in seats and a director with a track record of making bank. When a
few million or tens (hundreds) of millions are riding on the line, you better
believe there are three words on the minds of the moneymen that get branded on
everyone else’s foreheads: Return on Investment.
ROI. In French, this means King and in Hollywood,
money is the ruler. If you keep putting ROI on the throne, they will let you
keep working. The quality of what you are doing doesn’t matter one bit. Not the
artistic merit, not the creative spirit. Ideas and imagination are great but
aren’t necessary for a career in Tinseltown, what matters most is rendering
unto Caesar. Great big bags of it. Which isn’t to say Hollywood doesn’t make
art and doesn’t make quality films because it does, but let’s not pretend the
people dumping millions into film production are philanthropists. They do so
because they expect to see it back and then some.
The B pictures are where ideas and experimentation
rule because sometimes that is all you have. You don’t have the money to do the
big effect so you need to figure out how to achieve the same thing for less.
You don’t have a dozen locations around the world, you’ve got a few spots you
can shoot at and maybe even legal permits to do so. Yet ,somehow with all these
limitations, we find creativity blossoming.
In 2009, the Asylum took a risk on a film
written and directed by Jack Perez (credited as Ace Hannah). Perez was a
working man’s director who had this monster movie script and Asylum dared to
make it. The movie, of course, was MEGA SHARK vs. GIANT OCTOPUS and it gave us
that iconic scene where the titular mega shark leaps and bites an airliner
right out of the sky. The scene is a madcap masterpiece of absurd monster fun
and millions of YouTube hits followed. In fact, far more people have seen that
clip than have seen the full movie, no question. Also not in question is that
scene’s iconic status in the popular culture. It was a massive internet meme
and spawned infographics, parodies and photoshops that have been swapped and
What became of Perez? He and Ryan Levin
made the recent horror-comedy, festival favorite SOME GUY WHO KILLS PEOPLE (see Fango's review) which has won acclaim from audiences and critics alike the world over. It’s a
smart, funny picture. I can’t say how
much of the experience making MEGA SHARK contributed to the man’s success, but
I can’t imagine he made a movie and took nothing of value from the
More recently, there was NAZIS AT THE
CENTER OF THE EARTH, the movie with a Mecha-Hitler in it and which plays weirdo
Nazi occult conspiracies and historical revisionism for both scares and laughs.
This movie had exactly *zero* chance of ever being made by a big studio and
once again, the Asylum stepped up and took a gamble. Putting first time
director (and long-time visual FX maestro) Joseph Lawson at the helm, the
material was so extreme at times, so potentially offensive, it needed a gentle
touch and sturdy footing to hit the right balance. Lawson excelled and oversaw
the most visually ambitious and arguably most entertaining Asylum film released
to date. Playing on pop-mythology, the movie delivers an imaginative world that
frankly a lot of people were interested in, but never expected to actually see
portrayed on screen. Currently, it’s one of the more popular films on Netflix
and Lawson is just completing principal photography on his third feature film.
You can say The Asylum cynically turns out
knock offs and I will tell you directly the people who work on these films are
sincere, hardworking people who are finding their way in the industry. They are
out there making movies, honing their individual crafts and working their
hearts out to make the best films they can produce under the circumstances. It
must also be noted that many of these “knockoffs” are fully realized original
ideas which have been titled and marketed to share competitive space with
bigger films. TRANSMORPHERS, for example, isn’t some cookie-cutter rip off of
the Bay films. It has its own universe it lives in which also happens to have
Even the films that more closely follow the
plot paths of the blockbusters they are emulating tend to get there in their
own unique way. ALIEN ORIGIN, for example, is more accurately an alternate
vision of PROMETHEUS, not a copy. A possibility that we
get to examine and can judge on its own merits. A chance to see what might have
been in different hands with different budgets.
You can question the quality of what The
Asylum does, but I’d say they keep getting better and better and that’s what
we’d expect to see from an incubator of new talent. You can question the
business choices they make with how they market some of their films, fair
enough. What you shouldn’t question is the sincerity of the people making the
films, and the services the B movies provide for the health of the industry
overall and the diversity of the films we as viewers get to experience.
That’s why, at 15 years-old and counting,
The Asylum matters and so does the entire B industry. They deserve our support
because this sector of filmmaking is in danger and if we lose it, we lose all
the incredible art, talent and potential it has given us over the decades.
Bloody Blogs -
Long Live the New Flesh
JOIN OUR COMMUNITY AND BE THE FIRST TO KNOW ABOUT NEWS, CONTESTS, EVENTS AND MORE!
All contents © 2011 Fangoria Entertainment