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DVD Review

DVD cover



Starring: Malcolm McDowell, Robert Englund, Lou Diamond Phillips and Lacey Chabert
Distributor: Signature Entertainment
RRP: £15.99
Certificate: 18
Release Date: 24 June 2013

Sanitarium is a trio of short stories which takes three patients of a mental institution and tells their separate backstories that lead up to the time they are admitted. The linking scenes come mainly via set pieces spoken by Malcolm McDowell, playing Doctor Stenson...

In Figuratively Speaking, a brilliant but much troubled artist, played by John Glover (of Smallville fame) creates some model figures and places them in a realistic home backdrop. He is a perfectionist, grooming them and holding conversations. When he learns that his friend Sam (played by Robert Englund of the A Nightmare on Elm Street movies) intends to sell the figures for a sizeable sum of money, he becomes even more disturbed as the models tell him what he must do to keep them together. But Gustav’s grip on reality has slipped away, leaving him uncertain who is a friend and who is out to get him.

Forget Robert Englund (who only has a small part anyway), what makes this segment work is the stunning performance by John Glover. It simply wouldn’t have carried as much conviction or worked half as well without him. His descent into madness is a fine example of a master craftsman at work. The twist at the end is superfluous and simply doesn’t convince, but as it doesn’t involve Glover it doesn’t ruin his acting up to that point.

In Monsters are Real, David Mazouz plays young school boy Steven, who keeps seeing a dark figure wherever he goes. Steven lives alone with his violent and abusive father. His teacher attempts to help his situation by turning up at the house during another explosive burst from the boy’s father. However, the dark figure comes to the boy’s aid, and wreaks horrific revenge.

Again, there is an excellent understated performance by the central character. Mazouz plays it meek but with an underlying broodiness, and I have to say it works really well. Brant Bumpers is the imposing figure of ‘The Monster’ – shades of the Michael Myers character from John Carpenter’s original Halloween film from 1978 (the child looking out of the window at school and seeing the figure, is virtually a carbon copy from Halloween). However, this is probably the finest of the three segments.

In Up to the Last Man, Lou Diamond Phillips plays James Silo (apt name), a lecturer of ancient studies who works out that the world (or at least civilisation) is going to end at the hands of an attack from an extraterrestrial race. He becomes increasingly obsessed with his preparations to the point of alienating his family and having a survival bunker built underground in the garden, using all their savings in the process. When he hears the approach of a craft, he seals himself in the shelter. But over time he is plagued by voices and banging from the hatch.

How much of what he has seen and heard is in his imagination? This is the central core of the story. The suspense builds gradually until Silo (and the viewer) has no idea what is real. I loved the reveal in this one, which I’ll say no more about except to say it’s very clever.

I realise it helps when my favourite sub-genre of horror is supernatural, or in this case, psychological, but I thoroughly enjoyed Sanitarium. The format reminds me of the Japanese Three... Extremes films. If these three vignettes are anything to go by, there is a strong justification for turning this into an anthology – either of related films, or a late night TV series.


Ty Power

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