These days when you hear the word anthology you may think oh my god here we go again. More than anything you are expecting crazy found footage filled with stories that have nothing to do with each other. Or here is another one of the movies filled with 30 short films all based off a letter. Well I hear you and I understand. I’m also here to tell you that there are some directors that still enjoy the original look and feel behind an anthology series and it can be found in the new film Sanitarium. The three director team of Bryan Ortiz, Bryan Ramirez and Kerry Valderrama have joined forces to create the classic style anthology that is way more reminiscent of films like Creepshow, Tales From The Hood or television shows like Tales From The Crypt and Tales From The Darkside. The central theme of the film is that the people in each sequence end up in the Sanitarium and this is how they came to be here. Since this is broken up in three segments I will break the review up in that way as well. One thing I will say is this is one of the better done anthologies in recent memory. There is an all star cast in Sanitarium that really adds to the storytelling of each segment. You don’t see much fluidity in these types of films these days so Sanitarium was really a treat. Not to make you think this is some type of old school retelling of forgotten films, Sanitarium is a crisp and cool reminder of how good an anthology of films can really be.
This chapter featured John Glover as Gustav a folk artist who has been persuaded to sell his exhibit by his longtime friend and museum curator Sam played by Robert Englund. Gustav has some issues as it seems as if he is taking directions from the dolls he is creating.They are unhappy with his decision to sell them so he is persuaded not to and also to kill Sam. This was a great way to start the anthology. There is a great twist in this opening sequence and sets the groundwork for what to expect from this film. Glover is amazing as Gustav and of course England is the consummate professional. I think many fans will get a kick out of this chapter but will be surprised to see no drop off from the next two.
Monsters Are Real
The second chapter is a tale we all know very well. As a child our imagination can run rampant and if you have the life of young Steven (David Mazouz) then sometimes what you can create can be both scary and helpful. This is the classic abused child story about a young boy who has lost his mother and the brunt of life is being taken out on him by his father. He soons begins to see a dark figure everywhere he goes and it seems as if he is doomed. What happens from there is a great spectacle on how a child’s life can go in a direction he may never be able to come back from. This was a very well done chapter as well and adds to an already impressive start to the film. David Mazouz is great and if I were to say if there were any downfalls it would be the performance of Lacey Chabert. She wasn't terrible just seemed like her performance was a little sketchy at times. She seems to be hit or miss in certain roles so maybe this just was not the best one for her. Overall it did not hurt the second chapter and is the one I think people will enjoy the most.
Up To The Last Man
The last segment is the one featuring Lou Diamond Phillips. It is a character driven story about a college professor that is obsessed with the ancient Mayan theory that the world will end in 2012. He tries to string his family along and after taking everything they have his world falls apart. This is a great way to end the anthology with such a compelling performance by Philips. The tone of this segment is a little more serious than the others but fits well among the other two offerings. I really enjoyed the way they allowed the story to take shape as you found yourself questioning what is happening on screen. Some may not like the solitude that is being displayed in this segment but with a title like Up To The Last Man I don’t know what else you are expecting. Even though this is a short chapter this has the feel of the classic Vincent Price film The Last Man On Earth. In an anthology filled with great talent it's hard not to deny the standout performance by Philips.
The narration of each tale by Malcolm McDowell is spot on as he is the perfect choice to play Dr. Stenson. A film like Sanitarium has you wanting more and after speaking to the directors I’m glad to hear a second volume is on the way. Sanitarium is a great film for young horror fans to see as I think it will open their eyes up to genre that has always been well received by our culture. Sanitarium will be available on DVD and digital download on December 31st and is a great way to start your 2014.
Sanitarium is directed by Bryan Ortiz, Bryan Ramirez, and Kerry Valderrama. It stars Robert Englund, John Glover, Lacey Chabert and Lou Diamond Phillips. It is being distributed courtesy of Image Entertainment.