Article 2725 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-22-2008
Posting Date: 1-28-2009
Directed by Jack Sholder
Featuring Jack Palance, Donald Pleasence, Martin Landau
A psychiatrist with a very unusual therapeutic approach runs an asylum in which electrically-run safeguards keep the more violent prisoners from escaping. When a power blackout results in the escape of several homicidal maniacs, they band together to terrorize the home of the new assistant doctor, who they believe is responsible for the death of the man he replaced.
This is a rather oddball entry in the slasher cycle of the era. For one thing, it has a surprising amount of star power for this kind of movie. It also gives us several psychos in place of the traditional single killer usually seen in the genre, and they aren't superhuman; when they die, they die. It also has a message, though it isn't really an original one; it has something to do with those on the outside of the asylum being no less crazy and violent than those on the inside. The movie is a little too dark (visually) some of the time (I don't know if it's the print or the movie itself), but there are some tense and scary moments, especially the scene where the babysitter discovers that there is something under the bed. I also like the way the movie gets around the "unkillable maniac" cliche of the genre by giving us multiple psychos instead of one. Unfortunately, characters act with unusual stupidity at times, and the movie often doesn't make much sense. Still, it has a quirky charm; I especially like the ending, where the last remaining psycho discovers an environment where his psychotic tendencies seem not only natural, but cool, and much of the reason it works is due to a strong performance from Jack Palance. This is definitely one of the odder entries in the slasher genre.