Insanitarium (2008)

US / 89 minutes / color / Stage 6, Larande, Benderspink Dir & Scr: Jeff Bühler Pr: Chris Bender, J.C. Spink, Andrew Golov, Larry Schapiro Cine: Rob Hauer Cast: Jesse Metcalfe, Kiele Sanchez, Kevin Sussman, Evan Parke, Olivia Munn, Kurt Caceres, Carla Gallo, Armin Shimerman, Molly Bryant, Lisa Arturo, Peter Stormare.

The first half of this movie riffs on the occasional noir theme—examples include BEHIND LOCKED DOORS (1948) and SHOCK CORRIDOR (1963)—of a sane person mimicking insanity in order to get inside a mental hospital. In this case the man is Jack (Metcalfe), intent on rescuing his suicidal sister Lily (Sanchez) from the clutches of the mental-health professionals. As one might expect, the staff of the institution, headed by Dr. Paul Gianetti (Stormare), are if anything even battier than the patients; only the corrupt and brutal orderly Charles (Parke) and two of the nurses, Nancy Chen (Munn) and Vera Downing (Gallo), seem sane, although the latter assists the completely crazy Gianetti in the human tests of his great invention, a nanotechnological “drug” called Orpheum.

Unfortunately, Orpheum has the side-effect of turning people into cannibalistic psychopaths, so the latter part of the movie throws away the potentially interesting start to degenerate into a mass of standard-issue zombie gore cliché—all a bit of a shambles, you might say.

On Insanitarium

Caller, The (1987)

US / 97 minutes / color / Empire Dir: Arthur Allan Seidelman Pr: Frank Yablans Scr: Michael Sloane Cine: Daniele Nannuzzi Cast: Malcolm McDowell, Madolyn Smith.

A woman (Smith) who lives alone in the forest senses she’s been followed home by a stalker, and sure enough that evening a caller (McDowell) knocks on her door claiming his car has broken down nearby and asking to use the phone. The two start engaging in verbal games, it being revealed in their sparring that each knows rather too much about the other for them to be merely casual strangers. Over the next couple of days the caller invades her life to a greater and greater extent, questioning her about her dead husband and her missing lover and daughter Alison. Is she perhaps a multiple murderer? Or is he the murderer, preying upon the suggestibility of a pitifully lonely woman?

For the most part this reads like a borderline noirish psychological thriller along the lines of, for example, DEATH AND THE MAIDEN (1994) and Una PURA FORMALITA (1994), with a dash of Twilight Zone thrown in. It’s a surprise to discover this is not in fact based on a stage play, because it’s all done in a very stagebound style, that impression being strengthened by the fact that this is quite literally a two-hander: no one appears aside from the two principals. The sciencefictional denouement feels like a copout, even though the screenplay has played perfectly fair with us.

A year or so after this movie was made and a year or so before it finally saw its (DTV) release (it had a couple of festival screenings, including at Cannes, but no theatrical distribution), Smith married hockey player Mark Osborne, being thereafter billed—on her relatively few further appearances—as Madolyn Smith Osborne.

On The Caller