Digi-Schlock: ASYLUM (2008) (Synapse DVD)

As their catalog expands, Synapse is finding room for more in their repertoire than just classic low-budget genre fare.  As releases like South Of Heaven and Life And Death Of A Porno Gang indicate, the company has a keen interest in modern independent fare of the cultish variety – and their new disc of Asylum shows how well they treat such titles.

Asylum is a tricky title in terms of transfer: it was shot on standard definition video and then subjected to serious post-production trickery to give it a grainy, color-desaturated look.  The anamorphic transfer does well by the source material, making it look as crisp and textured as possible.  The film is presented with its original French language mix in a 5.1 stereo mix: it uses its multiple channels primarily to add depth, particularly to the electronic score, but there are some nice rear-speaker effects sprinkled throughout (creaking chairs, rattling chains, ricocheting bullets).  Optional English subtitles are included and they are easy to read.

The disc also includes a trio of extras.  The shortest is a brief promo trailer under the I Want To Be A Gangster title that plays up the crime movie elements.  There is also a twenty minute making-of piece that is anchored by an interview with writer/director Olivier Chateau.  He’s intense and well-spoken as he discusses how his budget limitations impacted his work, the motivation behind key story decisions and the dedication that actor Julien Courbey showed in the film’s led role.

The final extra is “Homer,” one of Chateau’s short films.  It’s a piece of mischievous whimsy about a rabbit who escapes from his cage.  The results are quite different from the disc’s main attraction  and thus shows a different side to Chateau’s filmmaking.  Chateau also offers an introduction to the film, telling the film biz-related story of how it came to be.

All in all, Asylum is a solid disc for a micro-budget effort like this and another good example of Synapse’s dedication to independent filmmaking.

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