We Bought a Zoo
A widowed father played by Matt Damon moves to the South Californian country and purchases a zoo with his family
On Film4: 6 Sep 6:25PM
Four asylum inmates tell their stories in this chiller from the Amicus studios. Robert Powell, Peter Cushing, Charlotte Rampling, Britt Ekland and Herbert Lom star
With screenwriter Robert Bloch back on the payroll after his work on The House That Dripped Blood, the fourth of Amicus Productions' portmanteau horrors turned out to be somewhat more enticing than usual. Unlike most of the other omnibus chillers the studio churned out during the 1960s and 1970s - films such as Dr Terror's House of Horrors (1965) and Tales From The Crypt (1972) - the linking storyline here is better than the individual segments themselves, which is a real bonus since it drags the story through its less compelling scares.
Young psychiatrist Dr Martin (Powell) arrives at a mental institution to start his new job, only to find that his boss (Magee) wants to test out his new employee's psychiatric skills by setting him a sinister challenge. Martin must interview four of the asylum's inmates and decide which one used to be the hospital's now-deranged superintendent. Each interview comprises the film's four stories: in the first, a man (Todd) tells how he murdered and dismembered his wife, only to watch her come back to life; in the second, bereaved father Peter Cushing asks a tailor to make a special suit; in the third, Charlotte Rampling and Britt Ekland play schizo and in the final segment, Herbert Lom builds several strange little robots.
While the original tagline - "You have nothing to lose but your mind" - was rather over-ambitious, this rough-and-ready horror collection delivers an unexpected frisson. Gleefully poised on the border between silly and scary, Bloch revels in the ridiculousness of it all while managing to keep things vaguely disturbing (the scene in which Richard Todd recoils in horror as the dismembered remains of his wife, wrapped in brown paper, jerk back to life is a perfect example). He also manages to keep the linking narrative's sadistic conclusion gripping till the last.
An above-average entry in Amicus' horror series, Asylum benefits from Robert Bloch's screenwriting and a gleefully demented approach.
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