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After a slow start, “Night Explorers: The Asylum” rewards your patience with a surprisingly effective, fast-paced, nasty little horror flick.

Night Explorers The Asylum

One of my guilty pleasures, if you can call it that, is my love of ghost-hunting programs. From the UK’s very own Most Haunted to the exploits of Zak Bagans and his crew on one of their many Ghost Adventures. I’m a total sucker for EMF detectors, IR thermometers, Ghost Boxes, or cameras that show a spectral stick figure jumping up and down. I like nothing better than scouring through the various streaming services and seeing the latest paranormal treats. It’s my television equivalent of comfort food.

Over the years, the troupe of a team of ghost hunters who become trapped within the spooky location they are exploring has become a staple sub-genre of horror. With many notable entries, such as the masterpiece The Haunting (1963) and my personal favorite, The Legend of Hell House (1973), written by legendary author Richard Matheson.

So, after seeing the trailer for Night Explorers: The Asylum, I was sold.

The premise is simple and follows a well-worn path. When a group of ghost hunters gets the chance of a lifetime to explore one of the world’s most haunted asylums, they encounter something truly evil that will not let them leave and will push them to the edge of sanity.

But does the film Night Explorers: The Asylum bring anything new to the seance table?

The answer is no, not really. But that doesn’t keep the film from being highly watchable.

Written and directed by John K. Webster, it features a cast that includes Craig Edwards as Ozi, Hannah Al Rashid as Nova, Charlie Rich as Jimboy, and Algina Lipskis as Emma — all of whom deliver strong performances. Al Rashid is a particular standout.

A key element of Night Explorers is its setting, at times becoming another character.

This old, dilapidated gothic asylum is terrifying.

I could not help but think about the documentary Willowbrook: The Last Great Disgrace (1972) and Cropsey (2009), particularly the very real and disturbing reality of former staff and inmates who would return to the abandoned asylum and live in underground tunnel systems.

Cinematographer Matthew P. Scott uses a combination of traditional filming, along with found footage and handheld techniques. This gives the film an interesting look and feel, and it’s especially effective during the film’s claustrophobic climax.

Slow to start and saddled with some clunky exposition dialogue, along with a set-up right out of Scooby Doo, the opening ten minutes may try the patience of some viewers.

We have the team assemble for a house party that seems to last forever, and we, the audience, are treated to back-and-forth banter between team members. These scenes are hard going and bring nothing to the narrative’s overall development other than padding out the run time.

However, once the film gets into gear, it does not let up.

The unfolding of the real horror and escalation of violence in the film is from naught to sixty in a matter of moments.

Indeed, the use of jump-cutting during these scenes is effective as we see the unfolding horror of what is lurking in the asylum’s dark recess.  Webster manages to cross-cut effectively between the various locations within the asylum, creating an ever-increasing sense of pending doom.

For the gore hounds, Night Explorers delivers some very well-executed scenes. One sequence is a wonderful nod to the Blind Alleys segment of 1972’s Tales from the Crypt. This scene delivers both in terms of tension and action. Algina Lipskis’ performance is superb and did leave me wishing that she had more to do throughout.

Overall, I enjoyed Night Explorers despite some of its flaws. It has a glorious mean streak running right through it, and it is during these moments that the film is at its best.

Grim and unrelenting at times, Night Explorers: The Asylum is a fun ride that takes a little time to get going.

Stream it on Hoopla or rent on VOD.

Overall Rating (Out of 5 Butterflies): 3.5

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