Asylum Of Darkness Interview With Jay Woelfel

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Wild Eye Releasing has unlocked the doors to award-winning filmmaker Jay Woelfel’s supernatural horror feature, Asylum of Darkness.

Woelfel’s stirring cocktail of supernatural suspense and goosebump-inducing horror features a superlative cast of sci-fi and horror icons including Golden Globe nominee Richard Hatch (Battlestar Galactica), in one of his final film appearances.

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Tim Thomerson (Trancers, Near Dark, Nemesis) and Tiffany Shepis (12 Monkeys, Tromeo and Juliet, Tales of Halloween) also star in the movie, a striking, spine-tingling horror jaunt, shot on 35mm, that resembles the works of genre icons Lynch and Cronenberg.

Asylum of Darkness Synopsis:

After awakening in a mental asylum, a patient plans his escape to freedom while fighting off supernatural forces in both the real world, and some that may only live inside his head. But once on the outside, he learns that the life awaiting him is more twisted and dangerous than anything he could conjure in his head, one that is luring him back to the asylum forever.

How long ago did this begin for you, Jay?
This movie really began in 1989. After the successful release of my first feature, Beyond Dream’s Door, the sales rep wanted to produce a film with the same team that made that film. I wrote a number of long treatments, one of them is what became this film decades later. As it turned out, I went back to Ohio to make it, as it was always written to be shot there and with several of the same people, including director of photography, Scott Spears, and lead actor, Nick Baldasare, who would have been involved if it had been made way, way back when. It’s a better film now, made by us as adults, than it would have been back then, though I think we retained enough youthful enthusiasm to add to our experience.

Why a horror flick?
Horror started by scaring me and also sparking my imagination. Unlike science fiction or fantasy, it has an emotional element and with a supernatural film like this even a spiritual one if you want it to. Christopher Lee was right in saying they are fantasy or adult faerie tales. They are about good vs. evil.

They are fun to make and to watch and also about life and death. Not many things you can say that about, in real life fun and death are widely different things.

Of course, it’s a commercial genre. That helps you get one made, but I didn’t do this one because of that. Also any commercial genre can restrict what you can do as a format can become imposed on you. All movies are considered by and large to be for a young audience. Horror films in particular suffer from this notion.

I make the kind of films I want to see as an audience member myself.

And did you have a special interest in asylums?
Someone I know has had to spent time in them off and on over the years. And someone else I know should have. I remember playing volleyball with, what they used to call inmates, and thinking for “crazy” people these folks play a good game of volleyball. I was pretty young at the time, but it made me see and interact with them as people, not as crazy people. Know what I mean?

On a less personal level I have always been a fan of writer Robert Bloch and his film Asylum. If you know someone who spends time against their will, essentially incarcerated, you see things from both sides of the literal fence. You see why they have to be in there and you see from their side why they don’t want to be. What is the expression, you are only crazy if you think you aren’t? So, naturally, they just want to be free. I also became fascinated with The Birdman of Alcatraz who admitted his crimes and looked to atone for them. And DeSalvo, The Boston Strangler, who supposedly also came to realize his crimes and wanted to atone. Asylum of Darkness is about a person who goes from one side of the fence to the other.

Did you have the cast on board before you secured financing?
Nick Baldasare was always who I intended to play Dwight Stroud. But the cast was not a reason the film was funded. Once funded and for the amount we had, then I knew who I could go after. I did lose one genre name, I’d say, star who I knew on a casual basis. But at the last minutes their agent agreed to one price then tried to triple it. We didn’t have triple the money so we moved on. I guess the agent presumed our offer wasn’t based in a real world budget, but in a Hollywood-type budget where it’s done on a cost plus basis. Not the case this time. I did have relationships and friendships with the names we got, but they were well paid. I don’t believe on trying to build a production only on favors — too risky.

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Did the script change at all over the course of production?
I did a film right before this one and when that wrapped I had some actors come over and read this script to me. This gave me a fresh perspective on it. The script had been written a few years before and was optioned to a company. Once that option expired we moved on towards making it. I did add an important scene with Ellen, played by Amanda Howell. This came from notes I got. I don’t want to give anything away but it’s an important scene leading into the last act of the film.

During post production I cut a bunch of scenes down and dropped a whole sequence — that will be included on the eventual DVD release — that I thought about cutting from the script. I wish I had just cut it from the script as it’s easier to do that than cut a scene after you spent parts of two days filming it. More scenes were reordered and others dropped. There was one nightmare scene that just made everything confusing that got dropped. So most of the script rewriting came in editing.

After the jump, find out what audience Asylum of Darkness is for and about working with Richard Hatch…

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