Just in terms of nailing the essence of a film in a punchy way, ASYLUM OF SATAN has about the best title I can imagine. It's about a lunatic asylum run by Satanists. The title sums up the plot in three words. Neat, huh? The movie isn't very good, though.Brought to us by semi-cult director William Girdler (who died in 1978 in a helicopter accident), ASYLUM OF SATAN starts out fairly well, with the old strange-happenings-in-a-nuthouse gambit. Our heroine, involuntarily committed to a creepy mental institution, can't get why all these figures in white hooded robes are staggering around the premises. The staff is strangely unconcerned with her plight ("You're gonna have to stop all this yelling and screaming. You'll disturb the other patients"). Meanwhile, the patients are getting murdered in bizarre ways.
The plot unspools in a rather listless manner; there's too much business about our heroine's fiance, who runs around the countryside fruitlessly trying to find her. The picture basically goes dead whenever he's onscreen, partly because he's just there to provide exposition; he has virtually nothing to do with the action at the asylum. Clearly, Girdler doesn't care about plot; he cares about special effects and atmosphere. This is the kind of movie where the Church of Satan is actually listed in the end credits as "Technical Consultant."
Also, the movie barely makes sense at all; it's never clear exactly why all these murders are happening (poisonous snakes in swimming pool, deadly gas pumped into room, etc.). In point of fact, damn near everything about this movie goes unexplained. Once you begin wondering why these Satanists are playing doctor in the first place, it all starts to fall apart.Girdler pulls off a few decent shock scenes, so it's not a total loss for the horror faithful. It's not bad, really--it's just not as good as it could have been. But there's only so much the Church of Satan can do for your movie.