Writer/director John K. Webster’s Night Explorers: The Asylum is a better horror film than its generic title might suggest. It begins with a traditional ghost-hunting plot reminiscent of the ones found in Grave Encounters or Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum. Still, it sidesteps the expected found footage aesthetics usually used in movies of this type. A big midpoint twist also helps Webster’s feature bring a fresh angle to the table.
Ozi (Craig Edwards) makes money off of exploiting supposedly supernatural places. He does so with his friends and girlfriend, who all pretend the places are scarier than they are in order to boost their audience engagement. One of the members, Jimboy (Charlie Rich), is tired of the fake directions their videos have gone in.
Then, an offer from the supposedly haunted Pelosi Asylum comes in. Ozi and his pals are promised $5,000 each and 24-hour access to the place. The dilapidated building is set to be demolished by bulldozers in a week, so they are allowed to explore it as much as they want. Once inside, however, Ozi discovers the group may be against a real threat.
“…an offer from the supposedly haunted Pelosi Asylum comes in. Ozi and his pals are promised $5,000 each…”
Night Explorers: The Asylum presents a jovial group of British characters who like to party hard and joke around; Webster employs not one but two drinking montages in the opening. Most of the actors have believable chemistry with one another, though the performances slip when some players are asked to present fear. Dyer comes across best as Danny, a funny Edgar Wright lookalike.
The filmmaker sets up a familiar but enjoyable ghost-hunting scenario in an extraordinary setting. Then, he pulls the rug out from under the audience with a wild twist. This makes the second half more unpredictable and raises the stakes. I won’t spoil it in any way, but let’s just say things get pretty bloody.
The movie loses some steam in the final stretch and abruptly ends when it feels like it is leading to the climax. Some of the sound mixing and editing choices are occasionally off, too. For example, a couple of sped-up sequences feel completely out of place in the flow of the story.
Coming from a documentary background, Webster makes a smooth shift into narrative filmmaking with Night Explorers: The Asylum. The writer-director brings some surprising turns to this ghost-hunting tale, though the execution has hiccups now and then.
"…pulls the rug out from under the audience with a wild twist."