San Antonio Film Festival Review: Sanitarium (2013)


Director: Bryan Ortiz, Bryan Ramirez, Kerry Valderrama
Country: USA
Genre: Thriller
Official Trailer: Here

Editor’s Notes: The following review is part of our coverage of the San Antonio Film Festival. For more information on the festival visit and follow the San Antonio Film Festival on Twitter at @safilm.

Sanitarium is the latest entry in a seemingly endless line of horror anthologies, a type of moviemaking I have yet to fully enjoy. For those who don’t know, horror anthologies are a collection of short films made by directors of varying talent. VHS and The ABCs of Death are two popular examples of this technique. The problem with this approach to filmmaking is that while some segments may be great examples of filmmaking, it’s inevitable that at least one of the shorts will be awful. Sanitarium is the perfect example of everything wrong with horror anthologies. It’s more boring than it’s terrifying, and the varying degrees of talent behind the camera do the movie a disservice.

The movie stars Malcolm McDowell as the head of a mental institution whose patients have horrifying pasts. The movie is divided up into three chapters, each focusing on a different patient and the events that led to their institutionalization. Though its premise may hold promise, the way in which it is executed accounts for one of the dullest horror movies since Chernobyl Diaries. You might even call it the Movie 43 of scary movies.

The first segment stars John Glover as a sculpture artist who slowly loses his mind. Glover begins to hear his clay figurines talk to him as he sinks deeper and deeper into madness. It is a fairly standard story that soars thanks to Glover’s performance and an effectively creepy atmosphere. In one of the movie’s many casting missteps, horror legend Robert Englund is reduced to playing an extremely boring straight-faced man that could have easily been filled by a lesser actor. It’s easily the best of the three stories, but I can’t imagine it holding up on subsequent viewings.

The second segment follows a young boy who keeps seeing a mysterious cloaked figure. Interesting in spurts, this story is crippled by its tendency to drag. There’s also an overuse of slow motion shots that accomplishes nothing but amping up the movie’s running time – a disservice to everyone in the audience.

The third and final story involves a man who barricaded himself in an underground fortress after believing the world ended on December 21, 2012. It is an incredibly boring story, one that is unnecessarily dragged out and never seems to end. With scenes that blatantly borrow from Take Shelter and a performance from Lou Diamond Phillips that will bore you to tears, there’s little doubt that the third and final chapter in this anthology will instill in you a desire to never return to the sanitarium.

20/100 ~ PAINFUL. Sanitarium is the perfect example of everything wrong with horror anthologies. It’s more boring than it’s terrifying, and the varying degrees of talent behind the camera do the movie a disservice.

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Director of Media & Staff Film Critic: I never knew how movies could make your imagination soar until I saw "Star Wars," I never realized how inspiring they could be until I saw "Rocky," and I never truly appreciated film until I saw "Goodfellas." Film has been a central part of my life as long as I can remember and it continues to mold who I am. My " movies to watch" list is miles longer than my "movies I have watched" list. My only regret is not having enough time to watch them all.