The Lost Episode marks the directorial debut of Michael Rooker – a man known to genre fans for his powerfully unhinged performance in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, as well as notable roles in Slither and The Walking Dead – and is a ghost story set in an abandoned asylum. So, Michael Rooker (who also appears in the film), ghosts and an old asylum – sounds like it could be good, right?
A local TV crew go to the abandoned Pennhurst Asylum to investigate the supposed paranormal activity that has allegedly been haunting the building for decades. One by one the crew are picked off in all manner of gruesome ways, but as the final few remain it becomes abundantly clear that it isn’t the restless spirits causing the mayhem but something much more terrifying.
Or is it? Comparable to Brad Anderson’s Session 9, The Lost Episode attempts all the tricks in the book to try and terrify you but in truth there’s very little here that hasn’t been done before. Old asylums are always a great setting for horror films but it isn’t really utilised enough here, ending up as a nondescript series of rooms and corridors.
But you don’t watch this kind of film for the locations, you watch them for the gore and violence. And The Lost Episode does have both, although it probably doesn’t go far enough to put it up there with the likes of Saw or Hostel, the two films that it obviously wants to be compared to. There is some eye gouging, electric shocks and even a castration but the combination of low budget, bad CGI and washed-out lens filters lessens the effect to the point that they just don’t shock or horrify you.
It isn’t that The Lost Episode is a terrible film, because it isn’t, but it is distinctly average when compared to other films around at the moment that bear a similar theme, and there are a lot of them so anything new coming out needs to try that little bit harder to rise above the rest. The presence of Michael Rooker is a welcome one, as it always is, and the film also features a good performance from Haylie Duff and a very pleasant turn from porn star Ryan Keely, but the rest of the cast are pretty interchangeable. The film is a little slow to begin with but does pick up about halfway through – it’s full running time is less than eighty minutes – and as the ghosts begin to appear the tone does get suitably creepy but overall it’s just too formulaic and average when compared to a lot of other recent horror films.