16th Jul2019

Fantasia 2019: ‘Jade’s Asylum’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Morgan Kohan, Roc Lafortune, Sebastian Piggott, Drew Nelson, Kjartan Hewitt, Jeff Teravainen, Tomas Chovanec, Deanna Jarvis | Written and Directed by Alexandre Carrière

jades-asylum-poster

Somewhere in Costa Rica, by the sea, in the huge, ominous jungle, lies a mutilated body. Abandoned emergency vehicles are parked nearby. Jade (Morgan Kohan) is lost and confused. Flashback to the young woman on holiday in a luxurious mansion with rich Americans who just want to party with sexy girls and plenty of blow. Isolated from the group, Jade is haunted by psychotic visions. Meanwhile, there is a series of mysterious attacks by figures covered with vegetation, dripping with sap and armed with machetes, who are both terrifying and curiously beautiful.

Where to begin with Jade’s Asylum? Well probably somewhere at the end..? Or the middle? Or the beginning? That’s because this super-trippy psychological horror film, from writer/director Alexandre Carrière, plays with time like kids play with toys. Told in chapters, the film jumps around on its own finite timeline, opening at a possible end to this story, then jumping back to the beginning, then [possibly] telling a different version of the same scenes we’ve already been privy to. Then we have weird but beautifully-designed tree monsters, a dead dad who does nothing but belittle his daughter, the titular Jade. Then we’re left to wonder if this is all a figment of Jade’s, or someone else imagination or the manifestation of some… thing… Jade’s psyche? The jungle itself? Who knows! This film is a serious head-f*ck, SERIOUSLY.

By the time the audience is halfway through Jade’s Asylum they won’t know what’s right, what’s wrong, what’s up, what’s down… This is a film created to confuse and obfuscate people. But, and hear me out on this, maybe that’s the whole point.

It’s obvious from the get-go that there’s something “off” about Jade and when we see her belittled by the guy she’s with in the films first chapter (for this film is told in a handful of chapters – undoubtedly to give some modicum of structure) it’s apparent that it triggers something in her. From then on out it would seem that everything we now see, as told from Jade’s point of view, is as fractured as her psyche. Nothing can be trusted. And even as the film ends the audience is still not sure what they saw, if any of it was real, and what really happened on that Costa Rican island… Which is a seriously bold move to make for any filmmaker.

But it works. There are no answers, its up to the audience to try and make sense of everything, if there is any sense to be made of what we’ve seen. However what we do see is fascinating. I mentioned earlier that Jade’s Asylum is told in chapter, which have titles as if to give the audience some insight into what plays out but those chapters are used more to allow the film to restart and re-tell the story from different perspectives, and possibly different realities even. Because are the audience sure what is real here?

Questions, questions, questions…

But what DO we know about Jade’s Asylum? Well Morgan Kohan, as Jade, is a compelling lead. She gives a performance that runs the gamut of emotion: from fragility to insanity, from timid to psychotic; and at every step of the way her portrayal is totally believeable. Plus, thanks to Kohan’s skills, her character is fascinating and intriguing to watch no matter where on the spectrum of emotion she is at the time.

Meanwhile the OTHER stars of Jade’s Asylum are the mysterious (and somewhat hideous) tree-men, for want of a better description. They look like a cross between the zombies of Lucio Fulci’s Zombie 2, Jordy from Creepshow and DC Comic’s Swamp Thing and are rendered in some of the most spectacular PRACTICAL monster effects work I’ve seen in some time. These “monsters” aren’t hidden in shadow, they roam the jungle of Costa Rica in the blazing sun and so there’s nowhere to hide flaws in the FX, but there’s no need. These particularly gruesome tree-demons, tree-men, forest spirits, whatever you want to call them are flawless in their design and execution – their appearance adding greatly to the twisted reality of Jade’s Asylum.

I went into Jade’s Asylum knowing very little but hoping, given the films Canadian origins, we’d have another Canuxploitation classic on our hands and we do. The non-linear storytelling might put some off but for me it added to the films fear-factor: never really knowing what’s really going on, what this films real truth is, put me on edge as much as the films titular heroine.

***** 5/5

Jade’s Asylum screened at the 2019 Fantasia International Film Festival on July 13th.

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