Fresh off of its world premiere at the Fantasia International Film Festival, Jade’s Asylum is an intentionally disjointed fever dream, filled with entitled douchebags, verbally abusive ghosts, and beautifully disturbing forest demons.
Shot on location in Costa Rica, the first thing to notice about the Canadian production from writer/director Alexandre Carrière is that it forgoes a traditionally linear narrative in favor of surreal storytelling and impressionistic editing.
While this approach can all too easily render a film completely incomprehensible, Carrière’s careful and deliberate use of Jade’s tight 83-minute runtime ensures that the thread is never fully lost in the shuffle of sudden cuts and timeline jumps.
Split into five titled chapters, Jade’s Asylum follows a group of wealthy assholes vacationing at a ridiculously gorgeous mansion in the Costa Rican jungle. Having just ended things with her boyfriend, and in the middle of a psychotic break, Jade (Morgan Kohan) ventures alone into the wilderness followed by the abusive ghost of her father. Meanwhile, back at the mansion, no amount of Instagram clout can save the largely unlikable cast from the creatures slowly closing in around them.
Covered in all sorts of moss, sap, and vegetation, the humanoid forest demons of Jade’s Asylum have the unique advantage of looking cooler the more you see them, and, in a genre where less is usually more, the beautiful creature design and gnarly makeup effects are a definite standout.
While I’m not sure the motivation behind the attacks is ever fully explained, the forest creatures adhere to a very specific ritual of lopping off both of their victim’s feet at the ankles, crudely sewing their mouths shut, and leaving them in the jungle to slowly bleed out. Later in the film, when one of the footless bros manages to drag himself out of the woods and into a car, the image of his wet, pulpy leg stump jamming down onto the gas pedal is something I may never be able to forget.
The Costa Rican jungle and its wildlife are absolutely breathtaking throughout, and cinematographer Jonathan Olts takes full advantage of the beautiful locations. The extreme closeups of critters and expansive sweeping drone shots really bring the jungle to life and are complemented perfectly by the thickly layered, ambient sound design.
Jade’s Asylum isn’t entirely a breeze to get through, however. Unexplained sequences and underdeveloped characters left me with the constant and unshakeable feeling that I was missing something, and though things do slow down to a more manageable speed in the film’s fifth and final chapter, the fast-paced, fragmented editing wore out its welcome rather quickly.
All in all, I’m looking forward to seeing what Alexandre Carrière dreams up next. And for those of you interested in non-linear storytelling and artistic editing, hopefully Jade’s Asylum finds distribution and makes its way onto your favorite streaming service in the very near future.
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