Profoundly goofy (unintentionally so), THE ASPHYX is an earnest attempt at making a serious period horror film that deals with the downside of eternal life. What we get though is a movie that feels like it lasts for an eternity without one legitimate scare during its hour and a half run time.
Sir Hugo Cunningham (Robert Stephens) has discovered a most astonishing thing – At the moment of death, the mythological beast known as the “Asphyx” appears to carry the soul away. But with some cunning technology, Sir Hugo, with the aid of his son figure out a way of trapping the creature in a sealed container. The soul is thus held in limbo as long as the Asphyx is and will by proxy, give eternal life.
It works on Sir Hugo and, obsessed with never losing his children to death, convinces them to do the same. But the only way to conjure a person’s Asphyx is at the moment of death and no matter how well you think you can control those precious few moments, accidents are bound to happen.
Everyone involved in the production of the film takes it deadly seriously especially Stephens who almost saves the picture with his committed performance. What killed the movie for me is the sub-par special effects and sound design that are just plain laughable. I honestly tried to take it seriously and go along for the ride, but the creature is so hilariously conceived that it proved impossible.
I give THE ASPHYX points for trying and I know the film has its fans, but for a movie of the early 1970’s when cinema verité was all the rage, this film feels stilted and too old fashioned for it’s own good. If I didn’t know when it was made, I would have sworn it was made in the 1960’s if not earlier.