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Stonehearst Asylum

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  •  
    Mark Tolch
    Senior Member

  • Stonehearst Asylum



    Released By: Millennium Entertainment
    Released On: December 16, 2014
    Director: Brad Anderson
    Cast: Kate Beckinsale, Michael Caine, Ben Kingsley, Jim Sturgess, Brendan Gleeson
    Year: 2014
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Film:

    Loosely based on Edgar Allan Poe's, "The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether", Stonehearst Asylum tells the eerie tale of Oxford graduate Doctor Edward Newgate, who arrives at the isolated hospital of the film's title to help the victims of what he calls, "cruel madness". Catering exclusively to the wealthy and privileged, Stonehearst has a few oddball things going for it, most notably the gentle and non-intrusive methods that head doctor Silas Lamb (Ben Kingsley) has put in place to treat everything from epilepsy to incurable homosexuality. And while the gentleman in the hay-laden cell hasn't shown any signs of recovering from his belief that he's actually a horse, the patients seem relaxed and happy for the most part. Indeed, if it weren't for the nervous piano playing Lady Eliza Graves, incarcerated for biting off her husband's ear and gouging out his eye, or the very twitchy nurse, Stonehearst Asylum might be heralded as revolutionary.

    Of course, a picture-perfect asylum does not an interesting story make, and Newgate detects that something may be off-kilter during the first dinner together. With inmates and staff gathered together at the dinner table, Chief Steward Mickey Finn's offering of a spirit to toast with is spoiled when Eliza delivers a solid kick to Newgate's shin under the table. Ushering him out to help him clean his clothes, the confused doctor is further befuddled when Eliza insists that he is in great danger and must leave the asylum immediately. A startling discovery in the basement dungeon confirms her warnings, but Newgate must decide whether to flee and save his own skin, or stay and uphold the oath he took to help the inmates of Stonehearst.

    Stonehearst Asylum does a pretty decent job of expanding on Poe's story, taking on the basic premise of the tale, but developing the themes and questions that it asks a little further. The characters are given a little more room to breathe and develop (Poe's short story ends with the first reveal of the film), and it's this added development that makes Newgate's choice to stay at the asylum more believable. As Poe's story dealt with a period when the sometimes medieval treatment of the insane was under scrutiny, so does the film critique the methods used by the staff at the asylum, blurring the lines between right and wrong.

    Debates and themes of intellectual discussion aside, Stonehearst boasts a strong cast, including Michael Caine and Kate Beckinsale, but it's Ben Kingsley who really shines in this; as the film heads into haywire territory and Doctor Lamb displays characteristics that seem completely out of place, it's Kingsley's talent that keeps everything together and makes it believable. Of course, Caine is no slouch either, and Beckinsale is surprisingly convincing as the complex and tortured female lead. Unfortunately, this is the one minor flaw of the film; with such a powerful roster, the lead character of Newgate (Jim Sturgess) falters a bit in keeping up. This is not to say that Sturgess is not a good actor, but he does pale in comparison to the supporting actors.

    That aside, there isn't much to not like about Stonehearst Asylum. The film looks great, although the CGI does stand out here and there for effects that it could have done without; but the filmmakers have done a great job of creating the era, and all of the fog-laden spookiness that goes with an isolated mental hospital in the countryside. The pacing and editing are solid for the most part, though an unnecessary twist ending does drag the film into the category of slightly too long. Such tiny imperfections, though, should not prevent enjoyment of the film; while Stonhearst Asylum is not a fun watch by any means, it is worth seeing for performances and atmosphere alone.

    Audio/Video/Extras:

    Millennium presents Stonehearst Asylum on blu-ray in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio that looks perfect for the content. The darker scenes (there are quite a few) are clear with no apparent imperfections, and black levels are great.

    The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track is more than sufficient. While the track does make good use of the subwoofer, surrounds are used sparingly and tastefully. Dialogue is front and centre, and crystal clear at all times with good balance.

    A short Making Of (5:37) includes screenplay writer Joe Gangemi, director Brad Anderson, and some of the actors, talking about the film and the characters with clips from the movie.

    A Preview Reel of Millennium films, including a trailer for this film, is also available.

    The Final Word:

    A loose adaptation of an Edgar Allan Poe story, Stonehearst Asylum features a great cast and a whole lot of fog. Check it out.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!





















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