22nd Jun2015

‘Stonehearst Asylum’ Blu-ray Review

by Paul Metcalf

Stars: Jim Sturgess, Kate Beckinsale, Michael Caine, Ben Kingsley, Brendan Gleeson, David Thewlis, Jason Flemyng, Sophie Kennedy Clark, Sinéad Cusack, Edmund Kingsley, Ciara Flynn, Christopher Fulford | Written by Joe Gangemi | Directed by Brad Anderson


If you were told about a film based on an Edgar Allen Poe short story with stars including Kate Beckinsale, Michael Caine, Ben Kingsley and Brendan Gleeson I’d be surprised if your interest wasn’t peeked.  Stoneheart Asylum (aka Eliza Graves) is just that… based on The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether by Poe it tells the tale of an Asylum where not all is as it seems.

When Edward Newgate (Jim Sturgess) a medical school graduate arrives at Stonehearst Asylum he finds himself transfixed by Eliza Graves (Kate Beckinsale) a patient supposedly suffering from “Hysteria.”  Working under Dr. Silas Lamb (Ben Kingsley) he finds himself impressed with the doctor’s unconventional methods of treatment.  It’s not long though before the cracks start to form in the regime and Newgate realises that all is not as it seems.  Especially when he makes a discovery in the boiler room that changes everything.

There is a twist that comes in the film quite early but I won’t spoil it, it is an important revelation to for the story.  Stonehearst Asylum isn’t just a love story between a doctor and patient, impressively it weaves Newgate’s infatuation with Eliza Graves with an examination of the treatment of the patients within the asylum, and the barbaric nature of them.  Victorian methods of treating the mentally ill is a treasure trove for horror stories, and still for years to come.  The question about who the monsters are in the Asylum is something that is far from clear and that is the most enjoyable story line that the film focuses on.

With a cast like we see in Stonehearst Asylum there comes a level of expectation, and the movie happily lives up to it.  With the likes of Caine and Kingsley making their characters believable and somewhat chilling, even the smaller roles in the cast have impressive actors playing them with the likes of David Thewlis and Jason Flemyng.  Thewlis especially is always dependable to put on a good performance and his character Mickey Finn is one that tends to stand out the most, especially because of his monstrous actions.  Kate Beckinsale plays the part of the upper class lady well, and even with the complicated nature of the character she is given tends to steal the scenes she is in.  As the film is also known as Eliza Graves, it comes as no surprise that she becomes the main focus of the film many times and her treatment inside and out of the asylum is used to raise many questions, especially those around the treatment of women with mental illness in that era, and beyond that.

What makes Stonehearst Asylum so interesting for the audience is the question of just who are the monsters of the tale.  Writer Joe Gangemi has taken an Edgar Allan Poe short story and pulled out of it an engrossing tale that taps into a reality that is believable and all too sad.  There are many twists and turns added in there that are hinted at, especially when some things don’t start to make sense.  Thankfully these are there for a reason, to all come out in the conclusion of the movie.  It is a twist that I saw coming, though I was fine with that when it was a welcome one.

There are some types of horror that I think need to be explored more, one of them being the gothic horror that does seem to be becoming popular with Crimson Peak coming soon.  Stonehearst Asylum feels like it fits perfectly in with this, and the fact that it isn’t a ghost story or one focusing on supernatural monsters gives it an air of reality.  With a strong cast and highly enjoyable story Stonehearst Asylum is one horror fans should make a point of watching as soon as they can.

***** 5/5

Stonehearst Asylum is available on DVD and Blu-ray now.

Review originally posted on PissedOffGeek

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