Starring: Jim Sturgess, Ben Kingsley, Kate Beckinsale, David Thewlis, Michael Caine, Brendan Gleeson, Jason Flemyng, Sophie Kennedy Clark
Directed by: Brad Anderson
Synopsis: A recent medical school grad who takes a position at a mental institution soon finds himself taken with one of his colleagues — though he has no initial idea of a recent, horrifying staffing change.
Known in the UK as ‘Eliza Graves’, this is a retelling of an Edgar Allan Poe short story. As you would expect of a story coming from the pen of the ‘master of macabre’, this has enough gothic charm and creepiness to win over those who aren’t looking to be outright scared but just pleasantly chilled. Not that the film was scary in anyway, but it certainly made use of it’s setting, and was ultimately a pleasant surprise, if not a bit obvious by the end.
Jim Sturgess plays a young doctor by the name of Edward Newgate who pitches up at the titular hospital to find out how they operate. He stumbles upon a vast array of odd creatures, and that’s just the staff! Ben Kingsley plays the overbearing chief physician Silas Lamb in typical theatrical fashion, with his ‘henchman’ Mickey Finn being played creepily by David Thewlis. Newgate sets eyes on the beautiful Eliza Graves, played by Kate Beckinsale, and instantly falls for her. However, all is not what it seems as she urges him to get the hell away from Stonehearst as fast as he can. Newgate makes another discovery deep within the basements of the asylum, and this is where the first twist occurs, one to which I wasn’t overly expecting, and which, although excellent, probably took the tension out of large parts of the film. I would like to have seen them do the reveal a lot later.
As for the second and final twist, whilst not at the forefront of my mind, it was pretty obvious to be honest. Anyone who has seen the likes of Shutter Island could probably guess almost immediately where it goes, but again, this is no reason for it to enjoy the film, which revels in it’s gothic imagery and loony cast of misfits.
The cast do a good job, particularly Thewlis and Beckinsale. Ben Kingsley and Michael Caine bring their old acting chops to the fore, although Caine in a reduced role. Jim Sturgess is fine but nothing flashy. The real star of the show is the setting and the interiors of the asylum itself with it’s badly lit passage ways and eerie decoration.
Stonehearst Asylum is a movie that, I think, deserves a bigger audience, than what it will no doubt get. The fact that it isn’t a horror movie, but will no doubt be packaged as one, will probably not help it’s cause, which is a shame because I found it to be quite an enjoyable romp.