Brad Anderson’s adaption of an Edgar Allan Poe’s short story “The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether” the film Stonehearst Asylum (previously titled Eliza Graves) has everything you may want to look in a Gothic set up, however it somehow lacks the elements to make it a terrifying horror or gritty thriller.
The new period thriller has a fabulous starcast, any filmmaker would have wished for, with the likes of Ben Kingsley, Michael Caine, Kate Beckinsale, Jim Sturgess, and David Thewlis but somehow you finally don’t get enough form each character as we all have already watched them in many other more meaningful and power-packed performances.
Stonehearst Asylum starts with a doctor (Brendan Gleeson) teaching his psychiatry students about hysterical neurosis by referring a patient named Eliza Graves (Kate Beckinsale). As you start to think of the horror behind any mental asylum, you are introduced with a young medical school graduate Edward Newgate (Jim Sturgess) from Oxford who ventures into the Stonehearst Asylum for practice.
Upon arriving at the hospital filled with many mentally incompetent patients, he meets the head physician Dr. Lamb and his unique and strange methods in treating patients. In fact, he allows his patients to roam freely inside and to indulge in their fantasies, which the young doctor finds very dangerous.
While assisting Dr. Lamb, Newgate meets Eliza who is being treated there through music therapy. He even falls in love with her with a feeling that she doesn’t belong to this place. With curiosity and questions on Lamb’s unconventional practices, he starts to learn what’s actually going on this place as one evening he accidentally discovers a group of people locked up in cages.
It then turns out that these people are in fact the caretakers of the hospital where Dr. Salt (Michael Caine), also caged, is the real head of the asylum. As the weirdness comes to the fore, Newgate wants to free all those people with help from Eliza.
As far as the story is concerned, there are few twists laced with incredible performances from its entire cast that makes it watchable. However, I could not really understand the focus of the film; no single character was on spotlight. Probably, that’s the reason Stonehearst Asylum never goes up to be a stark thriller.
Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Jim Sturgess, Michael Caine, Ben Kingsley, David Thewlis, Brendan Gleeson
Directed by: Brad Anderson
Released year: 2014