Brad Anderson’s adaption of 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 setup, however, it somehow lacks the elements to make it a terrifying horror or gritty thriller.
The new period thriller has a fabulous star cast, that 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 from 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 to 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 of treating patients. In fact, he allows his patients to roam freely inside and 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 the feeling that she doesn’t belong in this place. With curiosity and questions about Lamb’s unconventional practices, he starts to learn what’s actually happening in this place, 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 a 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 in the spotlight. Probably, that’s the reason Stonehearst Asylum never goes up to be a stark thriller.
Stonehearst Asylum (2014) – A gothic film directed by Brad Anderson and written by Joseph Gangemi. The story of the film is loosely based on the short story “The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether” (1845) by American author Edgar Allan Poe.
Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Jim Sturgess, Michael Caine, Ben Kingsley, David Thewlis, Brendan Gleeson
Directed by: Brad Anderson
Screenplay by Joseph Gangemi
Cinematography Thomas Yatsko
Original Release Date/Year: October 24, 2014