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REVIEW — “Stonehearst Asylum”

Lightly based on a humorous Edgar Allan Poe short story, “Stonehearst Asylum” can’t decide what kind of film it wants to be and ultimately wastes the talents of it’s wonderful cast.


Director Brad Anderson, known for the delightfully dreary “The Machinist”, brings together a wonderful cast in this film.  Jim Sturgess is Edward Newgate, a young man visiting the doctors who run the Asylum.  Upon arriving he is surprised at the unorthodox methods being used by Edward Newgate (Ben Kingsley).  Also catching his eye is the fetching Eliza Graves (Kate Beckinsale), a woman with an unusual diagnosis.  Brendan Gleeson and Michael Caine also appear in disappointingly small roles.


“The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether” was written by Poe in 1845.  Darkly humorous and slightly satirical it was published at a time when the barbaric practises used to “treat” the mentally ill were being brought to light.  Taken out of its context, and bloated to fit a nearly two-hour runtime, the story struggles to carry any weight.  The movie is also uncommitted to the tone it wants to take.  While a number of scenes drip with creepy atmosphere it is often punctuated by a lighthearted musical score, and humorous dialogue.  (“He killed his wife with a hammer….without provocation I might add!”)


At its best moments, “Stonehearst Asylum” feels like “American Horror Story Light”, but its not enough to make the movie enjoyable.  There’s nothing really bad about any of it, it’s just entirely unnecessary.  The amazing cast isn’t given enough to do and the shreds of plot are entirely uncompelling.  But you really shouldn’t expect much from a film that gives its biggest twists away on the poster.

3 out of 5 Stars

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