Stonehearst Asylum (2014) Review

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I have to say that Stonehearst Asylum is a really professional polished project.

The director, Brad Anderson, has been extremely meticulous with his direction in this movie, which makes it progress with a distinct dark mood, accompanied with an unsettling ambience reaching out and enticing you into its plot.

Being based loosely on a ‘short story’ from Edgar Allen Poe – Poe’s story has the intrinsic inspiration to guide this movie capably from the background, and what with the strength of the cast attached to the movie, you therefore have the ideal recipe for a gripping piece of horror entertainment.

The story begins with Dr. Edward Newgate, played by (Jim Sturgess), a fresh-faced graduate of Psychology from Oxford, England. He has travelled to Stonehearst Asylum to investigate its methods of psychiatric treatment.

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The opening of the movie is good indicator of what is to come. The rich colour aspect of the film and the lighting shades give it the touch of the Frankenstein, Dracula spirit to it. It captures the mood perfectly of the Victorian-Edwardian era – very much like John Badham’s 1979 version of Dracula did, and also, in the way the ‘Hammer Horror’ movies did with their own efforts back in the 1960s, with Peter Cushion and Christopher Lee.imgres

If you add to this the gothic aspect and the asylum setting, with the madness and distressing patients scavenging for their sanity – you ultimately realise ‘your own mind’ is going to be tested to the limits.

Dr. Lamb, (Ben Kingsley) is the shady character in charge of psychiatry at Stonehearst Asylum; there is something about him that does not seem quite right though. The eyes are hiding something, something unnatural and malevolent. He seems to elaborate with strange anecdotes about the methods used in the treatment of his distraught patients. (Kingsley) excels in his role as Dr. Lamb, and proves he is still a true master of his acting craft.

Then we have Dr. Lamb’s sidekick, the loathsome Mickey Finn, played superbly by (David Thewlis). He gives an added sinister menace to pound us – the viewer with.

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Benjamin Salt, (Michael Caine) plays the former head of Stonehearst Asylum and performs with genuine desperation and anger in his role. He despises Dr. Lamb, and would like nothing more than to swap places with him. Benjamin Salt also holds the main key to the plotline that I shall not divulge.

As we progress further into the movie the young Dr. Newgate begins to question the bizarre techniques and the strange associates Dr. Lamb has surrounded himself with. Newgate seems puzzled by the treatment methods that are being considered and then undertaken in such an unprofessional way.

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Next we have (Kate Beckinsale), as Eliza Graves. She is spellbinding in her role. Her emotional state is deeply entwined with the fears about her husband, he has sent her to the asylum and she has been broken in spirit by this action. Eliza Graves gives an extra fervour to the movie. I was half expecting that she may have been a stooge of the sadistic Dr. Lamb’s and that her psychiatric affliction she’d been blighted with was just a smokescreen of tears and lies, that’s how good (Beckinsale’s) performance was. Her character’s anguish came across all to readily when being assessed by the rather inexperienced Dr. Newgate.

To be honest, as well as the entire main cast, the supporting actors were great in their roles too.

The editing of the movie was skilfully done, adding to the professionalism of the production. And the first-rate musical score gave the movie an old-fashioned feel to it, this helped bring a building tension to proceedings.

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As I, the viewer, journeyed along with the movie, I was left feeling such compassion and pity for the patients of Stonehearst Asylum. Their suffering, plus the cruelty of the doctors – who only seemed to inflict further suffering on them with their barbaric treatment methods just increased the asylum’s decent into a decadent type despair and sickening malaise. The mind is such a fragile instrument, as fully documented by Sigmund Freud, the renowned father of psychoanalysis and mind science from the beginning of the twentieth century – and to be honest, I was half expecting an actor playing Freud to make a cameo appearance somewhere in the movie.

Stonehearst Asylum has all the elements to keep the viewer captivated with trepidation. The story, with its various overtones moves in such a way that you are left at times feeling drained and in despair, and then in another moment thoughtful and emotional. So as a result, when the movie had finished, I was left wondering: ‘who are the true mental patients, and who are the true doctors of psychiatry?’

Movie Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Trailer:

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About Anaemic Oracle

With an array of books, audio tape recorders, amplifiers, video machines and mechanical cameras at his disposal, Anaemic Oracle insists on harking back to the year 1985. A frustrated part-time filmmaker, screenplay writer and novelist - his enthusiasm for old horror movies from the 1980s is undiminished. When he is not writing and working on projects he spends his time painting, creating artistic photography - and is an avid supporter of his football team, Leyton Orient.

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