Stonehearst Asylum Blu-ray Review
We see them at all times throughout the year but during and following the holiday season the filmscape is rife with movies all trying to muscle their way into the awards-show shuffle, beefed up with all-star casts, ‘period’ garb, and accents. I’m always a little bit worried when such a film arrives; “with this incredible cast how can I not have heard about this?” Well, chances are you didn’t hear about it because the movie is one of the following things (and rarely something else): 1) an older movie with incredible actors from early in their careers, just now re-released to cash in on their success; 2) Awards-season bait, i.e. movies made seemingly for the sole purpose of garnering a nomination; or, as is the case with the newly released STONEHEARST ASYLUM, it’s just so mediocre as to be slightly insulting.
STONEHEARST ASYLUM truly has an all-star cast, featuring Kate Beckinsale (of UNDERWORLD fame), Jim Sturgess (CLOUD ATLAS), David Thewlis (Professor Lupin from the HARRY POTTER universe), Ben Kingsley (SHUTTER ISLAND), Brendan Gleeson (IN BRUGES), and Michael Caine (KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE). Even though the film has a number of issues, there are some brilliant performances and nice direction from uneven filmmaker Brad Anderson (THE MACHINIST, SESSION 9).
STONEHEARST ASYLUM is (very) loosely based on the short story The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether by Edgar Allen Poe (1844). Though there are few similarities, Anderson did a nice job maintaining the general feeling of unease Poe was so great at bringing to life in text. In STONEHEARST ASYLUM, young doctor Edward Newgate (Sturgess) arrives at the prestigious Asylum at Stonehearst, the mental institution that treats the European elite. Newgate’s arrival isn’t expected though he mentions having sent a letter requesting the opportunity for clinical supervision.
Newgate is introduced to the facility by a creepy groundsman named Mickey Finn (David Thewlis) who brings him to meet the superintendent of the facility, Silas Lamb (Kingsley). Lamb accepts Newgate’s proposal to train as an Alienist at the facility but his methods are perplexing, treating the patients with both irrational respect and quiet contempt. But at the center of the plot is one patient in particular, Eliza Graves (Kate Beckinsale). Graves is a ‘classic hysteria’ case but, for some reason our Mr. Newgate has a bit of an obsession with her. This plotline is introduced as secondary but waffles throughout the film, lending additional discord to the overall plotline (that would have been quite interesting in and of itself).
The primary reason to check out STONEHEARST ASYLUM is for the masterful performances from Kingsley, Thewlis, Sturgess, Gleeson, and to a much lesser degree Beckinsale and Caine. The plot would be a secondary supporting cause for some cheers if they hadn’t tried to be so cute during the second and third acts, where there are so many twists the movie really starts to unravel. A middling and entirely unbelievable love affair just adds insult to injury, and then the twist endings begin… If you can, just focus on the lead performances and you’ll find STONEHEARST ASYLUM a mildly entertaining diversion. Otherwise you’ll become obsessed with its many imperfections.
Video: (1080p Widescreen 2.40:1) The video for STONEHEARST ASYLUM is pretty dark but features a fairly deep color palette that enhances the darker tones of the film.
Audio: (English Dolby TrueHD) STONEHEARST ASYLUM features a decent voice track and some great sound effects and ominous tones, greatly enhancing the tone of the film.
“Making Of” Featurette (05:37) Cast and crew speak fondly of STONEHEARST ASYLUM, their work on the story, and they give quite a few spoilers. Do not watch this before you check out the movie.
The Blu-ray also features the STONEHEARST ASYLUM Original Theatrical Trailer (02:23) and previews for other Millennium Media pictures.