I was on the fence about whether I wanted to review this moviet. It’s got a great cast but it’s a psychological thriller, which I don’t tend to gravitate to, so I decided to let it go, then it randomly showed up one day so I figure what the hell let’s have a look.
It’s got a great Hammer-esque look about it with two twists in the tale, one comes 34 minutes in, but I knew what it was before it was ever revealed. It wasn’t that hard to guess, the second twist, however, which comes right at the end I did not see coming and that one was pretty damn good.
It’s a period piece set on Christmas Eve, 1899, and based on a short story by Edgar Allan Poe called, “The System Of Doctor Tarr And Professor Fether.” I’ve never been into Poe so I’ve never read the tale and cannot compare how closely the movie follows it.
It’s starts off with a Brenden Gleeson (Lake Placid) playing a doctor who’s teaching his students about madness and the symptoms of it. He’s doing it as a show and tell with two of his patients, one of whom is Eliza Graves (Kate Beckinsale) who’s wheeled in and immediately claims she’s not crazy and needs help to escape. Gleeson grabs her and she goes into a strange paralytic convulsion, which she tends to do when a man takes hold of her.
We then flash forward to a Dr. Edward Newgate (Jim Sturgess) who’s just arriving at his new job at Stonehearst Asylum way out in the countryside. He’s greeted by Mickey Finn (David Thewlis) at the gate, a clear vibe of menace we get from him, and he appears to be some kind of general caretaker. When we finally get to the asylum and meet Dr. Silas Lamb (Ben Kingsley) it’s clear things are “off” here. Apparently the patients are not helped but their delusions fed by the doc and they are allowed to mingle with the rest of the staff.
I’m going to reveal the first twist because it’s so obvious, not the final one though, because it’s a good one. Yes, the patients are running the asylum, with the head doctor, Salt (Michael Caine), and his staff locked up in the dungeon. Silas had been planning the take over for months and Finn is his “goon enforcer,” a homicidal patient who has killed his own family.
Once this first twist is revealed, we also learn Silas and the others are not aware that Newgate knows, so we the audience are kept interested to see how long he can keep the secret while trying to find some way to free the real doctor and the object of his obsession, Eliza, who’s a resident here too.
Along the way we learn things aren’t so black and white. Silas is mad, yes, but he took the asylum over to escape the cruel treatment Salt was implementing, which is shown throughout via flashbacks. Once freed from their torture some of the patients are even doing better, which kind of alters your allegiance somewhat. The endings for Silas and Salt aren’t what I expected, which was a good thing. All in all it was a fine film to watch once, but it doesn’t entice me into repeat viewings. Have you noticed that I didn’t name Brenden Gleeson’s character that’s because he’s actually part of the second twist at the end.
On December 16th Millennium Entertainment releases Brad Anderson’s Stonehearst Asylum on separate DVD and blu-ray editions.
Video/Audio/Subtitles: 1080p 1.78:1 high definition widescreen—English Dolby TrueHD Stereo, English 2.0 Dolby Digital—English SDH and Spanish
The transfer was perfect, colors, clarity, everything and the audio was just as good.
The only extra feature is a ‘Making Of Featurette’ (5:07) that’s basic but gives you all you need sans twists to understand where Brad Anderson, cast and crew were coming from when they chose this story to tell.
Note: the blu comes with a slipcase. Don’t know if the DVD has one though.