While Stonehearst Asylum never quite reaches its full potential, the film does succeed with an admirable cast and fine performances from Jim Sturgess, Kate Beckinsale and, especially, Ben Kingsley who alone is well worth the time investment.
Genre(s): Drama, Suspense/Thriller, Horror
Millennium | PG13 – 112 min. – $24.99 | December 16, 2014
THE MOVIE – 3.5/5
Note: This review contains spoiler, please skip if you don’t want to know details about the plot.
With the popularity of the “American Horror Story” series, dark Gothic tales are in vogue with the latest theatrical being Stonehearst Asylum, a well made if not slightly flawed film that does a good job with the old “lunatics are running the asylum” concept.
Just before the turn of the century in 1899, Oxford graduate Dr. Edward Newgate (JIM STURGESS) makes the long, and grueling, trek to Stonehearst Lunatic Asylum in order to receive on-location training. There he meets Superintendent Dr. Lamb (BEN KINGSLEY) and the pair tour the campus, introducing some of the quirkier residents where they are granted plenty of latitude. One such patient is the lovely Eliza Graves (KATE BECKINSALE), committed by her father after she had attacked her abusive husband, gauging out his eye and biting off his ear. There’s an immediate connection between Newgate and Graves as he first gazed his eyes on her as she elegantly played on the piano, a soothing remedy to her affliction of personal touch… or something along those lines. Another wrinkly involving Eliza: her husband has been trying to get her out in and bring her home.
Other colorful residents include a man who believes he’s a thoroughbred, a woman refusing to eat until her son returned from the war and even an ogre-like man with anger issues; all of them committed by family members, more or less thrown away from society.
However, there’s something amiss going on and it’s not just the steward named Mickey Finn (DAVID THEWLIS), who is Lamb’s right-hand man and a shady fellow to boot. In fact, and this is spoiler territory, although it is revealed relatively early on with a couple more to go, the lunatics are in fact running the asylum! One night, as Newgate investigates the nooks and crannies of the estate, he hears banging on the pipes and goes down to the basement to find numerous people held in cells and discovers these were the orderlies and workers and even the original superintendent, Benjamin Salt (MICHAEL CAINE) who clues Newgate in on what happened and that Lamb was one of his patients, incarcerated for killing four young fellow soldiers during the war.
Albeit hardly perfect, and leaves a lot to be desired considering the core plot, Stonehearst Asylum unsurprisingly excels thanks in large part to its cast. Kate Beckinsale is pretty good in a surprisingly limited role (especially since the original title was “Eliza Graves”); Jim Sturgess turns in a strong performance and is just charismatic enough to holds one’s interest in the plot; Michael Caine has a small but pivotal role; and lastly, Ben Kingsley is still the man and really lifts up, along with the cast, a mundane script to something respectable. If this was a low-budget flick with no-name talents, it would not have worked.
The film was helmed by Brad Anderson whose career has delved from television (“Fringe,” “Almost Human”) to the feature films like the sublime The Machinist starring an unhealthy-looking Christian Bale and much later, The Call with Halle Berry and Abigail Breslin, a decent if not forgettable suspense-thriller. But his work on Stonehearts Asylum isn’t bad at all giving the right atmosphere.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 1.0/5
This release comes with a matted slip cover.
The only feature including is a simple “Making of” Featurette (5:37; HD) with interviews by the cast and crew talking about the plot and characters set against footage from the movie.
Previews – Automata, The Taking of Deborah Logan, Are You Here, Fading Gigolo
VIDEO – 4.25/5
Stonehearst Asylum creeps onto Blu-ray presented with a 1080p high-definition transfer and a 2.40 widescreen aspect ratio and for the most part, it is a fine looking picture however I did notice some aliasing in parts but it is minor in an otherwise sharp detail levels. Colors tend to veer more toward the darker elements where there weren’t any obvious signs of pixilation or artifacts making for a nice and clean transfer.
AUDIO – 4.0/5
The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track is nothing fantastic but effective providing clear dialogue throughout but does falter somewhat with the surrounds which seem to be limited and not entirely resounding or depth-filled. Still, it’s a solid lossless track that does provide some life with John Debney’s limited score.
OVERALL – 3.0/5
Overall, while Stonehearst Asylum never quite reaches its full potential, the film does succeed with an admirable cast and fine performances from Jim Sturgess, Kate Beckinsale and, especially, Ben Kingsley who alone is well worth the time investment. The Blu-ray itself has good video/audio transfers but does falter with only one basic featurette.