14 May 2015

STONEHEARST ASYLUM


STONEHEARST ASYLUM

Alternate Title:
Eliza Graves

German Title:
Stonehearst Asylum - Diese Mauern wirst du nie verlassen

USA, 2014
Director: Brad Anderson

7/10





The last time I 'sang' these line on my blog was when I talked about "Dr. Tarr's Torture Dungeon", also known as "The Mansion of Madness", Juan López Moctezuma's rather bizarre, but somehow quite impressive adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe's "The System of Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether". Now that I have seen this movie, I get to 'sing' these lines again, because... yeah, "Stonehearst Asylum" is a brand-new adaptation of this often overlooked story *yay*


Based on a screenplay by Joe Gangemi ("Wind Chill"), prolific filmmaker Brad Anderson ("The Machinist", "The Call") created a dark and slightly macabre gothic horror-thriller, taking place in 1899, following medical school grad Edward Newgate who takes a position at the remote mental institution "Stonehearst Asylum" where the mentally ill get treated in an unexpectedly humane way. What Newgate doesn't know: there has been a recent, pretty terrifying staffing change...

"Stonehearst Asylum" sadly lacks the humor of its source material, as well as of the above-mentioned 1973 adaptation and S.F. Brownrigg's slightly similar "Don't Look in the Basement". Anderson's direction is solid as always, but... I don't now. I thought it's way more tentative than in his previous films, a direction style that perfectly fits movies like "Transiberian" or "Session 9", but doesn't quite fit here. He should have put some of the madness from "Dr. Tarr's Torture Dungeon" into it. Also, the ending... as bittersweet as it is, it's a tad too positive, too sappy,
at least for my taste.


Other than that, everything else is just marvellous. For almost 2 hours, Anderson leads us through beautifully designed and very well lit gothic settings and locations, past many, many likable characters wearing gorgeous costumes. There wasn't a moment of boredom or fatigue, thanks to the competent direction and the carefully composed screenplay. Kudos to Gangemi who tried and succeeded on turning the super-short story into a pretty epic thriller, full of love,
drama and eerieness.

Next to some superb music by John Debney ("Hocus Pocus", "Sin City") and the sublime cinematography by Tom Yatsko ("Fringe", "Gotham"), the cast is obviously the true highlight of the movie: Ben Kingsley a.k.a one of the greatest actors of all time as slightly "Shutter Island"-like asylum doctor, a surprisingly powerful performance by Kate Beckinsale as unobtrusive inmate, Jim Sturgess as love-struck medical graduate + veteran actors Michael Caine and Brendan Gleeson in fabulous minor roles.


"Stonehearst Asylum" is a suspenseful and entertaining gothic chiller, recommended to fans of everything Poe, as well as to every admirer of Anderson's work. Still, we have yet to see a "Dr. Tarr & Professor Fether" adaptation that gets it fully right. Well, I'm patient. I can wait. In the meantime, I just keep singing...


4 comments:

  1. What could I want more than a Gothic horror story in an insane asylum? Sounds awesome! :)

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    Replies
    1. I have a feeling this movie was made especially for you :)

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  2. Doesn't sound like there's lots of gore, so I could probably watch this one. And I love Kingsley. And beautifully designed Gothic settings and great costumes. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're right. Hardly any gore, way more tension, suspense and atmosphere. You'll love it - enjoy! :)

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