Return of 31 Days of Our Favorite Horror: Stonehearst Asylum

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Stonehearst Asylum  (2014)  Dir. Brad Anderson

This flick snuck up on me, and based on my enjoyment of director Brad Anderson’s other works, I kind of enjoyed this movie. For some, it was a little disappointing, and I can see that. I was expecting something more supernatural in nature, but when it all plays out, I was rather satisfied.

From the first scene involving the arrival of new doctor, Dr. Newgate, there is a sense of oddity and curiosity that caught me. I mean, one of the patients was being treated for “female hysteria,” which is when a woman becomes emotional, for whatever reason possible. If a woman showed any emotions other than lust or subservience, it was met with “oh, just masturbate or have a strange man bring you to climax and you’ll be fine.” At least that’s what this movie and Alan Parker’s The Road to Wellville taught me. Kate Beckinsale plays Eliza, the female patient being treated for said hysteria.

Eliza soon becomes the object of affection, near obsession for the new Dr. Newgate, who spends too much time under the tutelage of Ben Kingsley’s Dr. Silas Lamb. Dr. Lamb is effectively the main guy in charge and gives Newgate the 411 on how things run at Stonehearst, which includes employing murderers and thieves as “handlers” for the inmates, er, patients.

I don’t want to give too much away about the plot, but one key scene pretty much spells out what is really happening and what needs to happen. Once that part of the story kicks into high gear, the rest is rather riveting and unnerving as the story begins to unfold in ways that still managed to surprise me.

This film does not have the jump scares that many asylum/sanitorium-based films intentionally play towards, but there are some genuinely unnerving moments, one exampling being a meeting between Newgate and Lamb. Jim Sturgess plays Dr. Newgate with aplomb and gives a rather affecting performance as an idealistic doctor turned “revolutionary” against the power structure constructed by Dr. Lamb. Newgate’s main motivation is to help Eliza escape her unjust incarceration in Stonehearst. Again, this is not a typical horror title, it is more of a slow burn psychological thriller akin to Scorsese’s Shutter Island that had some reveals and twists that I found quite satisfying after all the fires were put out.

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