2014 / Director. Brad Anderson.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
I have been fascinated with director Brad Anderson ever since I saw his incredible breakthrough film SESSION 9, which was about an abandoned mental asylum. He had previously made two other films but neither resonated. He then made THE MACHINIST, which really put him on the map and established him as a big-game player with a huge future in front of him. His work since has been hit & miss and his edgy reputation took a hit. Such films include TRANSSIBERIAN, THE VANISHING ON 7TH STREET and THE CALL (as well as a heap of tv work). His latest film sees him return to the lunatic asylum with an impressive star-studded cast including Kate Beckinsale, Michael Caine, Brendan Gleeson, Ben Kingsley, David Thewlis and Jim Sturgess. STONEHEARST ASYLUM is a dramatic thriller based on a novel by Edgar Allen Poe. Set in a remote, mountainous sanitarium it follows a young medical grad who arrives to observe the staff and their methods. Ben Kingsley plays the superintendent who takes the rookie doctor under his wing and demonstrates the new and unconventional treatments that he's been experimenting with. When one of the patients (Beckinsale) urges the young doctor to leave it becomes apparent that something more sinister is going on and leaving is not an option. The plot thickens and the story takes all kinds of twists and turns and keeps the viewer on their toes. At times predictable, the film then throws new unexpected revelations at the audience and proves to be a well orchestrated mystery. STONEHEARST ASYLUM is an atmospheric and beautifully gothic period piece with a nicely paced script that is careful not to trip itself up in the detail. With a complex set of events unfolding throughout the film, Anderson is careful in presenting his revelations. I fell victim to his tricks early on when I became complacent and predicted a few of the twists... but I suspect that's precisely what he wanted from the viewer. The film's biggest letdown is definitely its marketing. There are a lot of spoilers in the press releases and key art, which were obviously decisions made at a distribution level. Audiences will get more out of STONEHEARST ASYLUM if they go into it blindly, as I did. To research it beforehand would be to diminish your own experience. Certain spoilers would be the difference between enjoying the film and loathing it. You decide.