Combustible Celluloid
 
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With: Kate Beckinsale, Jim Sturgess, Ben Kingsley, Michael Caine, Brendan Gleeson, David Thewlis, Jason Flemyng, Sinéad Cusack, Sophie Kennedy Clark, Guillaume Delaunay, Edmund Kingsley, Christopher Fulford
Written by: Joe Gangemi, based on a short story by Edgar Allan Poe
Directed by: Brad Anderson
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for disturbing and violent images, sexual content and language
Running Time: 112
Date: 10/24/2014
IMDB

Stonehearst Asylum (2014)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Bonfire of Insanities

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

At the moment, Brad Anderson (Transsiberian, The Call) is one of our most reliable genre filmmakers, he rarely makes anything great, but likewise, he rarely makes anything bad. Adapting the Edgar Allan Poe story The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether with screenwriter Joe Gangemi, Anderson creates an immersive universe with the beautifully designed asylum. It's much like his modern-day asylum in his terrific Session 9 (2001), a three-dimensional space with a grim, sinister personality of its own.

In the year 1899, Edward Newgate (Jim Sturgess) arrives at the remote Stonehearst Asylum, hoping to become a resident doctor there. He meets superintendent Silas Lamb (Ben Kingsley) and his thuggish right-hand man (David Thewlis) as well as beautiful inmate Eliza Graves (Kate Beckinsale), who has the "hysteria." Newgate has a gentle way with the patients and gets on well, but he begins to discover that something strange is afoot. He finds a dungeon full of people, and one prisoner claims to be Dr. Salt (Michael Caine), the true superintendent of the facility. He begins to concoct an elaborate escape plan, but who in this place can be trusted? Can anyone?

All of the performers, including Brendan Gleeson in a few crucial early scenes, seem to be having a great time savoring the tricks and treats hidden within their characters. Anderson clearly takes delight in all the proceedings, which is one of the reasons his films feel fresh and not lazy. The story's twists may not be all that opaque, and many genre fans may feel disappointed at being able to figure out what's going to happen, but that discredits the overall fun that can be had.

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