Based on Edgar Allen Poe’s short story, entitled The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether – Stonehearst Asylum stars Kate Beckinsale, Jim Sturgess, Sir Ben Kingsley, Michael Caine, Brendan Gleeson, and David Thewlis, amongst other familiar faces. With such a stellar cast, as well as a strong concept – a doctor arrives at a lunatic asylum, only to find the lunatics are running it – you’d think that Stonehearst Asylum had all the makings of a hit.
Yet, many will struggle to see the film in an actual theatre, as it heads straight onto VOD. It’s easy to see why this is the case – Stonehearst Asylum does feel more at home on a smaller screen, and despite it’s excellent cast, is strictly b-movie material. In this instance, I actually say that with fondness, as Stonehearst Asylum is so bonkers, and so fun, that it reminded me of some of the most ridiculous, yet enjoyable bottom-shelvers, that I used to watch growing up.
The cast are actually all great, and seem to relish the chance to play a little. There’s enough going on conceptually to keep you intrigued, as well as some moments of tension, which at least make the film a little worth while. What holds Stonehearst Aslyum back from being something special though, is the underbaked, weak love story that is at the centre of it.
Formerly entitled Eliza Graves – referring to Beckinsale’s lead character and love interest – I get the impression that the change in title may be as a reaction to the poorly written love story between Graves and Doctor Newgate. For all of the good in the film, at the centre of it is this love-at-first-sight-romance, that just doesn’t work and drags proceedings to a halt. Yes, there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to their relationship, but the final ‘twist’ is awful, and seems to have been thrown in for the sake of it.
If you can get past the dreadful romantic plot though – and I could – then Stonehearst Asylum is surprisingly entertaining. Don’t get me wrong, it is rubbish, but good rubbish.
Stonehearst Asylum is available on demand, and is in select theatres now.
Image credit to http://www.impawards.com