Eliza Graves aka Stonehearst Asylum (2014)

(On Cable TV, April 2016) There isn’t much in Stonehearst Asylum that’s startlingly new, but the result is well executed enough to make anyone wonder why the film hasn’t received more attention. As is usual with nearly all movies revolving around an asylum, the question of who’s sane and who isn’t weighs heavily on the plot—and seeing Ben Kingsley in a role similar to the one he played in Shutter Island doesn’t do this film any favour. There is a bit of a plodding rhythm to the movie, with a second half that seems a bit empty once the film’s Big Revelation is explained a third of the way through. (There is another Big Revelation toward the end, but it feels almost meaningless.) Still, what makes Stonehearst Asylum so interesting as an unassuming late-night cable-TV discovery is polish and atmosphere. The surprisingly good cast helps: Alongside an always-effective Kingsley, we get Michael Caine in a smaller part than expected, Kate Beckinsale looking pleasantly glamorous despite being in an asylum, David Thewlis playing the heavy and Jim Sturgess as the everyman protagonist doing his best to avoid overshadowing nearly everyone else. The 1899/1900 period setting is effectively rendered by Brad Anderson’s direction, the Victorian-era asylums offering plenty of opportunities for atmospheric visuals. The cinematography is clean and crisp, adding to the visual polish of a thriller than may not be exceptionally thrilling, but certainly has an appeal of its own. It wouldn’t be helpful to expect too much from Stonehearst Asylum: The film runs on low-grade thrills compared to some similar movies. But it plays much better than expected from a film that was a commercial failure and practically went straight to video.

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