Stonehearst Asylum (2014)

Foggy evening.
Slight rain.
Scary castle-like insane asylum.
We got us a setting, don't we?

Well, that is what welcomes the young psychology graduate (played by Jim Sturgess) when he comes to the institution to learn how to run one and be the doctor in charge. This particular asylum only has one doctor, and that is Sir Ben Kingsley of A Common Man fame. Ben is a strict doctor who has a very unique way of treating people that is properly summed up when they discuss the first patient they see together. The man in the room thinks he is a horse. When Jim asks Ben what he is doing to try to cure the man, Ben explains that there is no reason to make unhappy man out of a perfectly happy horse.

This movie is based on an Edgar Allen Poe story, "The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether." The story is much better than the movie, and it is a whole heck of a lot shorter. It's not uncommon for the book to be better than the movie, but this time in particular it is very much the case. I'm not sure that anyone can bring Poe to the big screen and do it justice. I recall watching The Raven with John Cusack, and that movie seriously sucked. The 2009 movie Tell Tale? Sucked. 2006's Fall of the House of Usher? Yup, you bet it sucked. Maybe Poe just can't be done on the big screen.

It's not as if they didn't throw talent at this movie. You have Jim and Ben (obviously they are good enough actors). Then, you have Kate Beckinsale, Michael Caine, and Brendan Gleeson. This is a lot of talent to use up in a movie that suffers from poor art direction and writing issues. The feel of the movie is a pantomime of itself. It's like we are watching a play of a story done on a movie screen, and it just doesn't work.

Matters are not helped by the actual direction. While the actors have enough talent to run this movie, it appears that they have all been told to act in virtually the same way - stoic repressed anger, repressed fear, and repressed affection. Each and every one of them acts the same way, and it appears that it was likely the result of a decision to heighten tensions, but it is more distracting than anything.

Direction was not good
Editing was okay
Story was okay
Writing was not great
Dialogue was weak

Bottom Line: I'm still waiting for some good Poe to be on screen during my lifetime.



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