Kate Beckinsale Mystery Thriller Hated By Critics And Audiences Deserves A Second Chance

By Nikola Pajtic | Published

Stonehearst Asylum

Capturing the core of a short story and translating that into a full-length feature can be quite a challenge. Especially when that story comes from the mind of Edgar Allan Poe, the master of the macabre, and terrifying tales. Stonehearst Asylum, loosely based on Poe’s short story, “The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether,” is a film that tries to capture Poe’s magic. 

It Deserves A Second Viewing

Stonehearst Asylum

While it wasn’t exactly a critical and commercial success upon release, there is something about this gothic thriller that deserves a second look, especially for fans of Kate Beckinsale. However, I found myself enjoying the Stonehearst Asylum’s gothic atmosphere. 

The Cast

Stonehearst Asylum boasts a stellar cast. Kate Beckinsale takes the center as Eliza Graves, an enigmatic young woman, and a patient at the asylum. Assuming both a troubled and lucid look on her face and actions, a cloud of mystery surrounds her and her true identity. 

Next to Beckinsale is Jim Sturgess who portrays Dr. Edward Newgate, a young and idealistic doctor who arrives at Stonehearst Asylum eager to learn new methods. 

Ben Kingsley is at the helm of the asylum in the role of Dr. Silas, who uses unorthodox methods to treat the mentally ill, including encouraging delusions, believing it brings them happiness. For me, Kingsley is the film’s star, successfully incorporating his character’s backstory.

Moreover, you will also be treated with the acting chops of one and only Michael Caine and Brendan Gleeson. 

The Story

The premise of the film is rather simple and seen numerous times before. It simply reads “An Oxford graduate (Jim Sturgess) takes up a job in a mental asylum, only to discover that the “revolutionary” new treatments are inhumane and that there is more going on than meets the eye.

The film will quickly lure you into the darker secrets of the Stonehearst Asylum. It then drags down Dr. Newgate into a moral dilemma leaving him shocked for the better part of the film. 

The People Behind The Cameras

Stonehearst Asylum

This Gothic film was directed by Brad Anderson, the director behind such masterpieces as Session 9 and The Machinist, and the screenplay was adapted by Joseph Gangemi. 

How could a film with such talented people and an intriguing premise fall short with critics and audiences? 

The Reception

While some viewers felt the film’s pacing dragged in the middle sections, leaving them wanting more from the interaction between Beckinsale and Sturgess, I was focused on the thriller mystery of the Stonehearst Asylum.

However, if you are looking for a mid-film romance you won’t find it here. We see and feel how infatuated Dr. Newgate becomes with Lady Graves, but we are deprived of any kind of on-screen chemistry.

With Newgate’s infatuation turning into obsession he fails to make anything that counts towards a plausible romance, which only adds weight to the dull pacing.

A Good Movie, Regardless Of The Criticisms

Despite the pacing issues and underdeveloped romance, Stonehearst Asylum offers a hauntingly beautiful atmosphere and a twist ending that stays with you long after the credits roll.  For fans of gothic mysteries and unexpected twists, Stonehearst Asylum is a film worth revisiting on streaming platforms, where viewers can appreciate its flaws and its unique take on Poe’s macabre world.

I believe Stonehearst Asylum redeems itself with the last section as the final scene revelation makes up for everything that made you not like it. There is no point blaming Michael Caine or Kate Beckinsale, they did great with that they had to work with. 

The script at times feels empty, as most of the characters could have been further explored, but the esoteric and surrealistic beauty of madmen dancing and enjoying all their delusions is well worth rewatching this macabre tale. 

Stream It Now

Stonehearst Asylum

Think of a slow burn as a foreshadowing of a grandeur ending that will keep you on your toes. You can stream it now on Amazon, Peacock, Roku Channel, and Kanopy among others. Just like a classic Poe tale, the final scene throws everything you thought you knew into question, leaving you wanting to piece together the puzzle. Who is the true antagonist of Stonehearst Asylum?