Saturated in a penny dreadful aesthetic, Stonehearst Asylum teeters on the edge of camp horror hijinks, yet thanks to the troop of British thesps that make up the cast it remains a robust and enjoyable horror-cum-thriller. It riffs on the concept of the Victorian madhouse, and the moments that find Michael Caine's grizzled Benjamin Salt, the true custodian of the mental institute, vying off against Kingsley's mad-as-a-sack-of-snakes Lamb are incredibly enjoyable. As is Kate Beckinsale as the piano-playing inmate, Eliza Graves, who was committed to the asylum by her father when she bit off the ear of her abusive husband. Beckinsale's character provides the love interest of the story, where her fluttering eyes and dainty piano hands catch the attention of the good Doctor, Newgate, who from the very off is beguiled by her womanly charms. The supporting cast equally elevates the film, which stays true to the cause retaining the atmosphere of Poe's original text. Particularly enjoyable is Sophie Kennedy Clark as the sex-crazed nurse, Millie, and Thewlis as Finn, a role her clearly relished. It is an odd time of year for the film to be released, and the sunshine outside dulls the chilling atmosphere, which would have been better suited to a Halloween release. Nonetheless, Stonehearst Asylum, is a strikingly well performed, enjoyable - albeit a little old fashioned - penny dreadful that sends shivers down your spine.
Joe Walsh | @JosephDAWalsh