Stonehearst Asylum

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Stonehearst Asylum Movie Poster Image
Atmospheric, slightly disturbing adaptation of Poe story.
  • PG-13
  • 2014
  • 112 minutes

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 3 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Shows how far kindness and patience can go, although there's more than a little deception and trickery mixed up with them. Otherwise, characters merely wish to assert power over one another.

Positive Role Models & Representations

One character appears to be selfless and helpful, and he is, to some extent, but there's some deception involved with his motivations.


A woman has a disturbing hysterical fit. A man hurls himself off a cliff. Dead bodies are shown. Characters fight and try to strangle one another. Knives and guns are drawn. A man is buried in a coal bin. Broken bottles are used as weapons. Characters catch on fire. Disturbing images of an asylum, with strange behavior, diseased and damaged patients, and general misery. "Cures" include electroshock therapy, water torture, and "nausea machines." In a flashback, many characters are shot and killed. Descriptions of violent events, a woman biting a man's ear off, a man killing a woman with a hammer.


A female patient seduces a male guard, allowing him to kiss her and then kissing him back. A man pats a nurse on her bottom. Some flirting and affection between the male and female leads. Drawings of a woman's anatomy on a chalkboard in the background of a classroom. "Chronic masturbation" is mentioned.


"Shite" (English pronunciation) and "fecking" (English pronunciation) are used. "Jesus, Mary & Joseph" is used as an exclamation. Obscene finger gestures.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A sick character is said to have been given "four grains of heroin." Some characters drink in a casual, social way. (Some drinks are spiked with knockout drugs.) Characters smoke cigars in a casual way.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Stonehearst Asylum is a thriller based on the Edgar Allan Poe story "The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether." Violence isn't particularly gory or extreme, but the movie does have some disturbing images of the inside of an asylum, as well as some fighting, death, weapons, and extreme "cures" (including water torture and a "nausea machine"). A female patient seduces a guard with kisses, and the moment leads to violence. There's some general flirting and affection between the male and female leads. Set in 1899, the language is archaic and includes the English affectations of "shite" and "fecking." Characters drink and smoke cigars in a background way, and knockout drugs ("Mickey Finns") are used in alcoholic beverages. Heroin is mentioned as medicine for hysteria. The movie is OK for stalwart teens, though horror hounds will be disappointed by the lack of gore; this movie is more about atmosphere and ideas than screams.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byvictorianmermaid August 6, 2015

Loved it

I love things like this but it's not for everyone. There is a lot of violence and discussion about sexual activity. For mature teens, which a love for cree... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written bySpideyxMarais March 17, 2020
I really thought this movie was amazing, and I wish it was more popular. It's not so much scary as disturbing. It just made me sad for all the people in as... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written bySlendyDaMan June 12, 2016

Really good movie

This movie isn't really all that scary. Yes, some sexual references. Yes some language, including F***. Some images however, can be quite disturbing to som... Continue reading

What's the story?

In the year 1899, Edward Newgate (Jim Sturgess) arrives at the remote STONEHEARST ASYLUM, hoping to become a resident doctor. He meets superintendent Silas Lamb (Ben Kingsley) and his thuggish right-hand man (David Thewlis), as well as beautiful inmate Eliza Graves (Kate Beckinsale), who has "hysteria." Newgate has a gentle way with the patients and gets on well, but he begins to discover that something strange is afoot. He finds a dungeon full of people, one of whom claims to be Dr. Salt (Michael Caine), the true superintendent of the facility. Newgate begins to concoct an elaborate escape plan, but who in this place can be trusted?

Is it any good?

Brad Anderson (Happy Accidents, The Call) is one of our most reliable genre filmmakers; he rarely makes anything great, but, likewise, he rarely makes anything truly bad. Adapting the Edgar Allan Poe story "The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether" with screenwriter Joe Gangemi, Anderson creates an immersive universe in the beautifully designed asylum. It's much like the modern-day asylum in his terrific Session 9 (2001), a three-dimensional space with a grim, sinister personality of its own.

All of the performers, including Brendan Gleeson in an small but crucial role, seem to be having a great time savoring the tricks and treats hidden within their characters. Anderson clearly takes delight in all the proceedings, which is one of the reasons his films feel fresh instead of lazy. The story's twists may not be all that opaque, and many genre fans could feel disappointed at being able to figure out what's going to happen, but that discredits the overall fun that can be had at Stonehearst Asylum.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Stonehearst Asylum's violence. How gory is it? How disturbing is it? Can a movie be disturbing without being gory? What's the difference?

  • Is the movie scary? How is it different or similar to other horror movies you may have seen?

  • How does the movie differ from Poe's story? Did the changes make for a more interesting movie? How would you have told the story?

  • What does it mean that the asylum itself is a character in the story? How can a place be a character?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love thrills

Themes & Topics

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