The best thing I’ve seen so far during this Halloween season of creepy movies (other than a few really cracking episodes from the new season of Doctor Who) is last year’s Stonehearst Asylum. It teeters on the edge of silly, which only makes it better as far as I’m concerned: walking fine lines like that is something that I can respect.
In this more-or-less straightforward “lunatics take over the asylum” story, Ben Kingsley plays the self-elected Master of Stonehearst in the aftermath of an inmate revolt that leaves the real staff of the institution (led the great Michael Caine) chained up in the basement. The can of worms gets opened in a big way when a young Doctor (Jim Sturgess) arrives to begin a proposed internship, and promptly develops an attachment to one of the inmates (Kate Becksindale).
Of course there’s a twist, and it’s not the twist that occurred to me early on. The question of what decides sanity or insanity is addressed in a genuinely creepy and frightening atmosphere, and for a moment they almost allow you to believe that it’s not going to end well. Perhaps it would have gotten better reviews from the critics if it hadn’t ended well, but I’ve given up hoping for anything outside of the box to come from modern Hollywood. Within the confines of what Hollywood does and how it works today, Stonehearst Asylum is a strong entry for anyone’s Halloween viewing.
At long, long last I have finished watching Supernatural’s fourth season. It took me two years to get through it. I’ve written about it elsewhere on the site, but it bears repeating that the show is one of the great tragedies of cult TV. Season four proves with several really strong one-off stories that the show still had some considerable juice left in it… but by calling in God and the Angels and The Devil and The Apocalypse, creator Eric Kripke made the same mistake that Chris Carter made with The X-Files, and essentially forced the show off the rails before its time. Yes, I know that it’s still on the air and in its eleventh season, but simply reading the season synopses at Wikipedia is enough to prove to me that its writers are mining the Lunatic Fringe. Maybe there are some bible-thumpers out there in CW land who still like the thing. For me — this and The X-Files will always be notable for blown potential: they both started strong, sustained it for three seasons each and then immolated themselves on the bonfire of continuity.