Hi again, ghosts and ghouls! Taylor Terrible here, back with another review. Today, we'll be reviewing THE INSTITUTE.
I want to preface this review by saying that to an extent, this film is based on true events surrounding The Rosewood Center of Baltimore, Maryland in which the upper class were adopting mentally disabled girls, women and boys, and turning them into slaves, essentially turning the center into a human trafficking scheme. That's a horror story in itself, however, THE INSTITUTE tells a more fabricated story, which is nonetheless also terrifying. It will probably make your blood boil and it genuinely made me sick to my stomach.
There are few things more horrifying than a horror film that hits close to home. I'm going to get personal with you all, and let you all know that about six years ago now, I was diagnosed with depression and an anxiety disorder. It hit me hard that there was something going on mentally that to an extent, I was not in control of. Emotionally, I am very hard to handle. A lot of the time, I have what I call blackout spells where my emotions get the best of me and I lose memory of certain situations because it's my mind's way of dealing with extreme stress. I've self-harmed. I've gotten close to suicide. To this day, I wake up knowing that I should not feel ashamed of who I am and what I can handle mentally, but in today's society, it's hard not to feel like an outcast when you're anything short of perfect.
With that being said, as you all know, I typically don't do any research on films before I review them in hopes of going in completely unbiased. I don't like to know the synopsis of a film because I tend to gravitate towards certain subgenres, so I knew absolutely nothing about this film other than that James Franco was in it (and who doesn't wanna look at that face for two hours?!). I almost wish I would have looked into it a little further because I would have liked to know what I was getting myself into, but in a way I'm glad I didn't. I was able to attach a little more than I normally would.
THE INSTITUTE tells the story of Isabel Porter who opts to check herself into Rosewood with permission from her brother after the tragic death of their parents. Her doctor says she has character flaws that paired with the grief, has caused her to come depressed and stressed. Rosewood prides itself on being a place of rest, relaxation, and rehabilitation, so it seems like the most perfect place for her.
But Rosewood holds a dark secret of a cult within its walls, and all of the girls that check themselves in are just pawns in a crazy doctor's performance." Their medication is less than legit, and the mind games that slowly break them down are downright horrifying.
Allie Gallerani is fantastic as Isabel, the unsuspecting and timid young girl who is just trying to get some TLC. She ends up turning out to be way more than she is in the beginning of the film, and it's really fund to watch her progression as a character. I hope to see her in more credits soon, as she's versatile and able to take on just about any role (within a role...actor-ception...just watch the movie) and does so with grace, poise, and a little bit of crazy.
James Franco is also brilliant; I think I'm biased because he's quirky and fun and I typically enjoy just about anything he's a part of...and he's also in a Hulu series based on one of my favorite Stephen King novels (11.22.63 anyone??). However his roles as the manipulative Dr. Cairn, director, and executive producer on this film are pretty impressive. Not only is the character strangely charming (I think it's the mustache), but the film itself is well-made, well-casted, and overall incredibly enjoyable, while also being a total downer and making you incredibly depressed. Good job, Mr. Franco - I felt all the feels.
It's definitely a little bit on the slow side at the beginning as you being to acclimate yourself with the situation surrounding Rosewood, however about 30 minutes in is where it begins to pick up and you find yourself connecting with some of the characters and start becoming familiar with the weirdness. I'm not typically one to enjoy a slow-moving film which this was for a time, but I understand the logic behind it. I'm also not one to enjoy a non-paranormal film about a mental institution, but this one exceeded my expectations without a hint of paranormal, zombie, ghost, slasher cliches.
Look into this film next time you want to feel a little bit sad, but also liberated, but also confused, but also elated and rooting for your main girl. I'll definitely be giving this film another watch to make sure I thoroughly understood everything - I also want to do some more research about the actual disaster surrounding the real Rosewood before watching this over again.
Until next time, ghosts and ghouls,
Stay spooky! And don't drink what the doctor gives you!