Co-directed by and starring James Franco, THE INSTITUTE (2017) takes an intriguing premise and some great elements and waters them down until they’re pretty much drowned.
In Baltimore in 1893, Isabel Porter (Allie Gallerani, who does a lot with what she’s given), an upper-class woman suffering bouts of melancholy after her parents die, commits herself to the Rosewood Institute, run by the brilliant Dr. Cairn (Franco, who shines in the role). She is hoping to take a break from the pressures of high society and just be herself for a while. Dr. Cairn challenges her to go further, much further, in liberating herself and coming into possession of her own will. She agrees, leading to brainwashing for a far more nefarious purpose involving a secret society.
Cool set up for a horror thriller, right? Titillating stuff with lots of promise, but the heavy-handed direction, convoluted script, over-reliance on tired tropes, and overall silliness keep it from going anywhere. I have to give this one a C-.