’10 Days in a Madhouse’ Is Just a Terrible Movie

Nellie Bly Movie

Let me start here – I really wanted to like this movie.

As an adult woman from Pittsburgh living with mental illness, I have mad respect (see what I did there?) for Nellie Bly and I hoped that this movie version of her investigation into the mental health system of her day would contribute a necessary layer of understanding to the current dialogue.

It doesn’t. It is really a terrible little film that could almost be a parody, except that is not. The acting is amateurish and forced. The dialogue is stilted. The sets are cheap and the entire film is loaded with cliches. Reference to filth – cue camera aside to a RAT running across a perfectly clean concrete floor. It took all my self-control to finish watching the movie simply because I felt very angry that this rich material was treated so badly by the filmmakers.  Here’s the skinny:

The story of Nellie Bly, a pioneering female journalist and investigative reporter, has been translated into a feature film. 10 Days in a Madhouse (the screenplay is adapted from her book Ten Days in a Mad-House, which was a collection of her news articles) debuted nationwide on Nov. 20.

Bly–played by newcomer Caroline Barry–was just 23 in 1887 when she landed a job at the New York World and immediately set out to go undercover at a notoriously abusive women’s insane asylum at Blackwell’s Island mental hospital in New York. Instead of working with hospital personnel or insiders to gain access, she decided to convince the authorities that she was insane, and she was admitted into the wing as a patient, not a reporter. In a series of articles for the New York World, she exposed abuse, mistreatment, injustices, and corruption.

Director Timothy Hines cites his mother as his inspiration, saying that one of her heroes was Nellie Bly, and he thought her story needed to be told, as her story tackles both oppression against women and the strength and success of a woman who stood up to the system.

The positive thing that came from this movie is the motivation to check the original book from the my local library. That’s it. There’s no useful context of the individual stories who were terrorized and abused by this system. It wasn’t even funny-bad because I’m uber aware of how often we mock all of these issues.

There are so many talented indie actors and amateur actors that I have zero clue why this film picked so many absolutely clueless people to pretend to be insane. With horrible accents.

Read the book. Learn more about Bly. But don’t waste your time on this movie.

Here’s the preview for a taste of the terrible.


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  • Hello, Sue.

    Your review is only one of two honest ones since the movie was released – see http://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2015/11/10-days-in-a-madhouse.html

    The bottom line is no matter how important the subject matter is – if you can’t do it properly then don’t do it. IMDB claims this was made for $12 million. After watching the trailer and a scene with Kelle LeBrock I have to agree with you. I don’t need to see the rest but there is a morbid curiosity to watch it anyway.

      • Thank you for writing this! It makes me so happy to see another honest review of this terrible movie! I’ve been following the movie on Instagram and every time they boast about a positive review I am deeply suspicious and suspect these “reviews” to be advertorials, if that would be the correct term. I agree that one positive outcome is getting people aware of and interested in Nellie Bly’s story. As if the quality of the film wasn’t bad enough, I find the lack of historical integrity offensive (as a history nerd this just kills me). I also agree that the film neglects the deeper issues. And thank you, David Baker, for reading and referencing my review!

        • Dear Sharon,

          You are correct about most reviews being “advertorials”. Most of them are posted as press releases on virtually unknown websites that praise the movie and always have the company’s contact information at the bottom of the page. The latest “review” from the NY Times is just a plot summary but their latest Facebook post tries to pass it off as a review since it states, “The stunning, true story of journalist Nellie Bly’s now-legendary undercover stint in a mental hospital in 1887. This dramatic biopic follows a 23-year-old Bly…” It mention NOTHING about the actual movie itself – just the what it’s about. Even the review from Ms.Magazine points out the flaws but, as the producer and director always say, it’s excusable because it’s a low-budget production up against the big Hollywood machine that doesn’t cast enough strong female roles. Very misleading.

          David Baker

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