If you’ve ever taken a course in psychology, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of Professor Philip Zimbardo’s infamous Stanford Prison Experiment. In 1971, the professor and a team of research assistants took 24 male students and assigned them roles as prison guards or prisoners in a simulated prison. Within days, the participants adapted to their roles well beyond all expectations. There were instances of torture and psychological abuse filmed during the simulation, which was discontinued after less than a week.

Given a supportive structure and ideology, the participants were willing to commit atrocious acts of violence without hesitation. It’s a story of the darker side of human nature and our role in society. The horror of the experiment and its implications is the basis of its latest film adaptation: Kyle Patrick Alvarez’s The Stanford Prison Experiment. Check out the official trailer above.

The trailer succeeds in building the tension inherent in the film’s premise, showcasing specifically the guards as they break from reality. All the while they’re watched by Billy Crudup’s Professor Zimbardo, who has become just as much a part of the experiment as the boys he’s observing. Ezra Miller, the actor set to portray the Flash in DC’s upcoming film slate, stars as Prisoner 8612, the focal point for the emotional trauma in the film.

The film premiered at Sundance earlier this year, winning both the Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize and the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award. It was picked up almost immediately for distribution by IFC Films and is planned for a theatrical release next month.

Stanford Prison Experiment trailer The Stanford Prison Experiment Trailer: The Dark Side of Psychology

Though there have been previous film adaptations of the Stanford Prison Experiment, including The Experiment starring Adrien Brody and Forest Whitaker, the upcoming film seems to remain closest to the source material. Scenes in the trailer mirror those depicted in the documentary Quiet Rage: The Stanford Prison Experiment.

It’s a smart choice for Alvarez and screenwriter Tim Talbott to remain true to the original experiment as it helps to differentiate their film from those that came before. It adds a sense of authenticity that will make the film all the more disturbing to the audience. Events as they took place in 1971 are the definition of psychological horror and the adaptation promises to harness that darkness.

The Stanford Prison Experiment opens in theaters on July 17th.

Source: IFC Films

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