Saturday, 4 June 2011

The Ward (2010) - John Carpenter

Well the good news is this isn't a disaster. However the less good news is this isn't anywhere near as good as a John Carpenter film should be. It's sad to think that the guy behind such gems as Prince of Darkness, The Thing, Halloween and Assault on Precinct 13, hadn't made a film for nine years, with his last decent one being over fifteen years ago. So you'd expect the script that dragged him away from watching basketball would have to be a real corker wouldn't you? Think again though, the story itself is kind of lacklustre, couple that with what feels like a director on autopilot and you have a fairly mediocre set up. Of course Carpenter can still make an audience spill it's popcorn, but as any fool knows there is more to horror than simple scares. Which brings us back to the story…

The Ward is set in the mid 60's and takes place in an insane asylum in Nowheresville USA. It's that old chestnut about a group of people killing someone, only to have them come back Candyman/Freddy Krueger style to bump them off one by one. Or is it? Well yes and no, you see it probably was that until someone saw Shutter Island and had a brainwave how they could make this average script so much better. Yawn.

The cast are okay, no great shakes, but then you don't have to be when you're in a horror flick do you? As I said JC manages to make you jump and there are shots that remind me of The Thing, just short low angle static shots of empty hallways. In fact I'd say it's not a bad looking film, and moves along at an alright pace, it's not edited in the ADHD style that most movies in this genre are now either. So that's two plus points to the old fella, then there's the fact that it's classic Carpenter inasmuch as it takes place in one location. So why doesn't it work then? Well for starters it's the fact that after you've watched it, invested your 88 minutes in trying to work out just what the hell is going on, you're going to feel cheated by the ending. It's all a bit cheesy. Then there is the fact that you get the feeling JC's heart wasn't really in it. This is a guy that can scare the bejesus out of an audience by just cutting to a close up of a door handle turning at the right moment. There are no sub plots, so the whole film rests upon the fact that the audience buys the one idea that the writer had. Ho hum. Then there's the fact that the cast don't look in the slightest bit sixties, let alone the nutjobs that they're supposed to be.

Now you can't write about a Carpenter film without mentioning the music, well sadly it's not by Carpenter himself, and it turns out to be fairly average anyway. The musical highlight was the nod to One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest which was nice. So anyway let's sum this up and get out of here. Fans of the old boy are going to see this anyway, other than that I can't see this finding an audience. Which is sad since I want Carpenter to make more films, and I don't want to have to wait another nine years either. Hopefully he'll find his muse again like Romero has in the last decade. Don't hold your breath though.

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