Monday, July 9, 2012

Movie Review: John Carpenter's The Ward

 The Ward was, in one word, bland.

 I love John Carpenter's work, but that doesn't mean that everything the man does is great.  Take Prince of Darkness, for example.  Conceptually, it was a cool film, but perhaps the concept was simply too large for a 2-hour horror flic, or that the technology of the time lacked the sophistication to do the concept justice.  Prince of Darkness I can make some excuses for.  The Ward just seemed like a project that Mr. Carpenter simply phoned-in.

 Kristen is a troubled girl.  She was caught burning down a farmhouse in 1966, and sent to a home for other troubled girls.  She is placed in the North Bend Psychiatric Hospital, in Oregon, to be treated by Dr. Gerald Stringer.  Her housemates include four other girls; Emily, Zoey, Iris, and Sarah.  They are watched-over by a tough-as-nails staff.  The year is 1966.

 Kristen is convinced that she is not insane and that she has wrongfully been placed in an asylum, despite her brief jaunt into pyromania and the fact that she seems to be seeing things.  Kristen sees a ghost of another girl in the shadows and corners of the asylum, and is even assaulted by said ghost while showering.  The staff want nothing more than to keep her strapped down and doped to the gills, and only Dr. Stringer seems willing to tolerate her escape attempts, violent outbursts, and her bad influence on her fellow inmates.

 To make matters worse, it seems that she is not the only one seeing the ghost, and that this specter is killing off the inmates one model-perfect girl at a time.  Will Kristen and her fellow female friends solve the mystery of the ward in time, or will the ghoulish ghost kill them all before it is too late?

 Okay.  The film was well shot.  The set appears to be an asylum, albeit an asylum with a very lax set of security protocols.  The tools all appear to be of the period, although I am no expert.  The girls, however, definitely are not.  Only Iris has a Betty Page-style hair-do, the rest have modern hair, make-up, and clothes.  It is hard to be convinced that this is a period-piece when all the girls seem to have stepped right out of a 2010 fashion magazine.  

 The other problem is that you know what is going to happen within really the first 15 minutes of the film.  I won't give it away, but the story definitely does.  While this was no doubt meant to be foreshadowing for the reveal at the end, it was heavy-handed.  I would have preferred that the ghost was revealed to be the doctor in drag and not who it ended up being.  

 And, of course, we had a scene were a nipple, or rather about 10 nipples, should have made an appearance, but it didn't.  I know it's puerile and boorish, but it also reminds me that I am watching a film instead of engaging me in the story. 

 Bottom line: see The Ward only if your a fan of John Carpenter's work and want to be able to say you have seen it all.

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