Friday, September 17, 2010

John Carpenter's The Ward

John Carpenter's The Ward screens at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sunday September 19th at 12:15pm at Scotiabank 1.

I'm glad that there is no trailer available for this film yet. You should also be glad if you really want to see this film. The Ward (I refuse to call it John Carpenter's The Ward simply because other than directing, Carpenter has NOTHING to do with the film, unlike every great film he has made) is a film that works best if seen cold. Because if I showed you any clips of this film, you wouldn't want to see it. I saw the movie cold and in hindsight I wish I hadn't seen it. So rarely has the term "career nadir" held so much weight. But hey, on the bright side, it's Carpenter's best film since Ghosts of Mars.

The Ward opens on a young woman named Kristen (Amber Heard) watching a house she just set on fire burn to the ground in the late 1960s. For this, Kristen is remanded to a mental hospital and placed under the care of Dr. Stringer (Jared Harris). Dr. Stringer is apparently trying new forms of therapy on his patients, but we never really see anything new or cutting edge. It's really just everything you would see in a litany of other better films taking place in mental institutions. Luckily for us the one orderly who seems to work there (D.R. Anderson, who really has the only character I marginally thought was less annoying than the rest) isn't a pedophile or a rapist. Thankfully, the film has already provided us with a Nurse Ratchet character to make up for this gross oversight.

Naturally, the mental hospital is filled with other quirky (read: annoying and sterotypical to the point of offensiveness) characters, all of whom are haunted by the memory of a young woman named Alice who mysteriously disappeared and now appears to be haunting and killing the patients. The staff at the hospital somehow could care less that patients are disturbed by the same thing happening or that patients are dying. Kristen, naturally, seems to be the only crazy person sane enough to stop the madness.

The Ward is beyond fucking stupid. Not once is this rote genre piece ever exciting or engaging. It is PG rated (I'm not even joking about this) horror that wouldn't have any scares if it didn't crib from the litany of J-horror scares it manages to poach for its story. I would have fallen asleep out of sheer apathy if it wasn't for the fact that there is a pointless jump scare every five minutes that is punctuated by an ear shatteringly loud musical sting.

Carpenter is just a hired gun here, and other than showcasing some good technical abilities, it is a soulless film. It felt about as exciting as watching a clock, and given the advancements in clock technology these days watching the mechanics of a good clock seems far more interesting.

Then there is the matter of the ending. If you can't figure out the big twist ending to this film, you probably haven't watched any horror films in the last ten years. I am so tempted to spoil it, just to ensure that you don't want to see this film, but let me just end by saying two things. First, that it is quickly becoming one of the oldest tricks in the book, and second, that it never works. If you really want spoiler clues, just look in the tags section.

Rating (out of 4 stars): *

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