Sunday, November 13, 2011

THE WARD (2011) - Review

"The Ward" is John Carpenter's first feature film since 2001's "Ghosts of Mars", a movie that wasn't exactly a reinvention of the director's career, but it was great B fun. After all, the B-flavour was one of Carpenter's specialities, polishing it and bringing it into the mainstream with movies like "Assault on Precint 13", "Escape from New York" and "The Thing". If you're going into "The Ward" expecting that rough exploitation quality, you're in for a big surprise.

This recent piece of Carpenter cinema follows Kristen (Amber Heard) a young fugitive arrested after burning down a house and sent to a psychiatric hospital where, in the movie's first minutes, we witnessed a young woman's murder. Locked inside The Ward, a special unit of the hospital, Kristen tries to adapt to her new environment and find a way out. The only problem is that the other five girls living in The Ward begin to die, one by one and the perpetrator seems to be (gasp!) a ghost. Soon, the hospital's dark secrets will be brought out into the light.

Like I said, if you're expecting this to be vintage Carpenter, you're in for a big surprise. The movie is pretty clean, apart from a few scenes of mildly gruesome violence. In fact, had those scenes been toned down just a little bit, the movie could have easily qualified for a PG-13, instead of an R. What's worse, however, is that the plot moves at a glacial pace towards a conclusion that is thoroughly disappointing and overly familiar. I won't say which movie "The Ward" resembles in plot construction and conclusion, but if you've seen that movie (starring John Cusack and Ray Liotta), you'll figure it out. "The Ward" tries to pass off as some kind of slick psychological thriller, but nothing you'll see comes close to it. In that respect it's very similar to "Trespass", another miserable failure I have recently reviewed.

I could have easily overlooked some of its hackneyed elements such as the big-enough-to-walk-through airduct escape and by-the-numbers slasher movie executions, if I could at least feel that the filmmakers were trying to entertain me. Even the jump scares are routine and ineffective. And I couldn't care less about these characters. The girls are so underdeveloped that they're basically just humanoid creatures moving around, looking pretty and opening their mouths from time to time. The twist ending is hinted at throughout the movie, of course, but afer all is said and done, I don't think you'll feel like seeing it again to spot the clues.

Overall, it's a lazy experience, unsatisfactory and boring. Carpenter's long awaited return turns out to be a dud and a rip-off. Although I can't say that I ever thought the premise showed any promise, John Carpenter is usually the kind of director who can take junk and make it watchable. His movies were never about abstract artistic ambitions, but they delivered a thrilling ride. This is probably the worst movie of his career and a below-average entry in the horror genre, which is probably why this one went straight to DVD/Blu-Ray.

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