Monday, August 19, 2013

The Ward

The Ward; horror, USA, 2010; D: John Carpenter, S: Amber Heard, Lyndsy Fonseca, Jarred Harris, Mamie Gummer

Kristen, a young girl who set a farmhouse on fire, is sent to a mental asylum. She refuses to cooperate with the staff, avoiding taking pills and getting suspicious of the head Dr. Stringer who wants to perform an experimental therapy on her. Kristen meets several other girls in the asylum, among them Iris, Emily, Sarah and others, but they all keep disappearing. Kristen suspects a Zombie like girl, Alice, is killing the girls, because she was once a patient herself and wants to take revenge. However, Dr. Stringer explains to Kristen that she is actually Alice - after being kidnapped and raped as a minor, she split her personality into Iris, Emily, Sarah and others to suppress her memory.

After "Ghosts of Mars", it took nine years until John Carpenter directed a new feature length film, psychological thriller "The Ward", but as some critics already observed, this is not the "Halloween" or "They Live" subversive Carpenter anymore, but a half-hearted one who took on an impersonal assignment project. And while "They Live" and "The Thing" were misunderstood during their premieres, but retroactively re-emerged and gained cult status, "The Ward" will remain equally as unflattering and neglected even 20 years after its release: the blend between "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" and "Friday the 13th" does have its moments here and there - in one great little scene, the nurse gives two pills to Kristen and says they will "make her feel better", upon which Kristen takes the pills, throws them on the floor and squashes them, replying humorously: "You were right, I feel better already" - whereas the casting of charismatic Amber Heard was a stroke of genius, yet the scare moments are purely and exclusively cheap and banal, without any sophistication or inventive interventions, whereas the misguided scene of the "Zombie" electrocuting one girl to death was done in poor taste. Contrary to the popular belief, the twist ending is the only thing that saves the routine storyline and manages to somehow explain and cover for the numerous illogical moments where the "Zombie" suddenly appears out of nowhere and then disappears, yet, as also already mentioned, a similar twist ending was already done earlier in at least three films, but mentioning them would spoil their surprise too.


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