Bopping with Niall JP O'Leary

Niall O'Leary insists on sharing his hare-brained notions and hysterical emotions. Personal obsessions with cinema, literature, food and alcohol feature regularly.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

John Carpenter's The Ward

In a psychiatric hospital (resembling the Overlook Hotel), a group of young women are terrorised by a killer who can appear at will and murder with ease. Could there be a homicidal ghost in the hospital?
John Carpenter has not made many good movies in the last, ooh, 30 years, but I'll always give him the benefit of the doubt and I've looked forwarded to seeing 'John Carpenter's The Ward' for quite a while. Some impressive opening credits, and a Goblin-esque score, had me hoping for the best, but in the end I cannot say it was a return to the exceptional form of yesteryear. The cast of relative unknowns (only Jared Harris is somewhat well-known) were fine (even if Jennifer Heard was a little unsubtle), but they were hampered by their (necessarily) stock characters. The frights were effective, but very predictable (camera pans away and then back to have the monster behind the victim). The only sign that there was anyone other than a hack behind the camera was clear only in the choice and variety of shots. He made his hackneyed location still manage to be fresh, that despite the fact that we have seen this very same set-up in a very recent film, 'Sucker Punch'. That movie was execrable in every way, whereas Carpenter's (despite having a cast of similarly pretty, young things) is not. However, it does highlight what is the main problem with the whole enterprise; there is nothing original here. The sequel to Carpenter's own 'Halloween' featured a psychopath in a hospital, while the usual panoply of labotomy picks and electric shock generators are trotted out again as on so many occasions before (anyone see 'The House on Haunted Hill', or 'Session 9', or 'Asylum', or...). But the real killer is the story itself which is a very, very close reworking ****SPOILER ALERT! READ NO FURTHER IF YOU DON'T WANT TO KNOW THE TWIST**** of James Mangold's 'Identity', and that was made in 2003! I could see what was coming from a very early stage, and knowing that, suspense, if it ever was there, disappeared.
So rich in production value, but short on originality. I guess we'll have to wait some more for that Carpenter come back.

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