Monday, August 7, 2017

One Flew Over the John Carpenter Nest, or Thoughts on The Ward

I wanted to call this post John Carpenter Interrupted, or Thoughts on The Ward, but as The Ward (2010) was basically his last movie before retirement, I didn’t want to get anybody’s hopes up.  Ghost of Mars (2001) is technically the last film he wrote and directed, The Ward was written by Shawn and Michael Rassmussen.  Part psychological thriller, part ghost story, part hospital conspiracy story makes for a fragmented, confusing and ultimately unsatisfying plot set in a 1960’s mental hospital for attractive young girls.
Amber Heard is Kristen, a runaway pyromaniac with a dark past; in her 60’s wardrobe and hair is reminiscent of a young Tippi Hedren.   She’s the leader of a group of girls in a psych ward who probably aren’t really crazy because this is the 60’s and they were horrible at treating mental illness back then (at least in the movies).
Because this is a John Carpenter film the audience is treated to long, low tracking scenes through ominous empty halls, perfectly symmetrical frames, overt Hitchcock references, (there’s even a shower scene) and Jared Harris as Dr. Stringer, acting like an updated, modern Donald Pleasance.  However, with the exception of Halloween (1978) and The Fog (1980), any supernatural element in a John Carpenter movie has had a science fiction or a Lovecraftian explanation, which of course is missing from The Ward as the director didn’t write it.  It’s a modern horror movie, with a modern explanation, and I suppose if anyone other than John Carpenter had been associated with it I would have enjoyed it more.
Watch out for the push button landline on Dr. Stringer’s desk; it should have been a rotary dial in 1966.  Push button phones weren’t introduced until the 70’s.  It’s the little details that take you out of the movie.

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