Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Ghost In You

As I'm sure you're aware, John Carpenter has a new movie out now called The Ward. It's been on VOD for a while but it's hitting select theaters this weekend. Good sense dictates that you try and check it out anyway you can.

The script, by Shawn and Michael Rasmussen, is, well...it's not so good. The not so good part mostly centers on the flabbergasting twist at the end - which isn't flabbergasting at all, save for the fact that you can't believe anyone involved thought it was a good way to go. But...it's not a deal breaker for me. Carpenter handles the resolution of the film's mystery as well as anyone could without calling for a complete rewrite.

Shaky story aside, Carpenter delivers a handful of effective jump scares, gets a strong lead performance out of Amber Heard, and wisely doesn't try to overreach with this slim material. Carpenter's prowling camerawork is in full effect, gliding through the possibly haunted corridors of the North Bend psychiatric hospital.

The Ward might not seem like much, just another underwhelming latter-day entry from Carpenter - a movie that some might say was hardly worth Carpenter getting back in the director's chair for - but I guarantee that time will be kind to it. Not so kind that it'll ever be a classic but it strikes me as the kind of movie that would've once found its audience one viewer at a time in the twilight zone of late night TV - a place where modest but efficiently told B-movies could always get a fair shake, away from heavy expectations.

I do wish that Carpenter had found a meatier project for his comeback but looking at the straight-forward chills that The Ward serves up, it's reassuring to be reminded that Carpenter's far too pragmatic to ever go off his nut like Romero, Argento, or Craven have in recent years. The Ward may not set the world on fire but it's no embarrassment either. Here's hoping that Carpenter will not keep us waiting another ten years for his next movie.

To read my full review of The Ward, go to Shock Till You Drop.

4 comments:

Dom Coccaro said...

Nice review, Jeff. I'll be renting this one. I...don't have much else to say until I see it. You make a good point about Carpenter. He has been dormant, but at least he hasn't made Scream 4 or Diary of the Dead.

Jeff Allard said...

Yeah, that's the thing - Carpenter may not always be 100% on target but he's sharp enough where you're never going to see him go horribly off the rails with something like MY SOUL TO TAKE, MOTHER OF TEARS, or DIARY OF THE DEAD. Nice to hear from you, Dom - I'll be interested to know what you thought of THE WARD whenever you get around to seeing it!

J.D. said...

Excellent review. Being a massive JC fan I am very curious to check it out. I'm not expecting him to reinvent the wheel on this one but I think that this film will serve as a way for him to get his feet wet in feature filmmaking after all these years. I just want to see those prowling steadicam shots and widescreen aspect ratio!

Jeff Allard said...

J.D., I actually think this is the first JC film since SOMEBODY'S WATCHING ME! that isn't shot widescreen. A lot of reviews are citing the widescreen photography but I don't think it's Carpenter's usual ratio. The trademark camera moves are there but the framing is different. Still, I hope you end up digging the movie.