Monday, 11 June 2012

The Ward (2010)

AKA an excuse to post lots of pictures of Amber Heard. I strive to provide good reviews and interesting writing here on my blog but I'm as weak as most men when it comes to the lovely Miss Heard.

Amber Heard - so hot that these curtains just spontaneously combusted. With the help of some matches.
Of course, The Ward isn't just about Amber Heard, although she takes the lead role and is the focus of almost every scene. More importantly for horror fans, this film was a return to movieland from director John Carpenter. A return to directing features after quite a long hiatus and, to some, a return to form. Personally, I'm one of those who suspect that the positive reception given to the movie by the fans is based more upon a sense of relief that the thing wasn't awful as opposed to the movie being all that great. Because it's not.

Gratuitous Amber Heard shower pic? Don't mind if I do.
Don't get me wrong, the movie is enjoyable enough from start to finish. It's got some great atmosphere, decent performances and most of the scares are well executed but the whole thing is actually quite a fumbled piece of sleight of hand. Watch it once and you'll enjoy it as a bit of fun but repeat viewings show up a number of glaring flaws and massive plot holes. That doesn't stop the movie from being a decent horror (if we horror fans were to pick apart every flaw and plot hole then we'd be left with only one or two movies to watch, surely) but it does stop it from being up there with the past glories that Carpenter has given audiences.

Kristen the protector

The story is all about Kristen (Amber Heard), a young woman who is found by the police as she watches a house burning down. To be more precise, she watches the house burn down that she set fire to. Why? Who is this young woman and what has she been through? Hopefully, she will find answers while under the care of Dr. Stringer (Jared Harris). That's if she can keep her temper under control and play nice with the other inhabitants of the ward. Oh, avoiding the dangerous spirit trying to kill people would also be a good thing.

The girls were about to go for a picnic and then realised that they were a few sandwiches short.
There are good performances from all involved here (Amber Heard is particularly good but Jared Harris is also excellent). The main girls in the ward are played by Mamie Gummer, Danielle Panabaker, Laura-Leigh and Lyndsy Fonseca and they all do fine, even if I can't bring myself to actually enjoy any performance from Panabaker - who, to my mind, seems to be one of those starlets thrust upon us just because someone has deemed it her time to be classed as a "star", god forbid that people reach such a position by having actual talent and personality.

The script is okay when it comes to individual snippets of dialogue but the plotting and overall construction of the movie are where the big flaws appear. Thankfully, it does enough to keep viewers interested and involved throughout and it's just a shame that everything couldn't have been tightened up slightly.

A haunting score accompanies the visuals and the direction from Carpenter is promising, we can only hope that he comes back soon with material worthy of his talent. The scares, whether they are simple jump scares or moments that build up a feeling of dread, are expertly crafted and these reassuring moments elevate the movie to just above average.

If you were waiting for something like a return to form from John Carpenter after his past few movies (the poorly received Vampires and Ghosts Of Mars, in particular) then this may well be something that you like more than I did. It's certainly better than those other movies in terms of acting quality and the translation of the material but it just doesn't do enough to make up for the fact that the plot elements are tired and have been used in a number of superior films.



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