Tuesday, 6 September 2011

The Ward (DVD Review)

DVD Review of the horror/thriller film The Ward from John Carpenter starring Amber Heard.

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Dir: John Carpenter (The Thing, They Live, Big Trouble in Little China, Halloween)
Cast: Amber Heard, Mamie Gummer, Danielle Panabaker, Jared Harris, Lyndsy Fonseca
USA, 2011 (DVD)

Reason to see: Female protagonist horror films are a yes for me!

The Ward is a horror/thriller set the 1960's in a psychiatric hospital following Kristen (Amber Heard from And Soon the Darkness), who is a patient and ward resident without knowing why she is even there. The ward is populated with a group of young women who are resistant to share information with Kristen about anything, and in general are pretty evasive and withdrawn. Things quickly go awry as Kristen starts to experience frightening and impossible occurrences.

I was a little hesitant going in not hearing great things about it, but a supernatural-feeling horror film with a female protagonist is something I can't really resist even if there is a chance I like it. Unfortunately, the film lost me pretty early on with being set in the 60's but didn't feel like it. Even just by looking at the colour & cut of the protagonists hair, I could go as far as to buy her super blonde hair but the relaxed-wavy style especially in a relaxed tie-back is very current and no way near period. I know that seems like a small thing, but it wasn't the only thing. The clothes for all the girls were way to nice to be institution-gear and throwing someone in a pair of high-waisted pants might convince some, but not me. As for the horror and thriller elements, they were a combination of horrific/torture plus supernatural feel that just didn't quite jive for me. In comparison to other films out there, the torture didn't go very far (not that I'm complaining!) and the supernatural elements weren't very scary, it felt more like a monster movie or slasher movie.

I though Amber Heard did a pretty good job in the role of Kristen, but I felt like we just didn't have enough in the story to support the actions we are suppose to believe that she does which seem pretty crafty for a very young patient. Jared Harris was great (I loved him on 'Fringe'), and I did enjoy the commentary that is him and director John Carpenter, but the fact that they talked mostly about acting in general and not about the film itself kind of sums up that it didn't feel like that much care or attention was paid to the film. And the fact that the star, Amber Heard isn't on the commentary and barely mentioned, also didn't impress me. It's also sad to admit but I didn't even realize until listening to the commentary that my interpretation of what actually happened in the film isn't actually what happened, and they even note the very particular information that might be tricky which is exactly where I my own confusion when astray.

Overall, it felt sub par within any of the genres it falls under be it horror, thriller, supernatural or even a gore-fest. I feel like if they had picked one and focused its more attention strongly to create the atmosphere within 1 genre it could have pulled it off better, but as it stands it's mostly young girls running around trying to avoid peril and that's not enough for a film for me to enjoy.

DVD Extras:
  • Feature Commentary with director John Carpenter and actor Jared Harris nice conversation style commentary, especially John Carpenter asking Jared Harris how it got into films and choice of accent in film, approach & process as an actor, challenges of the film and working within the constructs of the idea of the film, flipping back the questions to him on if he keeps in mind he's own iconic influence on horror films, plus general action chatter, stories and challenges plus John Carperter talks about the inspiration & draw to do the film and the challenges of working with a limited location and limited action and working with Amber Heard. They have interesting conversations about film, acting, director and process but it's not always related to the film - usually I enjoy that but since I was actually looking for some added depth on the film itself, it wasn't quite what I was looking for. I also found it odd that the Amber Heard, who plays the protagonist, isn't on the commentary and not even mentioned all that much.
  • Trailer
The Ward is available on DVD as of August 30, 2011. Check it out over at Amazon.ca & Amazon.com (DVD)

Shannon's Overall View:
I wanted to enjoyed it
It's unlikely I'd watch it again
I'd recommend it for horror completists

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© Shannon Ridler, 2011

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