Sunday, October 14, 2012

Movie Appraisal: The Ward (2010)

This was John Carpenter's comeback film, the movie that might have been able to bring him out of the cellar of not so great movies he had been in through most of the Nineties and early 2000s. I have to say that I was expecting something really bad. I had heard from critics and movie fans alike that this was a bad movie, unfit for the eyes, terrible beyond comprehension, a movie with an odor so bad that it would make every other John Carpenter film bad by comparison.

And... I don't see it. The movie is by no means brilliant. It has a pretty standard premise and the twist is also pretty standard in these kinds of movies. I could compare it to Shutter Island, Identity, Session 9, and High Tension, although I think this movie is a lot better than those. Yeah, I just said that. Let that sink in. If you think I'm dumb you should just stop reading this review now. If you're intrigued then let me carry on. Shutter Island was a critical success, but I absolutely couldn't stand it; while this movie feels like a horror movie, and it acts like one too. Is it great? Does it live up to older John Carpenter films? No, not really. It's good, but I can't say it's better than my favorites of The Thing, Prince of Darkness, Into the Mouth of Madness, and others of the Eighties. That being said, it's still a pretty good horror film, full of twists and turns and some surprisingly good acting performances. Jared Harris and Amber Heard especially shine in their roles, but I have to give a nod to Dan Anderson who played Roy, the chief orderly. His performance was really the breakout one for me.

This is a pretty standard horror film though, and I can't beat around the bush about that at all. I mean, it doesn't do anything that another horror film couldn't, but does have a pretty good director behind it for whatever that's worth. The cinematography was fine, if a little brightly lit at times, and the horror was pretty decent, actually causing me to get into the movie quite a bit. Some parts of the movie were absolutely ridiculous, certainly ridiculous enough that I rolled my eyes a bit, but there was never a moment that I hated the movie or wanted to stop watching it, which is much more than I thought I'd say. I found it entertaining and with enough scares to win me over despite my own apprehensions. I can think of a ton of movies that are worse and a ton that are better, but mediocre is a much better movie than I thought I'd get so I'm happy in general. It is a pretty middling film, but it works and is competent. It never offended me or my intelligence, its pace was good, the acting was perfectly fine, and the scenery was fun to watch. I like how the story is built up, and although the twist is pretty apparent it's still kind of surprising when it happens, I suppose.

I liked this film, but I also tend to like movies like this. I liked Identity quite a bit, although Shutter Island and High Tension were not my thing at all, but these kinds of movies are fun to watch and guess at, and I found myself having fun throughout the movie and liking the little scares. I can't really talk too much about the story because it is just so standard and there are long stretched of time when nothing really happens beyond tension buildup. I like that, but I can imagine a lot of people won't at all. It's not a film for a person who's looking for horrific imagery and shocking awful horror. It's really a film for a person who likes a good psychological horror film and who likes looking for symbolism and such. Not that it does a great job at it, but again... it's pretty okay.

It is a pretty mediocre film though, and I think that's just what I'm going to keep saying about it. You'll just find me typing MEDIOCRE FILM MEDIOCRE FILM over and over a thousand times. I can't see myself watching it again. It's nowhere near good enough for me to care about another viewing. I enjoyed it once, and now I'm done with it. I'll probably forget about it pretty quickly, but I enjoyed it while watching it. Honestly though, this is a movie I could easily tell people to pass right by. It's okay, but not great, and it's not terrible enough to make fun of. It has some fairly dry bits to it as well as cinematography that doesn't quite sync up with the horror that the movie seems to be trying to go for. But I like it anyway, finding it more fun and enjoyable than not. I can't say I regret watching it. John Carpenter, one of my favorite directors, does a pretty good job coming back to helming a movie. My only hope is that he won't play it as safe for his next one.

I have to say that the soundtrack is absolutely banging. By the way. I mean, it's absolutely fantastic, easily the best part of the movie. It makes you feel much more into the movie and gets your blood pumping. Both are good things. I was expecting such a kicking score, but it was really cool.

The last thing I have to say is about the great way they established the mental hospital. I have been doing research on old mental hospitals and treatments for a while now, and they actually did a pretty good job at being fairly accurate. I was both surprised and impressed by that. The DID was a little less than stellar though simply because DID that strong actually rarely happens... hell, it's even heavily debated whether it even could happen. So, there's that in the reality department. But I still liked the film well enough, and if it sounds interesting, take the chance in watching it.

You might be surprised.

Hell, I was.

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