JOHN CARPENTER’S ‘THE WARD.’ 2010. DIRECTED BY JOHN CARPENTER. 2010. WRITTEN BY MICHAEL AND SHAWN RASMUSSEN. STARRING AMBER HEARD, MAMIE GUMMER, DANIELLE PANABAKER, LAURA-LEIGH, LYNDSY FONSECA, MIKA BOOREM AND JARED HARRIS. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
This was horror icon John Carpenter’s 2010 comeback to the world of horror movie directing since doing GHOSTS OF MARS in 2001. Mr. Carpenter, of course, is famous for directing some of the world’s best-known and also best-received horror films, movies like HALLOWEEN, for which he wrote the unmistakable theme tune, and THE FOG and THE THING as well.
THE THING, starring Kurt Russell, is regarded by many as the best remake ever filmed of an earlier movie. THE FOG, which tells the chilling story of some pissed-off mariners returning from the dead to wreak revenge on a bunch of terrified townspeople, scared me so much when I saw it as a young one that I haven’t been able to watch it again since. I’m working up to it, though. The only other film that had that same powerful effect on me was Alfred Hitchcock’s PSYCHO, which I recently rewatched after a gap of donkeys’ years. I’m very proud of myself, haha.
Anyway, to return to John Carpenter, HALLOWEEN of course was the film that introduced the horror world to kick-ass serial killer Michael Myers, he of the chalk-white William Shatner mask and the big old carving knife for chopping up his sister Laurie Strode (played by Jamie Lee Curtis), which he usually tries to get around to every Halloween Night. Well, the family that slays together, stays together, don’t you think? I know I always feel that way, anyway.
Michael’s not fussy, though. I mean, he doesn’t just slaughter relatives. If he happens to come across any sexy teens or hapless bystanders while he’s waiting for Sis-Sis to show up, he’s more than happy to slice ’em and dice ’em and chuck ’em in the big old stew-pot of his murder victims as well. MICHAEL MYERS: EQUAL OPPORTUNITIES KILLER, heh-heh-heh…
THE WARD was written by brothers Michael and Shawn Rasmussen, a pair of independent horror film-makers who recently made my day, my week and my freakin’ YEAR by asking me to review their latest film, THE INHABITANTS, an absolute cracker of a horror film set in Salem Witch Trials country. When the time is right, my loyal readers, you shall read my review, and you’d better be as excited about it and as happy for me as I am, haha…!
I loved THE WARD. It’s set in an American psychiatric hospital, North Bend Psychiatric Hospital to be precise. I always love horror films or even non-horror ones set in mental hospitals. There’s just so much potential for creepy mayhem and sinister shenanigans. Sinister shenanigans abound in this film, which by the way is set in 1966.
Not that you’d know by the costumes. Where’s plump Peggy-Sue and spotty Betty-Lou with their bouffant hair, mini-dresses and terrible ‘Sixties glasses? These inmates are much too attractive, slim and well-dressed to be mental patients, whether in the ’60s or any other era. I totally expected them to start whipping out cellphones and taking kooky selfies of themselves with Roy The Orderly to upload to bloody Facebook. (More of Roy later.)
The lead character is a beautiful young woman of about twenty with no memory called Kristen, who finds herself banged up in the aforementioned loony-bin after she torches a farmhouse for reasons we don’t find out until later. We watch her as she struggles to adjust to life under the tender loving care of her psychiatrist Dr. Stringer, Roy The Orderly and the Ratchet-y Nurse Lundt. (ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST…? Geddit…?) But if you want to give her another nickname entirely, please don’t strain yourself. She’s called Lundt. What other nickname could you possibly give her but the one that so obviously rhymes with her lovely name…? Snigger.
Oh, and yes, there appear to be only three members of staff in this hospital. No wonder the inmates run around the place unsupervised day and night as if it’s flippin’ Disneyworld. If this were a real hospital for poor folks a few sandwiches short of a picnic, someone would surely have reported it to the medical council by now. Also, a horrible ghost girl by the name of Alice Hudson is terrorising Kristen and her fellow-inmates. If that’s not a sign of a poorly-run mental hospital, I’m sure I don’t know what is, haha.
Anyway, Kristen isn’t just going to lie down and wait for Alice to come and kill her too. She gets proactive. This seems to mainly involve running endlessly around the hospital in the dark, being caught by Roy and hauled back to ‘the ward,’ but it’s great fun because the truly evil, hideously zombified Alice keeps popping up everywhere with malicious intent and the female patients are petrified, worrying whom she’s going to be gunning for next. Alice, by the way, is the ghost of a dead inmate of ‘the ward.’ And if things keep going the way they’re going, Alice won’t be the only dead inmate by the end of the film…
I have one complaint. Roy The Orderly turns down the offer of sex from a pretty female inmate. Well, he actually turns down a date, but it’s all the same, isn’t it? I didn’t know that male orderlies in a womens’ mental institution were allowed to turn down offers of sex from female patients. And, ahem, aren’t they in fact supposed to initiate all the sexual congress in these situations…? That’s what normally happens, isn’t it? This is simply not a believable situation by any stretch of the imagination. Roy The Orderly is a poor excuse for an orderly in a womens’ mental institution. He’d clearly be no use in a womens’ prison either…
The twist at the end of the film, the twist that makes sense of everything that’s gone before, is utterly fantastic. The more I think about it, the smarter it seems. Don’t bother trying to guess it, because you won’t be able to. I didn’t get it at first because I’m notoriously thick when it comes to stuff like this. But after I’d had it explained to me by the friend with whom I’d watched it (and then explained again…!), my mouth was pretty much hanging open with admiration. Congratulations, my dear, dear Mr. Carpenter and your crack duo of writers. You’ve done it again.
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based performance poet, novelist, film blogger, sex blogger and short story writer. She has given more than 200 performances of her comedy sex-and-relationship poems in different venues around Dublin, including The Irish Writers’ Centre, The International Bar, Toners’ Pub (Ireland’s Most Literary Pub), the Ha’penny Inn, Le Dernier Paradis at the Trinity Inn and The Strokestown Poetry Festival.
Her articles, short stories and poems have appeared in The Metro-Herald newspaper, Ireland’s Big Issues magazine, The Irish Daily Star, The Irish Daily Sun and The Boyne Berries literary journal. In August 2014, she won the ONE LOVELY BLOG award for her (lovely!) horror film review blog. She is addicted to buying books and has been known to bring home rain-washed tomes she finds on the street and give them a home.
She is the proud possessor of a pair of unfeasibly large bosoms. They have given her- and the people around her- infinite pleasure over the years. She adores the horror genre in all its forms and will swap you anything you like for Hammer Horror or JAWS memorabilia. She would also be a great person to chat to about the differences between the Director’s Cut and the Theatrical Cut of The Wicker Man. You can contact her at:
1) ‘… BY A WOMAN WALKING HER DOG…’
2) A WRITER’S JOURNEY
3) ANNA MEETS COUNT DRACULA
4) ANOTHER FIFTY REALLY RANDOM HORROR FILM REVIEWS TO DIE FOR…
5) CANCER BALLS
6) CATCH OF THE DAY
7) FIFTY FILTHY-DIRTY SEX-POEMS YOU MUST READ BEFORE I DIE.
8) FIFTY REALLY RANDOM HORROR FILM REVIEWS TO DIE FOR…
9) THE DEVIANTS
10) VISITING DAY