*here be spoilers.
Director: John Carpenter.
Writers: Michael Rasmussen and Shawn Rasmussen.
Cast: Amber Heard, Mamie Gummer and Danielle Panabaker.
The main problem with John Carpenter’s The Ward is that it tried too hard to be understood. Had it been subtler in its approach, than quite focused in providing some cheap scares, then just maybe, the darkness Kristen(Amber Heard) has been feeling can become real.
The issue here is that Carpenter, with writers Michael and Shawn Rasmussen were out to recreate some of the magic from Shutter Island, released earlier in the 2010 year, whilst their product was delayed. It did not screen until September at the Toronto Film Festival. Its theatrical release did not happen until a year later, so audiences are not saying that they had seen this movie before.
But The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari this product is not. Some imitators will succeed and others will fail. When considering the type of subject matter explored—the inspection of the patient’s psyche—to trick the viewerto not knowing what they are watching is difficult. Had it not been set in an institution at all, but instead, in a prison, the connection could not have been instantaneously made.
To see aspects of Kristen’s personality as different people does work. Each of these personas is unique enough to stand out. But in this film’s attempt to put Humpty Dumpty back together again, not all of the pieces are being put into its proper place. Dr. Stringer’s (Jared Harris) idea is to destroy them and some of these personalities want to fight back.
Had he tried to fuse all them into one united force, than that would have made for a far more interesting interpretive film in the same vein as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The product could have been all about the different parts of Kristen trying to become a functional 30-something adult.
The route The Ward took was more of a shock product than thriller. Carpenter’s style is certainly in fine form, and he did translate the writing team’s ideas onto screen well. Even his interpretation of the zombie ghost figure, known as Alice, is telling.
When Kristen sees the ghost for the first time, against a reflective surface, the symbolism is identifiable. But later appearances put the ghost’s purpose at a different level. When Iris (Lyndsy Fonseca), Sarah(Danielle Panabaker), Emily (Mamie Gummer), or Zoey (Laura Leigh) disappears, Kristen does become stronger. She’s fighting to survive, but Alice is not going to let her.
The struggle the two have is epic. The writing team certainly has created a good screenplay about survival of the fittest, but not many people will see this film that way. If the production team had only worked on the idea from scratch than to rehash a time-honoured concept, then just maybe, there could have been a dark tale. The Ward might have come off better as a frightening look at institutionalized life than about a broken figure.
Overall: 5 out of 10.