Friday 21 January 2011

"John Carpenter's The Ward" (Metro 21/01/11)

John Carpenter’s The Ward (15) 88 mins **

John Carpenter has now had more comebacks than Sinatra, without ever threatening to arrive at his "My Way". A decade after his last flurry of activity – which brought us the less-than-vintage Vampires and Ghosts of Mars – the director comes in from the convention circuit with this non-chiller, set on a 1960s psych ward. Amber Heard, oft-shirtless mash-up of Scar-Jo and K-Stew, plays troubled young Kristen, dispatched to a typically forbidding movie institution where the shock treatment meted out by Jared Harris’s stiff English doctor is as nothing compared to the rotting ghoul stalking the corridors after dark.

The widescreen frame's as big as that of Halloween, but Carpenter has forgotten how to fill it, and what's truly dispiriting is seeing him resort to hacky crashes on the soundtrack to distract from the absence of any sustained suspense. Of the girls, the mannered Danielle Panabaker grabs the best lines (and the ickiest demise), but these are among the movies’ least ruffled mental patients, styled like Mad Men extras and left to run around a preposterously under-supervised facility. With anybody else's name on the credits, you'd struggle to sell this as passable sleepover fare; from Carpenter, we surely deserve better – anyone claiming this constitutes a return to form quite frankly needs their head examined.

The Ward opens nationwide today.

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