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Ten Word or Less Review: Not a documentary about Hugh Beaumont.

I hope anyone reading this is going to already be up to snuff on the career of John Carpenter.  Just in case you’re not I will quickly summarize.  From 1978 to 1986 he was the man: Halloween, Escape From NY, The Thing, Big Trouble in Little China, Starman, Christine.  Some people like The Fog, not me.  Things started to slide for him after Big Trouble.  The 80’s tappered off for him.  They Live seems to live on in fandom beause of one good line of dialogue.  He kept working steadily through the 90’s but for the most part he was increasingly off his game.  Things bottomed out in 2001 when Ghosts of Mars plopped onto the screen releasing a putrid stench so bad it can still be smelt a decade later.  Now after a 10 year break away from feature film making Carpenter has taken himself out of mothballs to direct The Ward, a paint by numbers psychological horror flick.  Not surprisingly, there is very little positive to say about it.

The Ward is the second film this year plotted around a group of girls trapped in an ominous mental institution during the 1950’s.  Don’t see the first.  Kristin (Amber Heard) is the new resident who thinks shes wrongly trapped within its walls.  Has any character in movie history actually thought they belonged inside a padded room?  For reasons she can’t remember she set a house on fire and watched it burn to the ground.  The other girls locked up with her are your standard lot of booby hatch inmates, the twist being that a nasty spook is knocking about the asylum walls, intent to kill off these female inmates in nasty fashion.

The Ward is capably shot and put together by Carpenter but there’s nothing original or attention getting about it.  Its story and characters are all routine and while it is mostly painless to watch, it is also pointless.  Some twists eventually come about nothing should surprise you.  If you’ve seen films like Identity or Shutter Island, you should experience a gasp free viewing.  The movie looks a better photographed than I expected and the performances are all passable but there’s just nothing that really stands out to demand attention.  When it’s over you’re left with another in the endless line of movies which pass into and out of your short term memory.  You could almost argue that had it been worse, it would have at least been something to remember.

One is left to wonder what about the story was enough to get Carpenter off his ass after an extended hiatus.  Several people have figured that the old guy simply likes to chain smoke and play video games with his days, so what made him put down the Playstation controller and do this is anyones guess.  I hope the old master has something great left in him, but if so The Ward is not it, not even close.  If a positive spin can but put on things it’s this: at least we no longer have to look at the possibility of Ghosts of Mars being John Carpenter’s swan song.

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