Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Ward (2010) - Tricks and Treats Mini-Marathon

On the Menu:
THE WARD (2010)
Amber Heard, Jared Harris, Mamie Gummer, Laura-Leigh, Lyndsy Fonseca, Danielle Panabaker, Sali Sayler and Susanna Burney. Directed by John Carpenter. Run time: 88 minutes. Rated: R.

At First Bite:
I purchased this on a whim. I was like, "Wow, Amber Heard. Directed by John Carpenter, huh? Okay." I couldn't remember the last time Carpenter actually directed a movie. A quick IMDb search revealed the answer: 2001. Unfortunately, that film was the ghastly GHOSTS OF MARS (1 star). But, the guy is also responsible for HALLOWEEN, THE THING and BIG TROUBLE LITTLE CHINA, so I took my chances with this one.

Kristen (Heard) is taken to a mental institution where the other residents are being terrorized by a ghost.

Tough to Swallow:
Ominous, empty hallway shots are gratuitous for a film that's only 88 minutes in length.

A multi-girl shower scene with only side-boob? Come on. You were working with an R-rating here.

The DVD doesn't have subtitles. Not that it's in a foreign language, but sometimes I like to catch all the dialogue (especially when watching late at night while trying not to wake the wife).

The DVD commentary from Carpenter and Harris doesn't really focus on the movie itself. They talk more about directing and acting in general.

Pretty sure the credit for Taper/Plaster should be Taper/Plasterer.

Something to Chew On:
 Carpenter is known for composing the music for his own films, but Mark Kilian filled in as composer for this movie. Carpenter also didn't have a writing credit like he normally does.

Carpenter says this is the first film he didn't shoot in Panavision.

The movie was actually shot in an abandoned mental institution.

Gummer is Meryl Streep's daughter. Jared Harris is the son of the late, great Richard Harris.

It's starts out as an interesting horror/mystery. People start disappearing and Kristen is searching for answers. Carpenter throws in numerous jump scares. Admittedly, I jumped once. I could sense it coming, but the scene was taking so long that I gave up on it. That's when he got me.

Heard reminds me of a blonde Jessica Biel. However, she might actually be a better actress. Problem is they both pick underwhelming movies. The first time I saw Heard was recently in the craptastic DRIVE ANGRY. Maybe THE RUM DIARY will turn things around for her.

The final reveal didn't surprise me at all. I'll admit I was expecting something more sinister. It's really difficult to talk about film comparisons without giving away the ending of THE WARD. You'll feel like you've seen this one before if you're a fan of Mangold, Shyamalan and/or Scorsese.

It's an okay psychological thriller with cheap scares.


Insidious (2010) - Tricks and Treats Mini-Marathon

On the Menu: INSIDIOUS (2010)

Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Lin Shaye, Barbara Hershey, Ty Simpkins, Leigh Whannell and Angus Sampson. Directed by James Wan. Run time: 103 minutes. Rated: PG-13. 

At First Bite: I've had this DVD for a while now, and felt, with Halloween creeping up this weekend, I should finally sit down and enjoy it. I will say I was slightly disappointed when the PG-13 rating popped up before the movie began.

It's a haunted house story, except, as the trailer points out, "It's not the house that's haunted. It's [the] son."

Tough to Swallow: What kid would be sitting on the stairs in a new house and NOT be freaked the f*ck out by a door creaking open by itself? I would have nearly broken my neck running down the stairs two steps at a time.

As he runs from downstairs to the attic, Josh's shirt goes from disheveled to tucked and buttoned (with a tie) in a matter of seconds.

Somehow the porch light blows out, but is back on moments later after Josh closes the front door.

The light switch in Dalton's room changes styles between scenes (switch to dimmer).

Tear streaks on Renai's face change within the scene where Elise gives her explanation of what's happening.

The demon's eyes don't exactly appear as they've been described.

The visualization of the spirit realm is a disappointment. 

Something to Chew On: A chalk drawing of Billy, the puppet from SAW, appears on the blackboard in Josh's class. Names that also appear above the drawing include James Wan, Leslie Borchard (hair stylist) and Yesim Osman (hair stylist).

Whannell, who plays Specs, is also the film's writer.

Joseph Bishara composed the music and was Lipstick-Face Demon.

The old woman was actually played by a man (Philip Friedman).

There's a brief creepy character moment after the credits.

The budget was an estimated $1.5 million. The film grossed over $13 million its opening weekend (nearly $54 million total).

The film was released on April Fools' Day 2011.

Aftertaste: Naturally, the movie is going to draw comparisons to POLTERGEIST. There's no getting around it. Sure, the misplaced books scene isn't as spooky as the chair pyramid in the Tobe Hooper classic, but the tracking shots following Renai through the house set up a lot of creepy moments.

Monsters are scary and all, but giggling specter-children and random ghostly faces popping up out of nowhere are much more unnerving to me. The use of Tiny Tim's "Tiptoe Through the Tulips" in the film is just as unsettling (another track in the closing credits is even more so). That use of music and the slight hokiness of the demon reminded me a lot of JEEPERS CREEPERS, which I thoroughly enjoyed until actually seeing the monster up close.

The visualization of the spirit realm, called The Further, was the major letdown. Meaning, the final third of the flick is pretty lackluster and corny.

I'm a huge fan of the SAW series, but I will say I am surprised that Wan made a decent horror film without any gore. So, there was no reason for me to be worried about that PG-13 label after all. The cinematography, acting and writing are so impressive that you don't miss the blood and guts, which proves you only need well-crafted suspense to make a scary movie, e.g., Robert Wise's THE HAUNTING or THE STRANGERS.

That being said, I prefer this film to PARANORMAL ACTIVITY (2.5 stars).

P.S. I loved that one of the gadgets used by the paranormal geek squad is a tricked-out View-Master.