By Jason Marsiglia
A Serbian Film has brave, unflinching and dynamite performances by its cast – particularly, its lead, Srdjan Todorovic. It’s expertly directed, with a foreboding, almost nauseating, brown tint and bathed in blackness and shadows during its seedier moments. It’s special effects are quite effective – bloody, gruesome, uncompromising.
I can respect all of that about A Serbian Film, but don’t ask me to call any of this entertaining, or easy to watch. Frankly, if you’re the slightest bit unsure as to whether to proceed with the movie after having read what you’ve read about it, or heard what you’ve heard about it, then I’d strongly advise going with your gut and looking for something else to watch.
For those of you who cannot be dissuaded, let this review serve as a primer, and don’t say I didn’t warn you.
A Serbian Film focuses on Milos, a retired porn star who has quit the biz and settled down with a beautiful wife and his very young son. He’s content with his retirement, disenchanted with the “jollies” his former profession entailed, but he misses the money it paid out – especially now, when things are so tight. As if by some twisted design of fate, an old co-worker tells Milos of a new porn production starting in a few days. He’s uninterested, until she discloses that the pay will be substantial enough that it should take care of even his son’s life-long finances. And the porn in question is supposedly something more sophisticated than the typical shoot. The director is looking to make something “art house” with a meaning, a purpose, and he respects Milos work to such a degree that he’s willing to pay the astronomical amount to get him (and his below-the-belt “star”) involved.
Here’s the catch – the script is confidential, and in order to ensure a natural performance, Milos will not be privy to anything that happens, keeping his reactions genuine. His job is simply to show up, do as he’s told, and collect his paycheck when the shoot is over.
From here, the film goes dark – inkwell dark.
Milos is asked to perform sexual acts that will entail him beating his female co-stars viciously, and working around some clearly underage extras. He’s repulsed by the production and quits. The director becomes frustrated and simply tells Milos that he’s missing the “big picture” here. This porno is supposed to be a “real life” allegory for their corrupt Serbian government – how they start to figuratively “rape” you from the second you’re born. To further convince Milos, the director shows him a horrifying clip from the film, in which the very literal act is performed.
Yes, folks – this film goes there.
It’s at this point that most people will decide to shut the film off, having justifiably decided that movies that are willing to push this kind of boundary just aren’t worth it. And good for you – because it doesn’t get any better, I can promise you that.
Milos is disgusted beyond all reason (we can thank God for his rationality and principals in this film, where no one else seems to have any), and runs horrified from the insane director’s set. At this point, Milos awakens three days later, beaten and bloody, with no recollection of the previous day’s events. He returns to the set to find everyone dead and a series of tapes left behind from when the cameras were still rolling. To uncover the mystery of the time period he missed and find his family (who have gone missing, which should tell you plenty), Milos must watch the horrifying series of tapes, and in essence, watch his life crumble into despair with each passing reel. The things that we (and Milos) witness are some truly shocking and nauseating acts of violence and sexual depravity, orchestrated by director Srdjan Spasojevic in a manner that ultimately pummels you viciously with one disgusting atrocity after another.
In its own way, the skillful direction and brilliant performance by Srdjan Todorovic transcend the material. Todorovic seems like a real guy – porn was just a job to him, something lifeless and empty. He plays the part detached at first, but his love for his family is very real, and when their own lives become entangled in this sick web, his utter anguish is powerful, visceral stuff and in lesser hands, probably wouldn’t have been as effective. This man has Oscar-chop talent, and it’s frustrating to know that this film will likely pigeonhole him in ways that can ruin an otherwise promising career. Maybe it won’t, who knows? But his performance is the film’s true saving grace and the reason for my star rating being as comparatively high as it is, to what my true feelings for the film really are.
I have to admit, I kind of admire the performances, the production value, the linear direction and its brutal special effects. The rest, which is merely the story and shock value, I’m afraid is less impressive. It may have all the earmarks of a professional production, but make no mistake, I don’t particularly like films designed for the sole purpose of trying to make me flinch – which to me, is the only reason A Serbian Film exists. Well, I didn’t flinch. I didn’t cringe, I didn’t look away in disgust – though I whole-heartedly understand that many will do just that. But by film’s end, the ugly, ultra violent and over-sexed thriller that I had settled into ultimately failed to impress me overall, and you can do with that what you will. I’m not implying that I sat through what’s been called one of the most depraved and disgusting horror films ever made, “and all I got was this lousy T-shirt”. No, the film was meant to repel and anger you, and I was certainly repelled and angered – I guess it succeeded that much.
But as each fit of lurid and disgusting brutality crossed the screen – and likewise, crossed several lines – I found myself seeing all of this become ludicrous. Sure, just about everything in the film is beyond the pale, testing the limits of decency and tolerance. But after a while, it all becomes increasingly silly – culminating in a finale you should probably see coming if you look at the set-up, and an act of violence involving an eye socket that will either have you vomiting into your popcorn, or laughing at its audacity. It’s one of those movies that starts off trying to make a point, shocking you into paying attention, and then going way beyond knowing when to quit. A good portion of viewers will be sickened wall-to-wall, understandably. But those of us with an iron gut will suddenly see the exact moments where a filmmaker’s original intentions spin wildly out of control, and cheap shock value becomes the end result of mis-guided focus.
For instance, Spasojevic has defended the film – much like the insane porn director within the film – as an allegory for life in Serbia. Bullshit. Sorry, I’m not buying it. Don’t get me wrong, Serbia is a country rife with its share of atrocities and chaos. But the whole “my film’s ridiculously offensive acts of rape and violence is supposed to reflect my view on corrupt government” angle is the oldest cop-out in the Horror Filmmaker’s Handbook. It’s the equivalent of “my dog ate my homework”, and is used liberally by shock filmmakers when their movie gets pummelled by critics for its content. I guarantee that if the amount of notoriety and federal investigation into whether the film breaks any laws of decency in cinema weren’t reported, the film wouldn’t have any more buzz than Hostel or Wolf Creek. People will talk, sure – word of mouth is a powerful thing. But A Serbian Film is hardly the “end-all-be-all” of horror, or torture cinema.
There are shocking and revolting films out there, particularly by Argentinean director Gaspar Noe, like his Irreversible and I Stand Alone, that are unflinching and brutal examples of damaged people, and horrifying acts of violence that will resonate with an unprepared viewer far longer than this will. Another good example is Ruggero Deodato’s infamous 1980 shocker Cannibal Holocaust, that had a lot to say about how media exploits other countries, or tragedy. You watch these films and the focus and intent is far clearer. They’re hard to watch, but by the end of the movie, you’ve reached a point of clarity, and even an understanding for these people, and why they did the horrible things they’ve done. Or why a director would choose to show something in such an uncompromising way.
A Serbian Film doesn’t end that way. I didn’t get that feeling of morale or clarity that comes with the titles I mentioned above, that this film seems to want to emulate to a certain political degree. No, instead, the film ends with a cynical opening for a sequel, and a promise to further violate its victims beyond their trauma – hell, beyond their death. And where’s the message in that?
C: Srdjan Todorovic, Sergej Trifunovic, Jelena Gavrilovic, Lena Bogdanovic, Katarina Zutic. D: Srdjan Spasojevic. Sub genre: Torture/Thriller. Time: 104 minutes. Ratio: (2.40:1) Widescreen. Unrated: Intense, sadistic and brutal violence, including depraved acts of sexual activity and torture, graphic nudity, drug use, strong language and gore.
The Best Digital Bang For Your Hard-Earned Buck:
Neither the DVD or Blu-Ray contain any special features whatsoever.
Sequels: None, but it’s open for one…
Remakes: None. And I’d be surprised if anyone had the balls…
I certainly hope so, but things over at Showtime seem to hint that the current sixth season of our favorite Miami serial killer may be the last!
Sources claim that with Michael C. Hall’s contract ending after this season, Showtime and Hall’s camp cannot agree on a new salary during contract negotiations (a difference of $4 million), effectively halting them for the time being.
It’s been said that the initial plan was to sign Hall up for two more seasons of “Dexter”, but now, Showtime is claiming they hope to get him signed on for just ONE more season, provided everyone can agree on terms.
People from Showtime seem confident that an agreement will be reached, but to what end? We’ll continue to keep you posted as news comes in.
By Jason Marsiglia
With “The Thing” currently in theaters and the adaptation of the immensely popular Seth Grahame-Smith book “Abe Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” currently shooting, Mary Elizabeth Winstead has a lot on her plate, and a majority of it – lucky for us! – is genre work!
Here’s what she had to say about what she knows of the film thus far, and how she approached her role of Mary Todd Lincoln.
“I haven’t seen any [footage], but I know they’ve been editing and I know that they’re really excited about it. I know there’s going to be a trailer out in like February, or something, so I’m really excited about that. But I wasn’t a part of most of the action stuff in that movie, which I liked that, because I kind of needed a little bit of a break [laughs]. So I’m going to be like an audience member when it comes to that stuff, because I have no idea.”
On Mary Todd Lincoln:
“So I didn’t play her like a crazy person, which is what people keep asking me…But definitely a feisty young woman, and I get to turn into this older, very strong, powerful woman who’s helping her husband fight the war against slavery – and vampires!”
Sounds cool! Winstead herself has been a very promising mainstay in the horror genre, having starred prominently in “Final Destination 3”, “Black Christmas”, “Grindhouse” and “The Ring Two”, not to mention being a complete bad-ass as Bruce Willis’ daughter in “Live Free or Die Hard” and “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World”. It’s great to have such a devoted – and lovely – young woman championing the horror genre, and I’d “stake” my life (sorry) that she’s well on her way to being our generation’s new Jamie Lee Curtis or Sigourney Weaver.
By Jason Marsiglia
By Jason Marsiglia
Those charming Kansas rednecks with that Hallmark slogan “God Hates Fags”, who picket funerals for dead soldiers and spout vile, contemptible hate speech during gay rallies and stuff? I’m sure you’ve heard of them on the news, and hell, maybe even in that excellent (though thoroughly chilling and infuriating) BBC documentary The Most Hated Family in America, and if not, well…they’ve been on Jerry Springer a number of times, if that tells you anything about their class. They also recently used an iPhone to slam the death of Steve Jobs for creating sinful technology. Ahhh, rednecks. Without your wisdom, we’d have no “America’s Funniest Videos” and then I’d really be pissed. I’m not worried…they can’t read this, and the hour of shameless laughter I get every Sunday night will always remain in tact.
I wouldn’t have expected Hollywood to have the balls to take a swipe at these assholes, because, sorry, Hollywood “plays it safe”. If anyone was going to grind their heel into the cigarette that is WBC, or Right-wing religious fanaticism, it was going to take an indie filmmaker, with just the right amount of Christian background counter-balanced by the raw, ball-busting, satirical bites of a comedy writer, who can expose the utter hypocrisy of these groups in a smart, no-nonsense way.
Who better than Kevin Smith, who, for all I know, is still receiving death threats for his brilliant religious satire Dogma from 1999. After the utter downpour of hate and controversy that surrounded that film – which, by the way, also starred his signature stoners Jay and Silent Bob, alongside a stripping Salma Hayek and a demon made of feces – you would wonder why Smith would tackle religion again. Why would you shake that hornet’s nest twice?
I think it’s just time, really. Things in this country are going to shit and now you’ve got religious groups who claim that budget deficits, natural disasters and massive job loss are the work of a God who hates liberals and sinners and homosexuals. Not the loving, caring, forgiving, ever-patient and compassionate God we’ve been told exists in church or described in The Bible. No, no – this is the “old-school” God. The fire and brimstone God, the “flood the planet and start over” God. And usually these groups use The Bible to justify their violent, hateful behavior.
Enter the Five-Points Trinity Church led by Pastor Abin Cooper (played to an icy perfection by Michael Parks, who, for my money, should at least get an Oscar nod). In an obvious mirror to WBC, Smith creates a similar group of fanatics, picket signs and all. However, the twist here is that this group have created a lurid web site with the promise of just about any scandalous form of sex you can imagine – sort of a “Craigslist” of fucking. Three high school boys go on an American Pie style pilgrimage to hop into the sack with a woman who claims she wants all three at once.
Once they’ve arrived, they’re immediately attacked, bound and held captive, to be used as an “example” in a horrifying sermon that ends with what can only be considered a public execution ala The Salem Witch Trials. When gunshots are heard through a police radio, an ATF team is sent in, and the situation explodes into a full-blown hostage crisis, with ATF agent John Goodman stuck between bullets and bureaucracy.
While the second half of Smith’s Red State is pretty much just a gun-for-gun showdown, the first half is truly frightening and nerve-wracking material. Smith pulls no punches, and completely removes any trace of humor from the situation. It’s clear he takes these religious-skewering zealots seriously, and the film is handled in the grimmest of tones. In fact, were it not for the always-reliable dialogue so signature to Smith’s films, I’d not have guessed this to be a Smith movie at all. The grit of the cinematography, the air of tension and unsettling nature of the material is such a departure for him, that it’s poster – in Smith’s own, self-deprecating way – even includes a small blurb beneath the title citing that it’s “an unlikely film from that Kevin Smith”.
He knows this will divide some of his fans, but I’m sure he knew it would polarize most who seen it in general. The performances are top notch by the cast, built from not one of Smith’s “regulars” (unless you count his wife Jennifer who appears briefly). Obviously Goodman (who simply doesn’t, as a general rule, turn in a bad performance in anything he does) is fantastic as the ATF team lead. The nearly angelic presence of former “Scrubs” star Kerry Bishe proves her worth as the granddaughter of preacher Cooper. She’s got a pain, a conflict and intensity that made her performance heartbreaking. Also as effective, Melissa Leo as her mother – a gnashing, bloodthirsty woman who has a white-hot hate for the sinners of her church and reminded me a whole lot of Piper Laurie in Carrie. She’s nearly as frightening (and convincing) as Parks, who again, steals the show in a career-defining performance as Preacher Powell. Just the night mass scene alone is enough to crawl under your skin, as he delivers a horrifying sermon, justifying the church’s right to kill those they feel are “Godless” and sinful, and how it’s hardly breaking a Commandment if those being murdered (homosexuals, adulterers, etc) aren’t “human” in their eyes. It’s a powerful, eerie and chilling sequence, punctuated by Parks’ uncanny ability to sound both like a kindly grandfather telling a story, and the devil himself, lowing his tone to a grave, gritty growl.
Red State might anger a good portion of its viewers, but those who know “the type” that Smith is exposing will not only feel familiar with the way Christianity is being bastardized in those churches, but worse, might know someone just like them living next door.
C: Michael Parks, John Goodman, Melissa Leo, Kyle Gallner, Kerry Bishe. D: Kevin Smith. Sub genre: Thriller. Time: 88 minutes. Ratio: (1.85:1) Widescreen. Rated R: Graphic violence, strong sexual references, pervasive language, brief nudity and strong religious and sexual themes.
The Best Digital Bang For Your Hard-Earned Buck:
First off, if it’s supplements you’re after, you can go either way – it’s one of those steadily dwindling instances where the extras are identical on both discs. At that point, you’re simply choosing whether to spend more money on the Hi-Def or not.
First up we have a 2-Part Documentary called “The Making of Red State” that runs the combined length of about 45 minutes or so. This is compiled mostly of behind the scenes footage and interviews with Smith and cast members. However, it REALLY gets interesting when they start talking about how the Westboro Baptist Church actually attended a screening and – unsurprisingly – left the theater after about 7 minutes or so in an offended huff. Ha ha! Mission: Accomplished. WBC promptly protested the film, as expected. Gotta love riling those idiots up.
This next feature is pretty original, yet for Smith’s DVD’s, is to be expected, as he continues to embrace digital media and doing something new on each film’s release. It’s 7 “Webisode” Smodcasts called “Red State of the Union” Smodcasts. These seven pod casts from Smith’s site not only go into almost every facet of the production (with and without cast and crew, depending on the ones you listen to), that actually serve as a series of Audio Commentaries for the film. Interesting stuff indeed, and very funny.
The Sundance Speech with Intro by Kevin Smith is the documented speech he gave at the festival where he (rather infamously) announced that he was going to distribute and tour the film himself, outside of studio interference. Runs about 30 minutes.
One of the more interesting features is the Conversation with Michael Parks with an intro by Kevin Smith. Here, we get to hear Michael talk about his role as the evil pastor and how he prepared for it. He also gives his take on the themes of the film and character. Very cool stuff.
Around 30 minutes or so of Deleted Scenes with, of course, an intro by Smith, and rounding everything out the Trailers and Poster Art Gallery, with – you guessed it – intros by Kevin Smith.
For a film that didn’t get the widest release (or virtually ANY studio support), leave it to the Supplement-generous Smith and the always-willing-to-take-a-chance Liongate to deliver a quality edition of easily, one of the best films of the year.
By Jason Marsiglia
The Howard Hawks production The Thing From Another World is one of the best examples of what the films and political atmosphere were about in the 50s. The country’s Cold War paranoia and its blossoming interest (and fear) of space and science, set the perfect springboard for a film about an intergalactic traveler crash-landing deep in Alaska and the research team that attempts to locate and study the craft and its possible inhabitants. The doctors at the facility call in a US Air re-supply crew to help pick up any debris from the crash for further scientific research.
Once there, efforts to uncover the ship from the ice that’s frozen over it result in them accidentally blowing the ship to pieces. Great! The greatest scientific find of the century, and it’s been blown to smithereens! Except not far from where the craft landed is the frozen body of a tall, muscular humanoid! Managing to get the creature out within a thick block of ice, the crew transport it back to the research facility, and await orders from the higher-ups as to what to do next, seeing as a rough snow storm is moving in. The scientists, of course, want to immediately de-thaw the creature and begin their experimentation, but Air Force Captain Hendry isn’t so sure that’s a good idea. For one, he doesn’t have the official say-so from his own superiors, and also he’s a little creeped out by the thing…it seems to be staring at them, angrily, from beneath the ice.
He’s not crazy about letting something loose that might still be alive…and pissed off!
An honest mistake does, in fact, let the creature free of its ice sarcophagus, where it immediately proves that it did not “come in peace”. Though the film is based on John W. Campbell, Jr.’s novella “Who Goes There?”, The Thing From Another World is only similar in its set up. In the story, the creature was able to mimic anyone or anything it touches in order to move about them undetected (a theme explored to its full capacity John Carpenter’s 1982 remake The Thing). Here, James Arness (of “Gunsmoke” fame) is packed under layers of prosthetics and lumbers around the research facility looking for blood to sustain him. That’s one of the other differences, really – instead of the creature being a shape shifting organism, it’s comprised of vegetative cells that can not only reproduce (and multiply), but if a part is severed from the creature, blood can cause it to regenerate!
While this is still a far cry from Campbell Jr.’s novella, The Thing From Another World is nonetheless a very effective and suspenseful thrill ride. Arness is frightening and imposing as the creature, delivering a couple of great “jump scares” and casting a long shadow with his presence. One impressive sequence has the creature completely engulfed in flames, boasting one hell of a fine example fire and stunt work, comparatively as frightening and intense as anything we present today under far stricter safety codes in Hollywood. There’s also some fun effects work with severed limbs and dead dogs – a few images we’re not used to seeing in films of this age.
Putting aside the film’s effective scare tactics, what really makes The Thing From Another World stand out is its levity. The movie is surprisingly funny, and the casual atmosphere exuded by the cast’s wonderful performances keep the movie brisk and realistic. There’s nothing melodramatic about the performances at all, and it’s the natural tone and ease in which the lines are delivered that make it feel so smooth. Everyone in the film (with exception of the stubborn doctor, maybe) are scared, but they’re quick on their feet and don’t panic – not even close. In fact, they crack wise during most of the film and hammer out solutions to their problems with easy-going efficiency. The dialogue is as much a star of this film as the creature is, and makes it that much more fun to view.
I also liked that the movie takes a far more negative approach to our otherworldly travelers. The Thing isn’t a nice creature, to say the least, and that’s where the Cold War paranoia seeps in. Here we have something foreign and possibly dangerous – no one is willing to treat this thing like a friendly being, except for the doctor. They refuse to trust it, understandably, much to the doctor’s constant frustration. “There are no enemies in science,” the doctor insists, and tries blindly to reason with this thing in the film’s closing minutes, only to get viciously smacked aside by the hostile being. This alien isn’t interested in peace…you’re food, guy.
The filmmaker’s intent in examining trust and understanding in the presence of a foreign threat is more than obvious, but nestled deep in the pit of the film’s entertaining storyline and execution. It’s well-written, eerie, sometimes jarring and a lot of fun.
C: Kenneth Tobey, Robert Cornthwaite, Douglas Spencer, Margaret Sheridan, James Young. Sub genre: Aliens. Time: 87 minutes. Ratio: (1.33:1) Fullscreen. Not Rated: A couple of dead dogs, a severed hand and mild gore.
The Best Digital Bang For Your Hard-Earned Buck:
The ONLY thing this disc contains is the Theatrical Trailer. Like so many classic genre films in its archive, Warner Brothers chose not to show this some respect.
Though it’s not exactly BRIMMING with bonus features, fans of the film might be interested in a 2-Disc Special Edition of the film, that comes with a newly Colorized Version of the Film, as well as the remastered Black & White Version of the Film.
Also included is an Audio Commentary by John Carpenter, who, obviously, directed the incredible 1982 remake of the same film.
Remakes: As mentioned, the film was remade in 1982 by Halloween director John Carpenter as, simply, The Thing – and it’s scary as hell!
“Hatchet” series director Adam Green has hand-picked a new director to pass the reigns to for the film that will make “Hatchet” an official trilogy. BJ McDonnell, the cameraman of the original two films is all set to take on the mythology of Victor Crowley.
“I’ve been with the Hatchet team from the very beginning and am honored and thrilled that Adam has handed me the reins on this third movie,” said McDonnell. “I grew up watching horror films, and like Adam Green, I’m a true genre fan at heart. I have been waiting for an opportunity like this to step up and make my directorial debut with something I love and know inside and out. Working together with Adam, we plan to make a kick-ass movie!”
“BJ was not only the camera operator on the first two Hatchet movies. He was there alongside me creating every shot, working closely with me to craft each scene, moment, outrageous kill, and performance,” says Green. “He is absolutely beloved by the entire Hatchet family, and his experience on everything from huge studio films to smaller independent productions will ensure that he will do the franchise proud.”
Said to pick up exactly where the previous film left off (as “Hatchet II” did for the first one), “Hatchet III” will likely continue Marybeth’s story of revenge against Crowley for the murder of her father and brother. No casting has yet been announced, but it’s a safe bet Kane Hodder will return as the hulking beast Victor Crowley.
By Jason Marsiglia
Deadline.com is reporting that New Line Cinema is rebooting the long-dormant “Mortal Kombat” franchise, and has hired on the team that put together those amazing “Mortal Kombat: Legacy” webisodes. Writer Oren Uziel and director Kevin Tancharoen’s dark, brooding and gory take on the incredibly popular (and incredibly controversial) Midway fighting game shed the B-movie aesthetic of the 1995 adaptation and went for a far grim and grislier view of the otherworldly contestants in a ruthless Martial Arts tournament, in a comparatively “Se7en”-style tone.
No word yet on any casting, but fans of the web series are crossing their fingers that Michael Jai White as “Jax” and Jeri Ryan as Sonya Blade will be on board.
By Jason Marsiglia
The Ward presents John Carpenter’s first feature film since 2001’s Ghosts of Mars, and it’s a shame it took this long to get here. Though his theatrical efforts have proven sketchy since the early 90s, Carpenter is still an undisputed master of the horror genre, and The Ward does an admirable job of reminding us of that. Unlike most Carpenter films that have his name ceremoniously crowning the film’s title, Carpenter didn’t write this one, and I think that’s why The Ward never really feels like a 100% “Carpenter film”. That’s certainly not to say that this eerie ghost yarn isn’t a good time.
It’s 1966, and a young woman has been institutionalized for setting an isolated farm house on fire. She has little recollection of anything before her pyromania episode, and is now stuck in the North Bend Psychiatric Hospital in Oregon with four other “disturbed” girls. Her room in the ward previously belonged to two former patients who died mysteriously. Within the first couple of nights in her room, Kristen (played by the lovely Amber Heard, who brings her A-game) begins seeing a hideous specter of a girl roaming the halls. The other girls are tight-lipped about the ghost, and the doctors are even more cryptic regarding these sightings.
But soon, the apparition makes herself known more aggressively, and is revealed to be the tortured soul of Alice – one of the former patients in Kristen’s room. This ghost is pissed and when the girls begin to disappear one at a time, the mystery begins to unfold. Initially believing the hospital’s unorthodox “treatments” are to blame, Kristen soon begins to consider that the spirit of Alice is taking out her fellow patients, and that the dark secret her new friends seem to harbor is the root of the ghost’s anger.
As I mentioned, The Ward doesn’t feel like a Carpenter film, and doesn’t entirely look like one either, but there are certainly echoes of Carpenter films past that peer in from the outskirts. The dark, empty corridors of the hospital reminded me of Halloween II, and the subtlety of some of the scares – particularly the shower sequence – that give you a jolt, and still hold back from the horror just a bit, were reminiscent of The Fog. Carpenter isn’t rusty here, and shows a restraint that I haven’t scene to this degree since those late-70s/early-80s films that gave him the status he’s achieved.
Yes, Alice looks ghastly and rotting in an old, “EC Comics” kind of way, but the wonderful make up (by Howard Berger and Greg Nicotero of KNB Effects) is shown sparingly, keeping this entity at arm’s length for most of the film. As far as “haunted asylum” films go, The Ward is too polished and sleek to have the grit achieved by something like Session 9, but there’s a rustic feel to the look of the film that I really enjoyed, and the 1966 setting was aesthetically comforting too, giving the movie an earthy, Godfather-esque, golden hue.
It was also crucial to the plot as well. In today’s surveillance-heavy world, Kristen would never be able to prowl around the hospital looking for clues or trying to escape without being caught. But in the 60s, it’s far more believable that she’s be able to creep about relatively undetected by security or an orderly. From a scripting point of view, that opens up the believability of the situation and allows for more breathing room.
Some have written the film off for it’s twist ending, which, I’ll admit, is pretty clichéd by this point in the genre, but the ride up to that point was fun and scary, and best of all, familiar. It’s been a long time since Carpenter has pulled us in close for a subtle, old-fashioned ghost story, and while the images and vibe might have changed some over the years, it’s still his “voice”. That’s comforting enough for me.
C: Amber Heard, Mammie Gummer, Danielle Panabaker, Lyndsy Fornseca, Laura-Leigh. D: John Carpenter. Sub genre: Ghosts. Time: 89 minutes. Ratio: (2.35:1) Widescreen. Rated R: Some graphic violence, strong language, partial nudity and some disturbing imagery.
The Best Digital Bang For Your Hard-Earned Buck:
The Blu-Ray and DVD for “The Ward” are identical, save the Hi-Def transfer, so if it’s only bonus features you’re looking for, go cheaper and grab the DVD, which only contains an Audio Commentary by John Carpenter and actor Jared Harris. As is usually the case with Carpenter’s commentaries, he keeps it lively and informative.
Also included is the film’s Theatrical Trailer.