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Christopher Webster [Film Festival 10.25.10] movie review horror

Year: 2010
Directors: John Carpenter
Writers: Michael Rasmussen, Shawn Rasmussen
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: Corridorstyle
Rating: 6 out of 10

Will the real John Carpenter please (please) stand up?

The ten-year absence of one of cinema’s true genre masters understandably brings with it a weight of expectation, and at a festival such as Sitges that weight hangs just that bit heavier making it hard to head into the theatre with an open mind.

Fortunate then that this story unfolds in a time and place where JC should feel at home. Set in 1966 in an isolated ward of a psychiatric hospital Carpenter employs a cinematic look and feel of similar examples from the 70’s (HALLOWEEN, THE SHINING and ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST come to mind).

We’re immediately introduced to one of the film’s main characters, the ward itself. Dark shadows lurk constantly at the edges of our vision and there’s a sense that some menace waits behind every door and around every corner. Carpenter wastes no time in letting us know what we’re in for as we open with the hospital enveloped by the night, a thunderstorm approaches, and we’re served up our first jump scare before the opening credits are out.

The next morning we’re introduced to the film’s main protagonist, Kristen (Amber Heard), who has no recollection of how or why she’s come to be at the hospital but soon realizes the first things she needs to do is get the hell out. Kristen doesn’t believe she’s crazy and after meeting the other patients on the ward, four somewhat implausibly beautiful girls, she senses that all is not what it seems, although the girls are reluctant to divulge the hidden threat that stalks the hallways.

Each of the other girl patients has a rather obvious and over acted personality (withdrawn, artistic, flirtatious, free-spirited) and, given the film’s premise, this came across as a little heavy handed (Writers Michael and Shawn Rasmussen appear to have signposted similar twist spoilers in their previous credit LONG DISTANCE)

Carpenter has stated that he liked the fact that the story “confined” him and was about being “isolated” and “claustrophobic”, yet one scene in particular stood out as a missed opportunity when Kristen and Emily (Mamie Gummer, daughter of Meryl Streep) are attempting to escape the ward through a series of air ducts. Two girls crawling on hands and knees through long, narrow passageways of impenetrable shadows punctuated with shafts of light from the duct outlets. The claustrophobic setting accompanied by the natural score of the girls’ short, erratic, panicked breathing sets up this jump scare to be hit out of the park. And yet the scene plays out without a bum twitch in sight. Perhaps Carpenter felt that to provide the expectation was enough. Perhaps he thought the audience would be set on edge for subsequent scenes as a result. Whatever the reason I can’t help thinking that this scene was a partial reflection of the film as a whole. The potential was there to provide some real scares but the opportunity was ultimately missed.

Carpenter does however bring his trademark talents to this tale and although the story and individual performance themselves are a little weak the scenes inside the ward are well crafted and serve to maximize the tension Carpenter unfolds using familiar camera work and score.

Certainly not a spectacular return from the man but it’s good to see him back in familiar territory at least.

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Anonymous (12 years ago) Reply

Who's Johm Carpenter?


Haematobic (12 years ago) Reply

Well that sucks... I was kinda looking forward to this movie... oh well :/

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