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July 06, 2011


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I've seen The Ward. Eeee... John Carpenter occupies for me pretty much the same function George Lucas or Spielberg does for every USC kid with out of state plates who "saw Star Wars in 1977 and my mind was blown and I just KNEW I wanted to do THAT!" Escape from New York and Halloween were basically that for me; I've worshipped Carpenter since like half-hiding under my family couch watching Halloween and The Fog scared shitless at age 7 or 8. That whole run when he had Dean Cundey and the synth scores and Tom Atkins, Charles Cyphers, etc etc... Genius.

Then after They Live, he sort of became Generic Carpenter, with those blues-rock whammy-bar guitar scores and movies that looked like a guy doing a Robert Rodriguez imitation; In the Mouth of Madness is good despite NOT LOOKING OR FEELING like a "real" Carpenter movie, and I still enjoy the subsequent ones despite the encroaching dissolve-heavy cable-ness.

But The Ward; It's watchable enough, it might be better made than, say, Ghosts of Mars... but there's almost NO Carpenter to it. He doesn't do the score, no rack focuses, not the same mood AT ALL, other than a few random shots that if you squint REAL hard might pass for a stray bit in "Mouth of Madness" or "Halloween II." Still glad to see him directing, and he's one of those guys like Hill or Milius or Dante or Landis we all root for, to hit one more out of the park, but we know damn well it's NEVER going to happen.

Heard is really, really good. But Mamie Gummer (aka Meryl Streep Jr) gives literally THE WORST and most embarrassing performance I've seen in ages. God, couldn't her mom have taught her how to act? What a distasteful actress.


Glenn, you talked a little about his direction and how he's a classicist, but I'm curious if he's returned to really taking advantage of the widescreen format as he did during up to the mid-90's. Because those delicious compositions seemed in short supply after In The Mouth Of Madness. I'd have to dispute Lex's claim that it didn't feel like real Carpenter. It was more surreal than anything before and not as grounded in tradition, but the shots felt like they were coming from the same guy. If there's any shortcoming it's that Carpenter didn't write it himself.

Lex also mentioned Lucas above, and whatever his faults, was still giving us those type of Fordian compositions in the prequels, overall more sophisticated and portentous than the camerawork in the original trilogy, Kirschner coming pretty close with Empire.

Glenn Kenny

Lack of rack focus effects notwithstanding, I did find the opening sequence of "The Ward" pretty characteristic Carpenter. But yes, Lex is correct in that it's not exactly SUFFUSED with Carpenter-ness. But it isn't exactly as if his touch is even close to entirely absent either.


It's interesting, because in your review you fret over whether younger audiences will take to his classicism, while Slant complains that his camera has become frenzied and excessively mobile, in what they see as an attempt to ape contemporary horror cinematography.

That Fuzzy Bastard

Even when Carpenter is phoning it in, the widescreen compositions make it worth seeing---no one would mistake VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED for anything but a third-rate cable programming filler, but damned if it doesn't have one astonishingly laid out shots after the other!

Chris O.

Speaking of horror, NPR's Fresh Air did a piece yesterday on Jason Zinoman's new book about modern horror influenced by a handful of filmmakers. Of course, Carpenter and HALLOWEEN were mentioned, but it was interesting to hear Bogdanovich's TARGETS getting more time in the sun -- it's how they opened the piece.


That's probably because TARGETS is better than HALLOWEEN or TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE or any of them. And I love all those movies. But TARGETS is a really, really special film, as far as I'm concerned.


Just want to concur on the merits of TARGETS, and add that it is incredibly fucking creepy.



When you eventually get around to reviewing the final Harry Potter installment, please consider posting a picture of, say, Maggie Smith, as opposed to Miss Emma Watson. For only then could we avoid the altogether predictable "LOOOOOOK AT HER!! YEP YEP YEP..." response from Lex, on account of Smith being far outside his age range (what is it, 16 to 24?) for female "hotness". Perhaps he'll just stick to a thoughtful analysis under such conditions.

At any rate, it might be a nice change of pace.


JC: Aside from leading with "LOOOOOOK AT HER," etc., Lex's first post above is a rather lengthy, on-point consideration of THE WARD and Carpenter, which I would say qualifies as "thoughtful analysis."

Is pre-emptive Lex bashing considered "a nice change of pace"?

Now we're OT, and I guess I'm not helping. Sorry, Glenn.

Chris O.

@bill & BB: Agreed, but you don't expect it to be one of the first mentioned in typical "what influenced the modern horror film" pieces. But why not? I was pleasantly surprised to see it get some props.


jbryant -

Oh, I fully agree about the majority of Lex's post...but as stated, if we remove the opportunity for him to oogle the latest starlet, we get to quality stuff right away, minus the tedious lead-in.

Cheers. :)


Above and beyond Lex's actual words, might his entire post constitute a metaphor, run in reverse, for Carpenter's decline in both quality and quantity? ;-)


Just saw this last night at the Empire 25 (*shudder*). Besides the fact that it appears to have been photographed in digital and edited after the current, jumpy fashion - scenes don't so much end as get skipped over - it sure felt like Carpenter to me. I thoroughly enjoyed it.


edo: FWIW, imdb says THE WARD was shot in 35.


The Empire 25 is awful, isn't it?


I am willing to bet money IMDB lies...


Yeah, I always take 'em with a grain of salt. But I will say if they're wrong about this one, at least they're wrong in great detail:

Moviecam Compact MK2, Zeiss Ultra Prime Lenses

Alpha Cine Labs, Seattle (WA), USA (film processing)

Film negative format (mm/video inches)
35 mm

Cinematographic process
Digital Intermediate (2K) (master format)
Super 35 (3-perf) (source format)

Printed film format
35 mm (anamorphic)

Aspect ratio
2.35 : 1


Well, looks like Alpha Cine's own site confirms it. I'm a bit ashamed of myself. Thought I could tell the difference better than that! : ) (maybe those guys went a little overboard on the intermediate...)

I hope I get a chance to see it in a 35mm print then, because the 4K DCP that Empire showed didn't look so hot.


Interesting that Carpenter has finally been forced to forego anamorphic lenses and shoot a 2.35 film in Super 35.

The Fanciful Norwegian

Hilariously, the UK video release was pushed back from May to October because Warner Bros. mistakenly did the transfer at 1.78:1. Probably wouldn't have happened if Carpenter had been allowed to shoot anamorphic...

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