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The Dream Machine --- The Imagination of the World Wide Web
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A young woman, Kristen, is sent to a mental institution with a past as dark and haunted as her own. Terrorized by a ghost, each of the other patients in Kristen's ward begin to disappear. This is only the beginning of her long nightmare. The setting has John Carpenter's name written all over it. Writers Michael Rasmussen and Shawn Rasmussen unfortunately struggle quite a bit. Even though this plot doesn't have much depth, the opportunity to make an effective eerie screenplay was missed. Everything about the story line is cliché and has been seen many times before. There are scenes and characters that can easily be directly connected to those seen in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, except The Ward is much more hollow. Viewers don't know enough about the characters to develop sympathy for any of them. I was disappointed to see John Carpenter to resort to jump scares. Quite a bit of his past work is known to be full of tension and is effective in scaring audiences.While having something pop up with a loud sound can make viewers jump, it doesn't substitute for being genuinely scary. The plot points are generally predictable. The story gets so typical at times that it even gets a bit boring. All of the dialogue ranges from mediocre to bad. The basic concept is simple, but could have been much better. There are times where the words ridiculous and silly easily apply.
Young actress Amber Heard plays the main character Kristen. She gives a decent performance after considering the poor screenplay she was given. Heard is a beautiful actress that brings a certain charm to the silver screen. Others actors are Mamie Gummer, Danielle Panabaker, Laura-Leigh, Lyndsy Fonseca, and Jared Harris. With the exception of Amber Heard, the rest of the acting is substandard. These aren't fantastic actors, but I primarily blame the dialogue. The final verdict on the acting is mediocre.
One of the critical elements to a John Carpenter film is the visuals. He constructed a chilling atmosphere for both Halloween and The Thing. Since John Carpenter is behind the camera, I was expecting to see a creepy atmosphere. A mental institution is the perfect place for Carpenter to put his fingerprint on. Instead of making this a CGI fest, Carpenter opted for mostly using practical FX. Once the ghost is revealed, it's unintentionally funny. The make-up isn't very good and simply isn't frightening. There are a lot of foreseeable jump scares. Fortunately, the audio work is much better. Clean dialogue remains in the center channel as the score is dispersed through the front speakers. The surround channels are active often. A lot of deep and strong bass comes from the subwoofer on many occasions.
The return of John Carpenter to horror film making isn't a powerful one. Unfortunately, this master of horror has lost his touch. He isn't the first master of horror to have his film making go downhill. George A. Romero's recent direct-to-DVD releases have also been uninspiring. I'm still upset that Carpenter turned to jump scares in order to freak out audiences. There isn't anything fresh or original. This type of film making is tiresome and overused. Fans of John Carpenter will check this out regardless, but are sure to be disappointed. The Ward deserves a rental at best.