By Sean Kelly
In an interesting case of scheduling synchronization, I opened my film viewing at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival with a pair of horror films showing back-to-back at the Ryerson Theatre. The line up of the night consisted of the vampire remake Let Me In, followed by the Midnight Madness presentation of John Carpenter’s The Ward.
Let Me In
Directed by Matt Reeves
Part of the Special Presentation Programme
As you may have heard, this is the American remake of the 2008 Swedish vampire film Let the Right One In. The original was highly critically acclaimed and, as such, the necessity of an English-language remake was debated. One worry I had heard was that the producers were going to market the film to the Twilight crowd.
The film is directed by Matt Reeves, who is best known for Cloverfield, and stars Chloë Moretz (Kick-Ass) and Kodi Smit-McPhee (The Road). For those not familiar with the original, the film centres around a bullied kid named Owen (Smit-McPhee) who befriends a girl named Abby (Moretz), who happens to be a vampire.
I suppose the first thing that anybody would do when they see this film is to compare it to the original. In that regard, I have to say that this film is about 90% a carbon copy. The film is so similar, that I felt that I would prefer just to watch the original for future viewings.
That said, there are a few small changes in this film. A role not present in the original is that of a policeman (Elias Koteas), who is investigating the murders perpetrated by Abby’s “father” (Richard Jenkins). The film also offers some additional insight into the true nature Abby’s relationship to the father. I also have to say that in true North American fashion, the film is quite a bit gorier than the original.
Overall it was a decent film, however if I had to choose between the original and the remake, I would go for the original.
The film was followed by Q&A attended by director Matt Reeves and Kodi Smit-McPhee.
The last film horror master John Carpenter directed was the pretty atrocious Ghosts of Mars, which essentially resulted in Carpenter calling it quits. He pretty much laid low ever since, with the exception of producing (in name only) the 2005 remake of The Fog and directing two episodes of the TV series Masters of Horror. Now, nearly a decade later, Carpenter returns to the director’s chair with The Ward.
The film centres around a girl named Kristin (Amber Heard), who is sent to a psychiatric ward, under the care of Dr. Stringer (Jared Harris), after she burns down a farm house. The ward is occupied by many girls of varying personalities including bitchy Sarah (Danielle Panabaker), nerdy Iris (Lyndsy Fonseca), and child-like Zoey (Laura-Leigh). The ward is also occupied by the malevolent spirit of a former patient who is killing off the girls one by one.
This film was much better than Carpenter’s last film, however it still had its flaws. The film relies greatly on cheap jump scares and some may consider the look of the ghost to be a bit laughable. That said, the film does have an interesting (if slightly unoriginal) twist to it.
In the end, the film is a welcome return for John Carpenter, even if it was not perfect.
Nearly the entire cast of the film (along with the producers) were in attendance for a Q&A afterwards. Sadly John Carpenter himself was unable to make it to Toronto due to film being selected for jury duty. However, he still managed to introduce the film through a pretty humourous recorded message.