Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Scream Queen: Amber Heard


Originally, I had planned to compare The Ward and Suckerpunch, but aside from Dawn of the Dead, I've never been a big Zack Synder fan. While Suckerpunch is on my Netflix Qwikster queue, I'm in no real hurry. Instead, I opted for two genre films featuring the fetching Amber Heard. Hey, I gotta get those hits somehow. Maybe this might be the start of a new semi-regular feature...

Now here's a rarity, an actor who doesn't seem overly concerned with a filmography peppered with genre films. Horror is often treated like Hollywood's red-headed stepchild -- despite the fact that it consistently helps pay the bills when the "real" movies flop. There's always a risk of being pigeon-holed, but that can be the case with any genre. Tell me, will poor Kate Hudson or Jennifer Aniston ever climb their way out of the dark depths of Romantic Comedy Hell? Although horror has its faults, the good stuff often gives up and coming starlets the chance to be more than just the girlfriend. *gets off soapbox*

Back to Heard, she's been making some interesting choices over the last few years: Zombieland, Stepfather, etc. Some haven't paid off in a big way, but she appears to have a good team behind her -- I'm a little iffy on that Playboy Club series though...


Drive Angry is -- Wait. Before I start, I just want to say that is perhaps the dumbest title of the year, possibly of the last decade. It was produced by Angry Films so maybe that had something to do with it. A production company tie-in? I pray that never catches on.

Now don't let Nic Cage's toupee and the ridiculously goofy title scare you off. Drive Angry is a fun, trashy throwback. Far more entertaining than a misfire like Death Proof. It's something you would've stumbled upon in the wee hours of the night on 90s cable -- starring Jeff Fahey, Kristy Swanson and Lou Diamond Phillips. The kind of flick that you only plan to check out for a few minutes, but an hour and a half later, you're watching the closing credits with a big, dumb grin plastered across your face.

Cage plays a damned soul who breaks out of hell -- yes, H-E-double hockey sticks -- to avenge the death of his daughter and save his baby granddaughter from the clutches of a wackjob cult leader bent on making a human sacrifice. Heard tags along for the ride as his spunky, but strictly platonic sidekick, Piper. William Fichtner, The Accountant, has been sent by Old Scratch to bring him back. If you dig over the top violence and gratuitous nudity (minus Ms. Heard) served with tongue firmly planted in cheek, this one's for you.

I have one quibble about the film and it has nothing to do with the story or the acting: why the heck did it cost $50M to make!? Despite the fact that it was an epic bomb at the box office, pulling in only $10M domestically -- not opening weekend numbers, TOTAL DOMESTIC GROSS -- I believe there's an audience for this kind of film, but not at that budget.

BTW, check out the excellent online journal by co-screenwriter, Todd Farmer. Lots of insight into to the process.


The Ward isn't a bad movie, just a victim of unrealistic expectations. When this project was first announced, fans were thrilled at the thought of a John Carpenter comeback. Maybe he'd give us another Halloween or Escape from New York? The Thing? Big Trouble in Little China at least? Nope. Not that kind of film. It's a small, low-budget script driven by internal conflict more than anything else.

Female patients at a Psychiatric Hospital are being targeted by a vengeful spirit. As usual, no one in authority believes them. Newcomer Kristen (Heard) must unravel the truth and overcome her own personal demons before she becomes the next victim.

Look, John Carpenter has probably forgotten more than most of us will ever hope to learn about horror -- it's a clumsy expression but I think you get my point. Guys like him don't see movies/stories the way we do. He's not worried about preserving his legacy or trying to appease fans. At this point in his career, he's looking for stuff that challenges him. I'm not saying he's above criticism, just offering a different perspective.

I saw quite a bit of bitching and moaning on Twitter and the imdb. If this had been a J-Horror import, fanboys would be jizzing in their pants. Is it a perfect film? No. The big mystery isn't that difficult to figure out. Although the performances were fine, there could have been stronger character development. I really thought the film could have used some of Carpenter's magic as a composer. It's also one of the rare occasions where I would have favored cg effects over some of the practical stuff. The Ward isn't Carpenter's best film, but it's still worth watching.

Check out co-screenwriters, The Rasmussen Brothers on Twitter.

3 comments:

Dark Energy said...

Yeah Miss Heard has been slowly establishing herself as the  impromptu scream queen. Adding to your post I believe she was a producer as well the lead in And Soon The Darkness (2010) also starring Karl Urban and Odette Yustman. While the movie was so/so at best it still adds notch to her production credit...

screamwriter said...

Haven't seen And Soon The Darkness. It's a remake, right?

os1019 said...

Yes it is.

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