The recent release of John Carpenter’s first theatrical feature in ten years, THE WARD, left many film goers crying deja vu! So similar to the more mainstream SHUTTER ISLAND, many wondered if perhaps Carpenter was working from the same script. According to Carpenter, he had no idea at the time he was making the same film as production overlapped and, at the recent FRIGHT NIGHT FILM FEST convention in Kentucky, urged fans not to even bother seeing his entry.
Now, now John. It really isn’t all that bad. Let’s give you a nice glass of warm milk and see you off to bed. Here is a comparative summary of the two films and we’ll let YOU decide which is best. Of course I’ll tell you which one I prefer but first things first…
THE WARD – Directed by John Carpenter
SHUTTER ISLAND – Directed by Martin Scorsese
THE WARD – Features an inmate at a 1960’s mental hospital seeking answers regarding missing patients.
SHUTTER ISLAND – Features an investigator at a 1950’s mental hospital seeking answers regarding a missing patient.
THE WARD – Features an innovative psychiatrist who approaches health care differently than the norm.
SHUTTER ISLAND – Features an innovative psychiatrist who approaches health care differently than the norm.
THE WARD – Limited budget features familiar faces but no big name celebrities.
SHUTTER ISLAND – Boasts bigger budget and A-list celebs such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Ben Kingsley, Michelle Williams, and Max von Sydow.
THE WARD – Inmates are attractive teen gals
SHUTTER ISLAND – Inmates = yuk!
SHUTTER ISLAND – Patients questioned aren’t helpful and clearly hiding something.
THE WARD – Main character can’t escape THE WARD despite numerous attempts.
SHUTTER ISLAND – Main character can’t leave SHUTTER ISLAND despite attempts.
THE WARD – features a scene with the characters listening to a phonograph while go-go dancing – soon interspersed with horrific images of a walking corpse!
SHUTTER ISLAND – Features a scene with the characters listening to a phonograph amid scenes of the real-life horrors of a Nazi death camp.
THE WARD – Lead female character (played by Amber Heard) seems more suited in 2011 and is not totally convincing as a child of the 60’s.
SHUTTER ISLAND – DiCaprio’s New England accent is not only unconvincing, its cringe-worthy!
I am not going to give away the twist endings here but, suffice it to say, they are VERY similar. SHUTTER ISLAND is more like a psychological thriller and waking nightmare not unlike JACOB’S LADDER. There is beautiful cinematography heavy with symbolism and flashback scenes that may, or may not, represent reality. The ending in SHUTTER ISLAND had more impact than THE WARD but this film is more artistic than terrifying. In contrast, THE WARD, is much more of a true horror film. It features a rotting corpse committing murders on the inmates one by one and was easier to follow. I can’t see myself ever watching SHUTTER ISLAND again, but THE WARD is worth a spot in your collection!
So let me summarize: BOTH films have merit but, if you are wondering which to choose, I’d go with THE WARD all the way!
…despite what John Carpenter says!