Monday, June 6, 2011

Insomniac Theater Presents: What Amber Heard

Wednesday, June 1, 2011 01:31:27 PM


Self Portrait of a three-year-old
Last night my three-year-old granddaughter and I recently watched 101 Dalmatians, after which she spent the next two hours running around the house yelling "15 puppies! 15 puppies!" It is amazing that she has so much energy after only three hours, 45 minutes sleep, two spoonfuls of strawberry yogurt, a package of cheese and crackers and half a gallon of milk, consumed in 8 ounce increments.

She sleeps in our bedroom and often slips into our bed and is prone to peer over my shoulder and ask, "What are you watching Pop-pop?" I have had to move my late night viewing to what used to be the office and is now discarded toy storage.

During a particularly sleepless night, I watched a double feature, 2006's All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, Jonathan Levine's first feature length film as a director and veteren filmmaker John Carpenter's 2010 The Ward.  I didn't realize it but I was in for a night of Amber Heard, a new (to me) scream queen.
Amber Heard was Mandy Lane and Kristen.

Both films illustrate the positive and negative aspects of formulaic, paint by numbers film making; neither film offered anything new, but that wasn't always a bad thing.

Mandy Lane attempted to create a microcosm (world in miniature) of high school society and then kill them all.  The microcosm is a straight forward concept; each member of the group represents a certain aspect (or aspects) of the greater group.    

The 1960's television show, Gilligan's Island is great example of the idea of a microcosm: The young, unskilled workers are represented by Gilligan, his white collar "boss," Skipper, exploiting captialists and members of the idle rich, the Howells, the Professor represents science, technology, and knowledge while Ginger, the movie star, stands for arts and entertainment, and of course there is Mary-Ann, homemaker and farm girl next door.  

Why else would the world of Many Lane have such a diverse group of characters?  The film brings together the most unlikely companions into the same clique, perhaps to add gravitas to what is a run-of-the-mill teen slasher film.  The representative members of high school society are Bird, the preppy-jock, African American, Red, the wealthy stoner, Jake, the sunglasses wearing misogynist, douche-bag, pretty and popular blond Chloe and her brunette friend Marlin are there to give high school girls a bad name.  On the fringes of this group are the obscure object of desire, the virginal Mandy that the boys want to "bag" like she is a trophy, and Emmet, an estranged from society and artistic type (he writes poetry). 

Mandy fits into this group like tits on a bull.  She is not cut from the same cloth.  She is openly disdainful of her companions promiscuity, inebriation and cruelty.  And why do the slutty girls even want the virgin coming along since all the guys are hot for her? Do they really want the extra competition?   Evidently so.

At times the film has the feel of a small budget, independent film with such trademarks as over exposed images that create a nimbus of light around a character, and the trademark, and straight from hell, semi-acoustic songs on the soundtrack.  

All you really need to know about Mandy Lane is right here: She isn't a part of the group, 
she watches them and is secretly amused by something. Get it?

Mandy has another role in high school besides playing the hot virgin.
She is Kali, Goddess of destruction and dissolution.

I found myself fast forwarding through much of he film, either to get past excruciatingly painful party scenes or the violent killings.  I( am not a big fan of slasher films.  The violence is often upsetting to watch or boring.  Most of the killing in Mandy Lane were of the latter kind.

The Ward was no less predictable, but was a lot more fun because it had some honest to goodness scary moments.  Even though it plays hell with my insomnia, I love that jumping out of my skin feeling.  

Ms. Heard plays Kristen, a pyromaniacle amnesiac.  She can't remember why she burned down the empty farmhouse in her nightgown.  But creepy Jared Harris (better known as Lane Price, the British guy from Mad Men) as Dr. Stringer, is determined to find out.  

She is placed in a psychiatric ward with four other girl who have nothing in common with each other.  There is the vain beauty queen, the goofy, cheerful girl, an artist, and a baby that plays with dolls.  They are so different, one might think what they really are is separate aspects of the same personality.  
I forgot to mention the ugly one
Iris, the sensitive, artistic one,
will not be in  The Ward II
Danielle Panabaker checks herself out: yup, she's fine.

Laura-Leigh as Zoey looks on Mika Boorem as Alice

Mamie Gummer channels Heath Ledger

The bottom line, even though there was nothing brand new, The Ward  had enough atmosphere and spooky shocks that I didn't mind it at all.  

Please feel free to leave your comments below.

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