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Ward 13 (2003)


After a car accident, Ben wakes up in hospital … only to find that the staff really don’t have his health in mind. The hapless patient must pull himself together and do everything he can to escape. Ward 13 is an action-horror-comedy that ends with a hair-raising, high-speed wheelchair chase.

Curator’s notes

Ward 13 plays on the widespread fear of being a helpless patient in hospital. Writer, producer, director and animator Peter Cornwell takes this premise to its zenith. He creates a bizarre hospital where monstrous experiments are in course with violent, sadistic doctors and attendants in control. Ben is their hapless patient and victim.

Ben’s presence of mind and fight for life are amazing, given the amount of ‘brain exploding’ pills he has ingested; but all is possible in this up-tempo, ‘deadly’ humorous adventure. The highlight of the film is the dizzying wheelchair battle and chase between doctor and patient. Given that the film is stop-motion animation, executing this chase is quite a feat.

Stop motion is an animation technique in which characters or objects are given the illusion of life by breaking up their motion into increments and shooting one frame of film per increment. When the sequences are played back at normal film speed, the characters (in this case plasticine figures constructed on wire armatures) appear to move by themselves.

Cornwell made and financed the film over many years while working as a sound recordist for ABC Television; this is a tribute to his enthusiasm, endurance, talent and ingenuity. The Australian Film Commission financed the lush soundtrack, designed by Luke Dunn Gielmuda in collaboration with an expert musical team. Claimed by Hollywood, Peter Cornwell directed The Haunting in Connecticut (2009), not surprisingly, a horror thriller. It was a big box-office success.

Ward 13 has been a winner with audiences and juries since its release in 2003. It received many prizes including Best Animation at the 2003 IF Awards; the FIPRESCI prize at the Valladolid International Film Festival; and Best Short Film and the Audience Award at the San Sebastian Horror and Fantasy Film Festival.