THE WARD (2010)
As a fan of John Carpenter, it was exciting to hear he was making a new flick after an almost 10 year absence from feature films. And while The Ward isn’t the major comeback and return to form fans hoped for, it’s also not really a bad movie either. The story takes place in 1966 and tells of a young woman, Kristen (Amber Heard) who’s thrown into a psychiatric ward after setting a house on fire only to find it haunted by the ghost of a previous patient…and one who has set it’s lethal sights on the ward’s remaining inhabitants. As Kristen tries to unravel the mystery of this spectral patient, Alice (Mika Boorem), her own secrets slowly become revealed as well.
Horror flick is held back mostly by a weak script. It has it’s clever moments, too, but, overall it could have been much stronger. The screenplay by Michael and Shawn Rasmussen is filled with plot holes and implausibilities…the girls in the ward seem to have access to rooms like the kitchen and dispensary which I doubt would occur in real life…and while the twist ending might explain that to some, I felt certain principles, such as the hospital’s policies, would remain the same. But, Carpenter is a master and even if it doesn’t seem like his heart is fully onboard here, he is still able to get some effectiveness out of what he has to work with. There are some very creepy scenes and the last act is very spooky and there is also some nice tension and suspense especially as the film moves towards it’s climax. His skill at framing shots hasn’t diminished, as the film looks great and he creates a lot of mood and atmosphere with his camera. Carpenter’s only flaw seems to be not drawing stronger performances from his cast. Star Amber Heard doesn’t have nearly the fire and intensity that she showed in Drive Angry and some of the other ladies like Danielle Panabaker and Lyndsay Fonseca, also seem to be coasting a bit as well. It also doesn’t help that some of the script’s dialog is weak, too. At least Carpenter got to work with some very lovely ladies for this flick after his long absence from the director’s chair. The performances do pick up a bit in the final act, as does the whole film in general, as it’s the part of the story that Carpenter was most able to do what he does best with and deliver the horror goods. There is also a spooky and atmospheric score by Mark Kilian and Yaron Orbach’s cinematography also helps in the atmosphere department. There is also some well executed gore, though it’s used sparingly.
For die hard fans The Ward may be a disappointment, somewhat, but, for the casual horror viewer it is a spooky enough Saturday night watch and a return to a more basic type of horror. It’s far from Carpenter’s best films but, doesn’t rank as his worst effort either and is fairly entertaining when all is said and done. Just don’t expect Halloween and you’ll probably enjoy it. Also stars Jared Harris as Dr. Stringer, Kristen’s therapist.