It has been ten years since legendary horror director John Carpenter has released a film. Known for classics such as Halloween and Assault on Precinct 13 and most recently for Ghost of Mars which was slightly disappointing, his latest film The Ward has a lot riding on it if it’s going to reinstate him as the King of Horror.
Written by Michael Rasmussen and Shawn Rasmussen, the film tells the story of Kristen, played by new kid on the block Amber Heard who we see burn down a farmhouse which leads to her being taken to a psychiatric hospital. The hospital is everything you would hope for in a horror movie – it’s big, it’s drab, it’s creepy and looks identical to any psychiatric hospital we’ve see in films, particularly those set in the 60s. In fact I was convinced it was the same one just in Girl Interrupted.
The comparisons don’t stop there. The ward Kristen ends up on is made up of beautifully made up girls. They all have their individual characters, one is childish, one is bitchy and another is arty. You get the idea.
Kristen is put under the care of Dr. Stringer played by Jared Harris (who you may recognise from Mad Men). He is the perfect film shrink, he’s both scary but at the same time you feel he is sympathetic towards Amber, more so than the rest of the staff anyway. There’s is a feeling throughout that there is something not quite right about him and it’s unnerving how far away he is from his Mad Men character.
As you might expect, things are not as they seem within the ward. Kristen finds herself being woken in the night by a presence and she hears a lot of unusual and disconcerting sounds. Despite asking those around her what is going on, she gets no answers. As time goes on the other girls in the ward begin to disappear and Kristen decides she must leave the ward before someone else kills her.
What unfolds is unexpected. I can’t really reveal much more otherwise the film will be completely ruined for you, but it is definitely worth watching for yourself to find out. At some points the film feels like it’s a little lost. The tricks like long pauses, shadows in the night and false scares just seem a little too familiar. However it could very well be that Carpenter was the first to use them, it’s just they have now been used too many times in other films so they seem tired. It is nice to watch a thriller where there isn’t blood being sprayed here and there every second. The Ward plays on your mind in order to scare you, with plot twists and turns.
The biggest let down in the film for me was probably Amber Heard who found fame after her roles in the likes of Pineapple Express and the upcoming The Rum Diary with Johnny Depp. Her acting is wooden and it’s just not believable that she’s living in the 60s, it may sound a bit weird but her face is just too modern looking. Other than that The Ward is enjoyable. It’s not quite up to the highest Carpenter standard we’re used to, but it is certainly good to see him back and going for scares in the good old fashioned way.
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