What’s it About?
A thriller centered on an institutionalized young woman who becomes terrorized by a ghost.
Directed by John Carpenter
7 out of 10
Is John Carpenter’s The Ward the return to form /comeback we having been waiting for from The Master? Maybe not but it is a step in the right direction. The film is indeed flawed but there is not much to really dislike here. Carpenter’s return to feature length films since the polarizing Ghosts Of Mars (and some work for Masters of Horror: Cigarrette Burns and Pro-Life) finds him in classic and true form. The Ward proves that Carpenter still has some bite left in his chops, if not too much fire in his belly.
The beautiful Amber Heard (Drive Angry) as Kristen is first and foremost what really works in Carpenter’s film. Heard’s female patient is dynamic, sympathetic and even endearing despite the other-worldy challenges she finds herself in at the institution. Despite some flimsy and pedestrian dialog and sub-par plot developments, Heard rises above it all and is genuine and strong like many a Becall-ish woman in Carpenter’s films.
Kristen is, of course, being haunted by a strange female phantom at the mental institution she is being held at after being caught burning down a nearby house. She befriends other female patients, played by Laura Leigh, Danielle Panabaker, Mamie Gummer, and begins to try and unravel the mysterious goings on at the hospital regarding a “Ghost Girl” that prowls the ward at night. Carpenter handles it all with some relish. If at times some lazy relish.
Carpenter manages to extract a halfway menacing performance from the under- developed character of Dr. Stringer, played by Jared Harris. Carpenter smartly gives him his due screen time and successfully raises Harris’ Dr Stringer above mediocrity and caricature. He is fun to watch, for sure, while on screen and his casting in the film is a plus, hands down.
We are witness to Carpenter setting up absorbing mood, striking style and notable atmosphere graciously. His deep framing of shots and fluid composition make an impression during the many slow tracking shots and angles that show off the insular ward. It does indeed become a character much in itself. Of note, also, is Mark Killian’s eerie, crawly and absorbing score that serves to chill and appropriately increases the dread that Carpenter is inevitably showcasing with the story.
What follows at times are some cheap ghostly shocks and scares that we have seen countless of times before but I can forgive that as long as the story is propelled in a linear manner. And it does unfold nicely. Have we seen it all before? Yeah, we have. But it is cool watching JC put just about anything on film and when the finale may seem to underwhelm, we remember the talent that is behind the camera. It may not be enough for casual horror fans but longtime fans of Carpenter, it is effective, bizarre and mysterious.
We are then exposed to the extreme mental illness that strikes down Kristen and in a sophomoric “Shutter Island” moment we are all urged to stop and think…was it all in her head? Maybe. Maybe not but it was fun getting thus far with John Carpenter and gang. Recommended.
Enjoy a track below from Mark Killian’s Score and the Trailer!
Enjoy the Image Gallery Below!