John Carpenter’s The Ward
Directed by John Carpenter
Acclaimed director John Carpenter stated that his latest feature The Ward is an old-school horror movie made by an old-school director. Well, his long awaited return to the screen in nine years is clearly pushing for something that combines a ’60s horror-thriller with a contemporary psychological tragedy, but what he ends up creating is a lackluster made-for-TV remake of Shutter Island.
The Ward takes place in North Bend, Oregon in 1966 and stars Amber Heard as Kristen, a disturbed young woman admitted into a psychiatric hospital for torching a local barn. Kirsten’s therapist, Dr. Stringer (Jared Harris), tries to uncover the root cause of her breakdown and she soon realizes there are dark forces at work at the hospital. As her fellow patients begin to disappear, she begins to uncover the secret behind a ghostly presence that terrorizes them. Persistent and curious, she searches for answers only to quickly realize no one ever leaves the ward alive.
Regardless if you love John Carpenter (as I do) or not, The Ward brings nothing new to the genre and is a complete and utter disappointment. Jammed full of clichés that just keep on coming, Carpenter rehashes more tired horror movie conventions than the mid-90’s teen slasher films. Lacking in suspense and genuine atmospheric moments, The Ward is generic, half baked and plagued with cheap scares and bargain basement effects. It also boasts an incredibly inane (M. Knight-like) twist and your typical Wait Until Dark final jump before the credits role.
Even worse, Carpenter aims for a PG-13 film designed to appeal to teenage girls and boys who think Twilight is a good movie. There is not one appealing character; they’re all stereotypes (the rebel, the geek, the brain, the jock and the sexy girl), and all, of course, exceptionally good looking. The cast looks bored, never crazy, and all deliver laugh-out-loud performances while garishly bickering with each other. There’s a lot of running down empty corridors, figures appearing out of focus in the background, lights flickering and more running around.
Based on a not-so-original screenplay by Michael & Shawn Rasmussen, The Ward is void of any of John Carpenter’s signature style, so much so that if you remove his name from the credits, no one would ever have to know that a director considered such an icon could demonstrate so little control. Even Hitchcock came up short on occasion, but let us hope The Ward will be the last time Carpenter recycles ideas from better films, rather than build on his own.
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