Ward, The (Review)

WARD, THE
[aka JOHN CARPENTER’S THE WARD]
(6/08/11; Horror)
Amber Heard, Lyndsy Fonseca, Danielle Panabaker, Jared Harris, Mamie Gummer, Mika Boorem, Reila Aphrodite, Sean Cook, Laura-Leigh
SCR: Michael Rasmussen, Shawn Rasmussen
DIR: John Carpenter
MPAA: R for violence and disturbing images.

Carpenter’s first film since Ghosts of Mars (2001) is a return to the type of psychological horror that defined much of his early filmography, but without the fun.

In 1966, Kristen (Heard) is a disturbed young woman institutionalized after burning down a country house. If that wasn’t bad enough, the psycho ward is haunted by a nasty spirit named Alice that’s picking off the girls, one by one.

The Ward is a mostly sterile affair and surprisingly chaste, considering the lack of profanity, nudity or any real gore for the first two-thirds. Fortunately, the action picks up in the last stretch with an escape sequence that’s well-orchestrated if you just don’t think about it.

SLIGHT SPOILER: I’ll alert you now that there is a twist at the end worth sticking around for that actually holds together, psychologically. It’s not a very unique twist, but I’ll be nice and not compare it to the obvious movies it borrows from.

When it came to subversive B-movie pop cinema, Carpenter was the man, building an impressive run of cult favorites that included Halloween (1978), The Fog (1980), Escape from New York (1981), The Thing (1982), Christine (1983), Starman (1984), Big Trouble in Little China (1987), and They Live (1988).

But his later failures seemed to tamp down his playfulness (and penchant for synth-scoring his own films). Frankly, there is very little that distinguishes this film from countless other disposable thrillers (with long tracking shots down hallways), save for its name director. (Echo Lake)

— DENNIS WILLIS

Author: Dennis Willis

Dennis Willis is an award-winning producer, TV host, producer, director, editor (he preferred Avid until a torrid affair with Adobe Premiere, and the rest is history), author and film critic (print and radio). Dennis produced and hosted the TV programs Reel Life, FilmTrip, Soundwaves (1983-2008) and produces the annual Soundwaves Xmas program. He is currently the film critic on KGO Radio in San Francisco, and a member of both the San Francisco Film Critics Circle and the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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