THE WARD: A Short Review

 Posted by on June 27, 2011  A-Z Index, Ghost, Horror
Jun 272011
 

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Directed by:
Written by: ,
Starring: , ,

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WHAT IS IT ALL ABOUT:
 
Kristen (Amber Heard), a beautiful but troubled young woman, finds herself bruised, cut, drugged, and held against her will in a remote ward of a psychiatric hospital. She is completely disoriented, with no idea why she was brought to this place and no memory of her life before being admitted. All she knows is that she isn’t safe.
 

The other patients in the ward–four equally disturbed young women–offer no answers, and Kristen quickly realizes things are not as they seem. The air is heavy with secrets, and at night, when the hospital is dark and foreboding, she hears strange and frightening sounds. It appears they are not alone.  One-by-one, the other girls begin to disappear and Kristen must find a way out of this hellish place before she, too, becomes a victim. As she struggles to escape, she will uncover a truth far more dangerous and horrifying than anyone could have imagined.
 
  HUGHES VERDICT:
 

For me to review The Ward, I have to ignore the name that is on top of the film title.  Being John Carpenter must be a curse because every time he announces he is going to do a new horror film, the genre sits up and waits in hope that its the new Halloween or The Thing.  Many film directors would probably love to be in that position, where hype and hope follows every new release even though over the years its usually followed by a disappointment and a need to chuck on an old film of his to remind yourself how good he………no, I made a vow not to go down that route.  I could easy sell out and do the usual comments of “how he has lost his mojo” and so on, but I refuse to do sol because lets face it, you the reader have probably heard it too many times before and yet many do not realise how false that statement is.  Yes his last classic was the 90’s In The Mouth Of Madness which we at HCF love with all our heart, but a few years ago he made Cigarette Burns for TV Show Masters Of Horror, which for me personally is up there with his best work.  Its mostly due to that epsiode that we arrive with this film because the story goes that  Carpenter enjoyed working on the low-budget, fast-paced project so much he wanted to try to make a film using the same principles and style, so with that in mind,  I had high hopes for The Ward on the basis that every legend has one last great film in him, and his return after a exodus  seven years thrilled my bone, but was I heading for a fall once more?

The Ward is set during 1966 where it starts with a distraught and disoriented Kristen burning down a farmhouse and then being sent to a mental institution (a real life home for the insane) where she shares a ward with four equally disturbed patients: the confident Sarah (Danielle Panabaker), the sweet  Iris (Lyndsy Fonseca), the outcast Emily (Mamie Gummer) and the childlike Zoey (Laura-Leigh).  Kristen has no idea why she has been admitted and can’t remember anything about her life up to this point.  Her main concern is getting out of the joint and starting afresh, but her hopes are dashed with an evil shadow lurking in the dark, a secret with a murderous intent.

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Its easy to find fault with The Ward and believe me many will, but before I say what I think is wrong with the film, I am going to look at the positives and first is that the film looks great.  Its filmed with an eerie style gloom that fits the concept and it owes much debt to the minor classic Shock Corridor which I thought must be the inspiration when Michael and Shawn Rasmussen sat down and wrote the script.  The music itself is considerably creepy even though its not the deft touch of Carpenter himself which is unusual when you talk about an horror he has made.  Instead the duties go to Mark Kilian who offers a rumbling score that is much in tune with Rosemary Baby for its sound!

Also the performances are great.  Heard herself is caving out a remarkable career in the horror field and while Mandy Lane will be the film for me that has to be beaten on her CV, she really pulls in a very good performance as the troubled teenager.  Also the back up is pretty fine too, with Jared Harris (Mad Men-Fame) in the role of Dr Stringer showing a clear case of huge potential.
Also there are many moments that many fans of Carpenter will relish.  There are many hints of his splendid horror work with the widescreen formula he worked so well with Halloween in full flow here.  I loved the way that the camera floated along the dark corridor and the mood at times brought back memories of films like The Fog, in fact The Ward is the closet you could get to Carpenter returning to his roots, the ghoul in the dark coming out to attack, its the deft touch of the master that makes this film a watchable fare at times.  There are many levels here which you will see his signature at work.  The slow approach and the unreliance on gore is all Carpenter, here his plan is to make a film rich in suspense, where the terror builds to a high frantic climax-does that sound similar to a 1978 classic?
But the biggest problem and the huge flaw that swamps the failure of the film is the plot.  Its so unimaginative and really tiresome that screams out loud to anyone who has seen a film set in an insane asylum.  There is nothing of note here to get excited about, even the ghoul in the middle comes across as the now dreaded J-Horror figure which I can here the sound of sigh from the reader from here.  The mystery itself is not so rich.  Its pretty guessable after the first half hour and while many call this a cheap version of Shutter Island, another film came to my mind but the sheer mention of it here will ruin the third act twist on offer in this because its really like for like.  Only those new to the genre will probably be stunned by the outcome but for me I was hoping that I was wrong and that the makers here were setting me up for a fall.  Sadly my instinct was right and it loses a star for the tired formula.
The Ward is not a bad film but its not a good one either.  Compared to some of his last films its a massive step up but it still misses that touch that made films like The Thing such a genre classic.  I have read that Carpenter’s heart was not in this but I disagree.  There are times that I could see his quality shine like a light from the
dull script and maybe the problem is that the film does not lack in the direction but of the written word.
Its a case of good work Carpenter but next time pick a script which will serve you talent better!…

Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Read the view of Matt Wavish of The Ward here  rating: 3/10
[pt-filmtitle]The Ward[/pt-filmtitle]

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  One Response to “THE WARD: A Short Review”

  1. Matt Wavish

    See, I didn’t quite guess the end because I was too buyy nodding off!! In the Mouth of Madness is his last classic, and I agree Cigarette Burns was a return to form, but this was just dreadful. And as I said in my review, as soon as we really get to some good stuff, the film finishes!

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