Dallas IFF ’11: The Ward – Review


A disappointment from master of horror John Carpenter

Just mentioning the name John Carpenter will cause movie geeks to chatter and debate endlessly. Having helmed some of the greatest genre films in history – The Thing, Halloween, Escape From New York – this man is a movie god. However he’s also had his fair share of bombs, making fans a little cautious when he announces a new project. Carpenter’s last feature length film Ghosts Of Mars was nearly a decade ago, and with only a few Masters of Horror episodes since then, fans are eagerly waiting to see what’s next from the legend.

The Ward stars Amber Heard as Kristen, a beautiful but troubled girl who is locked up in a massive psychiatric hospital after being found burning down an old farmhouse. She’s locked in a separate ward of the hospital in a special, experimental program with four other girls: Iris (Lyndsy Fonseca), Sarah (Danielle Panabaker), Emily (Mamie Gummer), and Zoey (Laura-Leigh). Overseeing their program is Dr. Stringer (Jared Harris) and his assistant Nurse Lundt (Susanna Burney).

Spoiler free summary: The very night that Kristen is admitted, she begins experiencing strange sounds and sensing movement in her room. The other girls seem to know what’s going on but are keeping quiet about it, at least until they begin disappearing one at a time. Kristen bands together with the remaining girls and tries to escape the ghostly horrors that might be waiting for them.

The spoiler free summary makes The Ward sound much creepier than it actually is. Carpenter seems to be phoning this one in. Every scare is a “jump scare” and can be seen coming a mile away. In fact, at the screening at the Dallas International Film Festival, the ENTIRE audience cracked up laughing during what was supposed to be the scary climax. The “twist” ending is one that has been done before. The characters are given almost no backstory until the ending of the film, so we don’t really seem to care much about their plight.

While The Ward isn’t Carpenter’s worst, it’s far from his best. It appears that after the film’s run on the festival circuit (it premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival), it will be released direct to DVD. This news is even more saddening, knowing that the iconic director’s first feature film in over a decade won’t even get a proper theatrical release. Disappointing as it is, The Ward is better left in the $5 bin with the rest of the forgettable direct to DVD horror films.

Director: John Carpenter
Notable Cast: Amber Heard, Jared Harris, Lyndsy Fonseca, Mamie Gunner
Writer(s):Michael Rasmussen, Shawn Rasmussen

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