Title: John Carpenter’s THE WARD
Year of Release—Film: 2010
Year of Release—DVD: 2011
DVD Label: Arc Entertainment
John Carpenter is, in this reviewer’s opinion at least, one of the three or four greatest living creators of Horror films; certainly one of the top ten such individuals of all time. His filmography reads like a list of the essential Horror films of the last 35 years—HALLOWEEN; THE FOG; THE THING; CHRISTINE; PRINCE OF DARKNESS. Though he has occasionally stumbled (the 1995 remake of VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED springs to mind), the same can be said of every great director, and the hits far outweigh the misses on his ledger. Thus it can be safely said that when a new feature of his comes out, especially his first feature since 2001’s GHOSTS OF MARS, I for one pay attention.
Starring Amber Heard, Jared Harris, and Danielle Panabaker, and written by Michael and Shawn Rasmussen, the production is highlighted by a talented cast, guided by Carpenter’s expert hand. Heard stars as Kristen, whom we meet at the scene of farmhouse, fully involved in flames. Police show up, and proceed to wrestle her into submission, throwing her into the back of the squad car. She’s taken to an asylum, where she encounters a group of young women, similarly incarcerated. From the first night, Kristen notices strange occurrences—the impression that someone is in her room at night, ghostly apparitions that seem to stalk her, and a secret that the others seem to share, a secret that concerns a girl named Alice, and how she “got out,” of the institution. The deeper Kristen delves into the mystery, the closer she comes to discovering the root of her own madness, and the memories she has locked away.
I’ve already stated that the cast and the director did an excellent job with the material they were given. Unfortunately, that material simply wasn’t up to the standards of such a talented director. It’s not that the script was bad … it’s just that it wasn’t in any way original. It was like watching every other psychological horror film of the past decade—GOTHIKA, IDENTITY, SHUTTER ISLAND, THE UNINVITED—and there simply was no surprise left in the premise. It was well-executed, yes … but it hardly needed the skills of John Carpenter to translate this derivative, hackneyed script to the big screen, much as you wouldn’t choose Gordon Ramsay to assemble a Big Mac.
As I stated earlier, I’m a huge fan of Carpenter’s, and was overjoyed by his return to Horror filmmaking. I just wish the project he chose for that return had been worthy of him. I’ll give this one a qualified Rent recommendation, but unless you’re a Carpenter completist, then I’d leave my cash in my pocket.