John Carpenter returns, again, with young girls running in dark corridors to almost find his former glories.
John Carpenter returns,
again, with young girls running in dark corridors to almost find his former
was a time, back in the good old 80s, where the name John Carpenter above a film’s title became synonymous with the
concept of well-cultivated horror thrillers. The likes of Halloween (1978), Escaper
From New York (1981) and The Thing
(1982) cemented him as an almost exploitation Alfred Hitchcock. Unfortunately
those days are long gone thanks to some fairly shoddy outputs like Vampires (1998) and Ghosts Of Mars (2001). His latest
outing, customarily known as ‘John Carpenter’s The Ward’, is not so much a
return to his former glories but it does go some way to try and redeem those
1966 Kristen (Heard) is committed to
a psychiatric ward having burned down a local farmhouse. There she meets an
assortment of other female patients who all seem to harbour a dark secret.
Before long Kristen is being haunted by a demonic girl who is determined that
none of the inhabitants of The Ward will live to see their freedom.
wards in period settings are a rising trend in the current crop of Hollywood
genre films. Zack Synder’s Sucker Punch utilised such a location
to curious effect while Scorsese’s Shutter Island was a gothic delight.
The Ward has more in common with the latter, but unlike that film, spends much
of its running time trying to hide and distract from the eventual twist rather
than slowly unravelling it. As such the film becomes increasingly repetitive
with Kirsten slinking her way around the Ward without ever giving the audience
any manner of glimpse as to the answers behind the mysterious malevolent force.
Thankfully the eventual twist goes some way to redeeming this but by then some
will have lost all interest.
manages to bring some of his best tricks back to a genre that has always served
him well. Giving it a 60s setting allows for a certain level of nostalgic charm
that is immediately reminiscent of his early, and superior, films. In his hands
The Ward is always a claustrophobic and atmospheric location. Furthermore,
while the script is lacking Carpenter makes the most of racking up the tension
to the point where even the most banal event can result in a jump or scare. He
even finds the time to occasionally litter the visuals with Alice In Wonderland
motifs of ticking clocks and lost rabbits.
of the girls are asked to play nothing more than stereotypes, although this is
essential to the film, so few stand out from the crowd. Amber Heard continues
to be one of the go to actresses for exploitation scream queens. She never does
anything spectacular but her strong reserve does enough to make you invest in
Ward is a film that takes certain horror staples and makes good, if unoriginal,
use of them. It will not appeal to most, but for Carpenter and genre fans it
does enough to offer hope of a brighter, or should that be darker, future for
the director. You won’t need a therapist but The Ward offers just a hint of
being mentally twisted.