Reviews - Specialty Releases


Film Review: John Carpenter's The Ward

Genre veteran John Carpenter’s sleekly professional ghost story is well-acted and directed but sadly derivative. Horror fans have seen it all before.

July 7, 2011

-By Maitland McDonagh


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1257048-Ward_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

Set for no apparent reason in 1966, The Ward begins with a distraught young woman (Amber Heard) setting fire to an abandoned farmhouse. The police deliver her to nearby North Bend Psychiatric Hospital, where she identifies herself as Kristen and is placed in a special-care ward whose patients are all troubled young women her age with a DSM IV index’s worth of problems. Sarah (Danielle Panabaker, of the Friday the 13th and Crazies remakes) is a sly nymphomanic; Zoey (Laura-Leigh) has retreated into childlike behavior to escape some unknown trauma; Iris (Lyndsy Fonseca) is a talented artist whose inability to pick up on social cues has made her an outcast; and angry, volatile Emily (Mamie Gummer) lives to stir up trouble.

The vaguely creepy Dr. Stringer (Jared Harris) takes a personal interest in each, but no one on the ward ever seems to get better—they just vanish, one by one. And then there’s Alice, she-who-must-not-be-named. Kristen quickly figures out that she was once a patient—in fact, to judge by the broken name bracelet under her bed, Kristen now has her room—and is somehow the key to all the spooky goings-on. But is Alice a ghost? An escaped but cunning lunatic drawn inexorably to the hospital where she was confined? The sad product of some ghastly experimental treatment? Genre regulars stand a good chance of cracking the puzzle long before the movie’s big reveal.

Carpenter has always been a fine craftsman: He knows how to set up a scare, stage an action sequence and make a cliché as hoary as that damned cat that’s always exploding out of some inky shadow with a nerve-scraping “me-owwwwwww” play as though you were seeing it for the first time. But his material rarely lives up to his technique, and The Ward is no exception. Written by the fledgling team of Michael and Shawn Rasmussen, brothers whose only previous produced credit was the low-profile 1995 thriller Long Distance, The Ward draws heavily on familiar genre situations and set-ups, and (possible spoiler!) owes a particular debt to Identity (2003). The best directors have a bad-movie skeleton or two in the closet, but Carpenter has more than his share. Given that The Ward is his first project in a decade, it’s hard not to conclude that the master of horror has simply lost his touch.


Film Review: John Carpenter's The Ward

Genre veteran John Carpenter’s sleekly professional ghost story is well-acted and directed but sadly derivative. Horror fans have seen it all before.

July 7, 2011

-By Maitland McDonagh


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1257048-Ward_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

Set for no apparent reason in 1966, The Ward begins with a distraught young woman (Amber Heard) setting fire to an abandoned farmhouse. The police deliver her to nearby North Bend Psychiatric Hospital, where she identifies herself as Kristen and is placed in a special-care ward whose patients are all troubled young women her age with a DSM IV index’s worth of problems. Sarah (Danielle Panabaker, of the Friday the 13th and Crazies remakes) is a sly nymphomanic; Zoey (Laura-Leigh) has retreated into childlike behavior to escape some unknown trauma; Iris (Lyndsy Fonseca) is a talented artist whose inability to pick up on social cues has made her an outcast; and angry, volatile Emily (Mamie Gummer) lives to stir up trouble.

The vaguely creepy Dr. Stringer (Jared Harris) takes a personal interest in each, but no one on the ward ever seems to get better—they just vanish, one by one. And then there’s Alice, she-who-must-not-be-named. Kristen quickly figures out that she was once a patient—in fact, to judge by the broken name bracelet under her bed, Kristen now has her room—and is somehow the key to all the spooky goings-on. But is Alice a ghost? An escaped but cunning lunatic drawn inexorably to the hospital where she was confined? The sad product of some ghastly experimental treatment? Genre regulars stand a good chance of cracking the puzzle long before the movie’s big reveal.

Carpenter has always been a fine craftsman: He knows how to set up a scare, stage an action sequence and make a cliché as hoary as that damned cat that’s always exploding out of some inky shadow with a nerve-scraping “me-owwwwwww” play as though you were seeing it for the first time. But his material rarely lives up to his technique, and The Ward is no exception. Written by the fledgling team of Michael and Shawn Rasmussen, brothers whose only previous produced credit was the low-profile 1995 thriller Long Distance, The Ward draws heavily on familiar genre situations and set-ups, and (possible spoiler!) owes a particular debt to Identity (2003). The best directors have a bad-movie skeleton or two in the closet, but Carpenter has more than his share. Given that The Ward is his first project in a decade, it’s hard not to conclude that the master of horror has simply lost his touch.
Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
* Author: 
Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 

More Specialty Releases

BBoy for Life
Film Review: BBoy for Life

The dancing is familiar but the stakes are higher in this moving documentary set in a country with one of the highest murder rates in the world. More »

Manakamana
Film Review: Manakamana

An observational documentary in which the camera captures the passengers of a cable-car cabin in Nepal. More »

Visions of Mary Frank
Film Review: Visions of Mary Frank

Deeply loving, if too slight, documentary about one of the great beauties of the New York art world, who always forged her own path. More »

The Jewish Cardinal
Film Review: The Jewish Cardinal

Informative, absorbing, but as obvious as its title and a bit too glib for its own good, this French import will appeal mainly to religious addicts fascinated by the feverishly agenda-ridden internal workings of the Catholic Church. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

Draft Day
Film Review: Draft Day

Pro football manager faces crises on the most important day of his career in a well-tooled vehicle for Kevin Costner. More »

Rio 2
Film Review: Rio 2

Busy sequel to the popular animated feature follows the original's blue macaws on a journey from Rio de Janeiro to an endangered rainforest. More »

Player for the Film Journal International website.


ADVERTISEMENT



INDUSTRY GUIDES

» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.

» Distribution Guide
» Equipment Guide
» Exhibition Guide

ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION

Film Journal International

Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.

» Click Here

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.

» Click Here