To say that "The Ward" is Director John Carpenter’s most notable film effort in years still isn’t saying much. Meaning even though it’s slower and more stylish then recent embarrassments like "Ghosts of Mars" and "Village of the Damned," it certainly doesn't resemble the kind of work the director of "Assault on Precinct 13," "Escape from New York" and "The Thing" became famous for in the first place.
The story centers around a young woman named Kristen (Amber Heard) who after setting fire to a farmhouse finds herself institutionalized. Amidst meeting four of the other girls currently residing in the mental hospital, the stubborn and determined Kirsten becomes focused on freeing herself. But after each of the girls start to go missing with possible bloody malice, Kirsten finds that the chains of the hospital itself are the least of her dire problems.
There are twists and turns in "The Ward," but due to two screenwriters with a knack for writing the epitome of predictability (shame on both Michael and Shawn Rasmussen!), even a blind film fan can see everything coming from a mile away. And it’s unfortunate because Carpenter spends a great deal of the film setting an unhurried and deliberate pace that never gives the payoff it seems to promise. But even with "The Ward," the weary Carpenter continues his passionless streak as a filmmaker who seems not to care anymore. Minus the memorable music he always composed himself, the creative script ideas he used to conjure up and the need to really create a world that feels new and unexplored, Carpenter has been spinning his doing-it-for-the-money wheels for a while now and it’s become beyond sad. Long gone are the days of great fun storytelling (I named my kid after Kurt Russell’s character in "Big Trouble in Little China" for crying out loud!) and been replaced by sequels, remakes and, in the case of "The Ward," recycled ideas with nothing left to say or show.
I will say besides a few Carpenter taking time moments, the work by lead gal Amber Heard here is still solid, giving "The Ward" much more validity than it deserves. But in the end even the acting prowess of an up and comer can’t reignite the fuel of a former film master who gave up years ago and is simply going through the sad movie machine motions – there’s something to be said for exiting on a high note.
Title: "The Ward"
Genre: Horror, Drama, Psychological Thriller
Cast: Amber Heard, Danielle Panabaker, Jared Harris
Director: John Carpenter
Running Time: 88 minutes
Release Company: Echo Lake Entertainment