Sunday, 22 January 2012

The Ward

Year:  2010
Director:  John Carpenter
Screenplay:  Michael Rasmussen and Shawn Rasmussen
Starring:  Amber Heard, Mamie Gummer, Danielle Panabaker, Laura-Leigh, Lyndsy Fonseca, Mika Boorem, Jared Harris
Running Time:  90 minutes
Genre:  Horror, psychological

This is a fairly average, low to mid budget horror film.  In the year 1966, in North Bend, Oregon, Kristen (Heard) is arrested after setting fire to a remote farmhouse.  She is taken to a psychiatric hospital and placed on a secure ward which she shares with four other young women:  friendly and artistic Iris (Fonseca), vain and arrogant Sarah (Panabaker), tough Emily (Gummer) and timid and childlike Zoey (Laura-Leigh).  On the ward they are treated by the sinister Doctor Stringer (Harris) who is using a range of experimental techniques.  Kristen soon discovers that the ward hides some very dark secrets when she learns that a large number of patients have mysteriously gone missing and never been seen again.  She also finds herself haunted by a hideous female figure.

This was John Carpenter's first feature film since 2001's Ghosts of Mars, and while it fails to rise to the levels of his best work, such as Halloween (1978), it remains watchable enough.  Set almost entirely in the claustrophobic confines of the hospital, with engaging performances from the cast, Carpenter opens his box of tricks and provides plenty of slick shocks and scares.  The problem is that everything feels very much by the numbers, with nothing that fans will not have seen countless times before.  A twist before the end is initially interesting but ultimately unsatisfying. 

It's not really a bad film at all, it's just bland.  Carpenter is a great horror director and has a legacy of some truly spectacular work, but here it just feels like he is merely going through the motions.  It's far from being the worse of his output but then it is nowhere near his best.  Fans will have seen it all before, but there is still enough to make it an entertaining enough diversion.

Amber Heard is about to be sent to The Ward


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