Halloween Horror Movie Marathon: ‘The Ward’

The WardThe Ward (2010) Directed by John Carpenter. Starring Amber Heard, Jared Harris, Mamie Gummer, Danielle Panabaker, Laura-Leigh, Lyndsy Fonseca, Dan Anderson, Susanna Burney, Mika Boorem.

Here it is, the final film for the marathon! Too bad we had to go out on such a turd directed by one of horror’s greats.

The Ward takes place during 1966 in the ward of a psychiatric hospital. Kristen (Amber Heard) is a new arrival at North Bend. She’s been brought in after burning down a farm house but she has no memory of why she’s done so. There are four other girls with her in this special ward run by Dr. Stringer (Jarred Harris). And it wouldn’t be a mental hospital film if he weren’t using some cutting-edge, controversial treatment on the girls. And it wouldn’t be a horror movie if the ward wasn’t haunted by a former patient who’s started killing the girls.

Carpenter hasn’t directed a movie in ten years and it’s been far longer since he’s directed a great one. I guess he can’t be blamed too much for the failure of this one as the problems can mostly be attributed to the lousy script. But I don’t get the sense that Carpenter tried adding anything to it. Mental hospital tropes are the norm in this flick, though the twist at the end tries to account for them. That still doesn’t quite make up for the cliched creepy orderlies or the Nurse Ratched knock-off. Not that it matters when you see the “twist” coming a mile away; you may have guessed it already. You’ll smack your forehead at least twice, and that’s before the final jump scare that is the final shot of this movie.

Also, The Ward isn’t scary. Not unless you’re a fan of jump scares with accompanying “scare chords“.  The makeup on the ghost girl is creepy, I guess, but that can only go so far. Also, the film’s tension hits a wall as a pattern in the story emerges: a girl is killed and Kristen tries to escape. Another girl is killed and Kristen attempts to escape again. The stakes don’t raise much beyond the notion that eventually she’ll be the only one left for the ghoul to kill.

Another bothersome detail: part of the film’s score sounds like it stole its tune from the classic theme to Suspiria.  I’m not sure what the parallel is besides a group of girls thrown together in a building, so unless I’m missing something the reference is unnecessary.

The Ward was a waste of time and a disappointing way to end a Halloween movie experience. Ah well. I would have loved to have seen one of the horror masters bring us another masterpiece. I’ll have to hope he’ll come up with something more satisfying for us in the future. He certainly can’t do much worse.

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