No, I want her brains!
It's been a long time since John Carpenter has directed a movie. Over 9 years actually. His last movie was the 2001 flop, Ghosts of Mars. 9 years is an eternity when it comes to directing movies. Maybe he was just burnt our and needed a break. Maybe he was just thinking of a sequel to Memoirs of An Invisible Man. Either way, I was excited to see a new movie by the director of some of my favorites like They Live and Escape From NY.
The Ward stars Amber Heard (Drive Angry, Zombieland) as Kristen, a recent addition to the North Bend Psychiatric Hospital in 1966. Kristen was picked up by police after burning down a farmhouse. There, Kristen meets the other patients; Iris, Sarah, Emily, and Zoey. Kristen is given the room of a former patient named Tammy. No one speaks of her or where she has gone. Kristen is being treated by Dr. Stringer (Jared Harris, Resident Evil: Apocalypse, Mad Men) who is using hypnotherapy to treat her for her repressed memories. While at the hospital, Kristen keeps seeing a zombiefied ghost girl in her room, walking the halls, and in the showers. When she asks about the girl, no one can give her a straight answer. One by one, the girls in the ward are kidnapped and killed by the zombie girl. With no one answering her questions, Kristen plans to escape. Will she be able to save herself and the remaining girls and how is the ghost girl connected to Kristen?
They don't share the same dermatologist, I can tell you that much
Amber Heard and the rest of the girls do an acceptable acting job. The makeup is decent for the ghost girl, but nothing particularly amazing. The horror is based more in startling moments and a few psychological twists than out-right violence or gore, though there are some vicious moments. The story is basic, but the theme is still strong enough to carry the movie and hold the audience's attention. It does have a clever twist ending, except for the fact that we saw something very similar in the 2003 John Cusack movie “Identity”. The Ward went for clever and came up with unoriginal.
If The Ward was done by a lesser known director, it could be deemed “good.” Unfortunately, this movie was directed by John Carpenter, one of the masters of the horror genre. His directing is good, but it's for an uninspired, horror-by-numbers film that could have been done by anybody. It has the typical jump-at-you startling moments, the mystery, and the conspiracy that can be found in countless other horror movies. Carpenter's movies are known for being larger than life, but The Ward is just too mundane. That's not to say it's a bad movie, because its certainly not. It's perfectly acceptable, just nothing special.
Hey, what happened to your Resident Evil wheelchair?
Ultimately, you have to blame the script, not the director. The Ward comes off like every other psych-ward based movie with a little haunting thrown in. Think “Girl: Interrupted” meets “The Grudge”. Carpenter does his best to give the movie atmosphere and edge, but its just too hard to get around material that has already been covered to death. The acting is good all around so that's not the problem either. The Ward is not a bad movie. It definitely has it's good qualities. It's just a shame that all this talent was wasted on a mediocre story. Hopefully, they can all come back together soon with a better story in hand. I'll be waiting.