We here at Gores Truly are big fans of John Carpenter. The man’s filmography practically reads as a Must See Classics list after all. His 1978 Halloween? The most classic classic that ever classic’ed as far as I’m concerned. So when we read that he was back in the feature-film director’s chair for The Ward, we admit we were a little bit excited to see The Man back where he belonged: Making Scary Movies.
Oops. Our mistake.
Supposedly set in the 1960’s in the women’s ward of a mental institution, The Ward follows star Amber Heard as “Kristen” – a gorgeous young woman with a bit of amnesia who was nabbed by the police after she burned down a farmhouse in her underwear. Hey, if your film starred Ms. Heard you’d likely find an excuse to put her in undies too. *cough* It’s there that Kristen meets a handful of other young ladies who – like her – feel that something is dangerously and desperately amiss. Of course, all of the young ladies are also lovely, and each are the tried & true crazy-female stereotypes: oversexed, undersexed, baby-like, manipulative, and rotten to the core. The staff too are cookie-cutter copies of every seedy horror institution that’s come before. Overbearing nurse? Check. Seedy orderly? Check. Male Doctor Head of Staff who thinks the girls just need to settle down and take care of a nice man? Check, check, and check. There is a reason for all of this explained in the film, but honestly – that made it even more trite for me.
It’s not that The Ward is bad. Okay, okay… it’s pretty bad. The “twist” is evident from the opening scenes – only someone new to the art form of Motion Pictures would miss it. The movie is set in the 1960’s but looks and feels as though it’s the 1990’s or later. Even the hair extensions that Amber Heard wears make her look like she’s some sort of 99% hipster with blonde dreads. The one and only aspect of the film that works for its intended time-period is the use of violent “medical” techniques on the poor girls stuck in the film’s institution. Which is my guess about why they bothered to set the film in the 60’s to begin with. *shrug*
Each of the actors do their best to try to elevate the source material, but with a script this lacking in pretty much every aspect – there’s not a lot for them to do. The film’s only attempt at actual frights are ham-handed jump-scares, loud sounds, and endless thunderclaps. There are a smattering of Carpenter-moments in the film (and some lovely widescreen shots) if you’re involved enough to look for them – but what was suspiciously absent was any of that old Carpenter suspense or charm. The Ward is simply a bunch of pretty girls reacting to nothing until the final reveal confirms what you knew all along and then the credits rolls. *YAWN*