1966, Kristen (Amber Heard), a beautiful but troubled young woman burns down a remote farmhouse and is incarcerated in a remote ward in the psychiatric hospital. She has no idea why she is there and no memory of her life before the fire. Kristen is treated by Doctor Stringer (Jared Harris) and his stereotypically brutal staff, Nurse Lundt (Susanna Burney) and orderly Roy (D.R. Anderson).
In the ward Kristen meets four other disturbed girls, Emily (Mamie Gummer), Sarah (Danielle Panabaker), Zoë (Laura Leigh) and Iris (Lindsay Fonseca). They are four very distinct characters with a shared secret. Who was Tammy, the girl who had Kristen’s room before she arrived? Who is Alice? Who is walking the halls at night and more disturbingly why are the other girls starting to disappear?
Kristen is determined to escape before she becomes the next victim.
The cast of girls are all okay, and although each of them is playing fairly stereotypical roles, they deliver decent performances. Sadly I can’t say the same about Jared Harris as Dr. Stringer, Susanna Burney or D.R Anderson, they are quite wooden. Amber Heard has the most to do and is obviously relishing the role. She’s a good physical presence and instils Kristen with some believability.
The Ward is John Carpenters first movie as a director in seven years and he has made a return to the psychological thriller genre in which he made his name. The movie retains most of his stylistic touches, forced perspective, extreme angles and tracking shots; it is very much a Carpenter movie. He makes good use of the limited sets and creates a typically sinister atmosphere.
The make-up effects are good as they are; however, the extra expense incurred by adding the CG overlay has backfired. Once again a modern genre flick has been hampered by some shoddy CGI that removes us from any involvement in the featured scenes. Carpenter directed the pioneering effects movie ‘The Thing’, surely of all horror genre directors he’s aware of the impact that good effects can have.
The Ward is part horror film, part psychological thriller and as such it works fairly well. However if you’ve seen ‘Shutter Island’ or ‘Identity’ there’s nothing much new to see here. Not the return to form of ‘Halloween’, ‘Escape From New York’ or ‘The Thing’ but better than Carpenters last few movies as director, although it will take more than this to erase memories of ‘Ghosts of Mars’. An okay movie but not the return to form we’d hoped for; current scream queen of the moment Heard is good and overall the movie is worth the effort. Check out the trailer here
Quality: 3 out of 5 stars
Any good: 2 out of 5 stars