John Carpenters 'The Ward' (2010)




The worst thing I've ever written during one of these little reviews is the opening line for my review of All The Boys Love Mandy Lane. It's haunted me ever since I posted the review. However, despite my overwhelming desire to edit the line out of the review, I have not. So it's still there, in all its awful glory for perpetual posterity...or until I stop writing and this thing fades away. You can read it here. Then wash your eyes and forget about it.

Forget about it for a couple of reasons, first, because it's such a terrible, dirty, misogynistic line. Second, because when it comes to The Ward, it couldn't be further from the truth. Unless watching a young blonde, run around aimlessly for an hour in breast high mom jeans is your thing. Then go for it.

Heard is Kristen, a young girl picked up for burning down a farmhouse and subsequently committed to a mental asylum. She joined in the ward by Maimie Gummer,  daughter of Meryl Streep, who would be slumming it here, if then were now all things considered and Danielle Panabaker, who it seems has made it her life's mission to be in every shitty horror movie ever. There are others but they are wholly uninteresting.

And there's the real rub of The Ward, it's entirely uninteresting. Heard runs around for a while trying to unravel some mystery involving possible torture or a ghost...or maybe it's a zombie. The other girls egg her on but she is apparently thwarted by the possibly evil Dr. Stringer (Jared Harris). This goes on for what seems like ever. Girls disappear, there is a shower scene (not a hot shower scene, rather just a scene in the shower), and a twist you can see coming from about 45 minutes into the film. Despite more foreshadowing than your average Disney cartoon, the twist would have been pretty cool...had it not been done by another major picture only a few years earlier. I won't spoil it for you, but Google John Cusack and Ray Liotta and you'll figure it out pretty damn quick.

The venerable Joseph Lee of 411mania.com named this film as the worst by a talented horror director. I won't go that far (Dario Argentos output over the last 20 years or so should pretty much eliminate anyone else from this category), it's certainly not Carpenters best. It's not his worst either. Frankly, Carpenters output has been spotty at best for the last couple decades. The best way to describe The Ward is safe. It's a safe film. Carpenters stuff has been described as genre blending, mind bending, even perversely brilliant at times. The Ward is  none of these things. If weren't for the fact that the film is billed as being from John Carpenter, you would never know it. Anyone could have directed this film. It's safe.

Safe, but not terrible. If you are in the mood for a brisk little psychological thriller, then you will enjoy The Ward. If you are looking for something deeper from a one-time brilliant director, yyou will sit disappointed as the credit rolls.

** stars out of *****


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