Anyone who knows me knows that I have been a fan of John Carpenter since I was a child. I knew at a pretty early age who this man was and what movies he made and they were my favorite films. From the classic Halloween in 1978 all the way up to Prince of Darkness in 87′ Carpenter had a pretty great run of movies. Even his silly films like Big Trouble in Little Tokyo and They Live are great and well worth checking out! In the 90’s however Carpenter had more misses than hits though I still defend Vampires and I love In the Mouth of Madness. Then after the terrible Ghost of Mars in 2001, Carpenter pretty much dropped off the Radar for nearly a decade, returning only to film 2 episodes of the showtime tv series, Masters of Horror.
But now the man is back and doing a film that feels and looks like a Carpenter movie. The Ward isn’t the triumphant return to Horror I would have liked to see but it is definetly a nice warm up. The film follows a girl named Kristen (Amber Heard) who we meet at the beginning of the film burning down a house. She’s taken kicking and screaming to a mental institute where 4 other young girls are locked up in the same ward. Soon Kristen is told about the ghost that haunts the ward and the girls are getting picked off one by one.
Visually The Ward looks pretty amazing! It feels more like a classic Carpenter film with its slow low tracking shots down hallways, strong production design and cinematography that is on par with that of the great Dean Cundey. Carpenter feels like he’s back on his game here and smart for choosing a small and quiet horror story like the Ward. The film feels very polished and Carpenter uses the Anamorphic widescreen like only he can and it makes the film feel bigger than it is. The performances in this film are strong, Horror favorite Amber Heard isn’t my favorite actress but she does very well here. Jared Harris, who plays the seemingly cold and oblivious Doctor, is terrific as always. I will say for a movie that features an almost entirely female cast the girls are all fairly likable. One of my biggest irritations in modern horror films are characters that have all this attitude that makes them all seem like a bunch of bitches. Hollywood has a real issue with making strong female characters. They seem to always interpret “strong” to mean “bitch” and that’s very unfortunate. The characters in The Ward feel appropriate and tied to the period that this movie takes place and there’s something to be said for that these days.
The ending however is where people will polarize on this film. It has a twist ending and if I compare it with the movie its most similar to then I’ll immediately give it away so I won’t be doing that. For me coming from a background in Psychology, I really liked the ending and the film overall.
I hope this is the beginning of a great comeback for the director, but as of yet there is no definite word on his next film project so we’re left wondering for now what’s next for the director. The Ward isn’t a perfect film but it feels like the director is finding his style again and I really hope this rekindles his passion and he makes us a few more horror films before calling it quits again.