The Ward

Posted: May 6, 2011 by StayFrosty in Film, Reviews

**Note from Jenny Dreadful: The Ward is currently slated to open in theaters on August 2nd. No word yet if the film will see a wide or limited release. We’ll keep you updated. Now, Frosty gives the full report…**

The FGSG team saw this recently at a film festival.  The head of the festival told the audience that he had been looking for this movie for so long, he almost hired a private detective to track it down.  Was it worth it?  Well, it’s a John Carpenter film, so for that it’s always worth it.  But I have to say it’s not my favorite of the Carpenter canon.  The plot synopsis:

Kristen, early 20’s wakes to find herself bruised, cut, drugged and held against her will in a remote ward of Chamberlain Psychiatric Hospital . She is completely disorientated, with no idea why she was brought this place and no memory of her life.

The other patients in the ward, four equally troubled girls, offer no answers and Kristen quickly realizes things are not as they seem. The air is heavy with secrets and at night, when the hospital is dark and foreboding, she hears strange and disturbing sounds. It appears they are not alone.

One by one the girls disappear and Kristen must find a way out of this hellish place before the ghost comes for her too. As she struggles to escape, she will uncover a truth far more dangerous and horrifying than anyone could have imagined.

I’ve said it here before, and I’ll say it again – I love John Carpenter.  And I love his movies – all of them.  Even the ones that are maybe less than perfect.  Why?  Because no matter how successful, they are, without any doubt, his films.  John Carpenter is an auteur, one of the few working in cinema today.  You can tell when a film belongs to him, and that is rare and excellent.   It makes even his weakest efforts worth the watch.  And I love them all.

Here’s what really hurts about “The Ward” – aside from its obvious flaws (and there are many, dear readers), IT DOESN’T FEEL LIKE CARPENTER!!!  And the salt in the wound?  There are just enough little Carpenter touches in there that you think maybe it’s suddenly going to turn into his film, but it never does.  And that’s just cruel.

The Good:  As I expect from a Carpenter film it’s well shot – good composition throughout.  The very beginning of the film has promise – a girl runs to a farmhouse, lights it on fire and sits in front of it as the police find her. The images of the girl with the fire as the backdrop are gorgeous, and not knowing why this whole event happened makes you wonder what the film has in store for you.   There are a few scares that do work, namely because they employ subtlety and not over the top musical cues (see below).

The Bad:  Jump scares, jump scares, jump scares.  John Carpenter never used many jump scares in his best work, and those films are better for that.  This film is almost entirely jump scares, accompanied by a loud shrieking musical cue. Carpenter didn’t score this one, and I’ve never missed that Casio keyboard sound so much.  The plot is simple and has been done a thousand times, which wouldn’t matter if this time it was done well.  Carpenter didn’t write this one, and it shows.  The twist at the end is predictable and fairly easy to see coming.

Additional Thoughts:

Crowbait says: I was probably the most generous in my first estimation of this film. While we were watching it I thought it was alright; good enough to be one of those movies you switch to on Netflix to pass some time but that’s really not enough. This is John Carpenter! Not some straight to DVD wet-behind-the-ears director. That’s the real tragedy of the film. It makes one of horror’s iconic directors look like a novice who likes Carpenter and is cribbing from some of his films.

Jenny Dreadful says: I wasn’t expecting much going into this, but I was still very disappointed. A few good moments, but so many quick cuts and jump scares that anything worthwhile is lost. I’m always a bit annoyed by the portrayal of mental patients in film and this group of attractive mascara-heavy ladies were no different.  Even though I could accept this detail as the plot unfolds, seeing the protagonist and the big bad ghost punching each other and executing wrestling moves sealed the deal (side note – John Carpenter has shown his love for wrestling before – see “They Live” for evidence ~SF). I was trying to stifle laughter when I should have been getting chills. It’s straight-to-video quality. And we’re very sad about it.

Does it pass the Bedchel test?

Without a doubt.  This film is populated almost entirely by women.

Would we recommend?

SF:  Carpenter lovers will see this movie regardless of what I say here, and they should go see it and decide for themselves how they feel about it.  For everyone else?  Wait until video.  Or skip it, and watch The Thing instead. Or They Live.  Or both.  More Carpenter never hurt anyone.

JD: No, not really. If you must, rent it or lazily catch it on TV sometime. Better yet, watch Prince of Darkness. Hmmm. Or Session 9.

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