Warning: this review may contain spoilers…
Courtesy of Greenville’s local Blockbuster stores on 3023 Wade Hampton Blvd Ste K and 2435 E North St Ste 1119, comes the return of legendary filmmaker and master of horror John Carpenter with his latest entry titled The Ward, notably starring Amber Heard (Drive Angry) and Jarred Harris (Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows).
The film centers on a young girl named Kristen (Heard) who is institutionalized in a psychiatric hospital after burning down a mysterious house. As she becomes familiar with her doctor, Dr. Springer (Harris), as well as befriending the other patients in her ward, Kristen soon discovers that they are not alone. A malevolent force roams the hospital and, one by one, attacks the patients. With the hospital staff refusing to believe their accounts of the attacks, Kristen and the other patients are forced to take matters into their own hands and they begin planning their escape.
The biggest detractor of the film, sadly, is the ending. The film’s entire premise and reason for being is encompassed in the ending and it is a concept that has been done before with better execution. The entire concept of the surprise twist is that 1) the audience does not know its coming (which everyone now expects from a horror movie since it was so successful for the first Saw movie) and 2) that it does not contradict previous events in the film but rather reinterprets them, uncovering a duplicitous or darker meaning.
Luckily, the acting from Heard and the rest of the cast salvages the film, making the drama palpable. Each character feels unique with their own set of strengths and flaws that prevents them from falling into the typical stereotypes of women usually seen in horror movies. The action is tense and the gore, while not extreme, provides plenty of blood for regular gorehounds. Carpenter also displays one of his stronger traits seen from his Halloween film, the music. While used sparingly, the music is hauntingly beautiful and provides the appropriate atmosphere to begin and end the film.
Bottom line: While hard core film fans may see this film as a reiteration of other film premises, The Ward is still a strong addition to Carpenter’s work.