Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon & Leslie Jones To Lead Paul Feig's 'Ghostbusters' Reboot Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon & Leslie Jones To Lead Paul Feig's 'Ghostbusters' Reboot Harvey Weinstein Explains What Happened With 'Grace Of Monaco,' Says He Was Right About 'Snowpiercer' Harvey Weinstein Explains What Happened With 'Grace Of Monaco,' Says He Was Right About 'Snowpiercer' Harvey Weinstein Says Quentin Tarantino Has Changed The Last Chapter Of 'The Hateful Eight' Harvey Weinstein Says Quentin Tarantino Has Changed The Last Chapter Of 'The Hateful Eight' Sundance Review: ‘Slow West’ Starring Michael Fassbender, Kodi Smit-McPhee & Ben Mendelsohn Sundance Review: ‘Slow West’ Starring Michael Fassbender, Kodi Smit-McPhee & Ben Mendelsohn Sundance: Keanu Reeves Opens The Door To Trouble In Teaser Trailer For Eli Roth's 'Knock Knock' Sundance: Keanu Reeves Opens The Door To Trouble In Teaser Trailer For Eli Roth's 'Knock Knock' Watch: 8-Minute Video Essay Argues Steve McQueen's 'Shame' Is Actually A Critique Of The Modern Metropolis Watch: 8-Minute Video Essay Argues Steve McQueen's 'Shame' Is Actually A Critique Of The Modern Metropolis Watch: The Tampon Scene From 'Fifty Shades Of Grey' You Won't See In The Movie Recreated With 'The Sims' Watch: The Tampon Scene From 'Fifty Shades Of Grey' You Won't See In The Movie Recreated With 'The Sims' The 10 Best Films Of 2004 The 10 Best Films Of 2004 'Death Proof' Star Zoe Bell Leads Latest Additions To Quentin Tarantino's 'Hateful Eight' As Filming Begins 'Death Proof' Star Zoe Bell Leads Latest Additions To Quentin Tarantino's 'Hateful Eight' As Filming Begins Ranked From Best To Worst: Every Sundance Dramatic Grand Jury Prize Winner Ranked From Best To Worst: Every Sundance Dramatic Grand Jury Prize Winner Watch: 'Saturday Night Live' Sketch 'Fanatic' Written & Directed By Paul Thomas Anderson And Starring Ben Affleck Watch: 'Saturday Night Live' Sketch 'Fanatic' Written & Directed By Paul Thomas Anderson And Starring Ben Affleck The 10 Best Films Of 2003 The 10 Best Films Of 2003 First Look: Leonardo DiCaprio Gets Grimy In Alejandro González Iñárritu's 'The Revenant' First Look: Leonardo DiCaprio Gets Grimy In Alejandro González Iñárritu's 'The Revenant' 2015 Oscar Nominees Get The Honest Poster Treatment 2015 Oscar Nominees Get The Honest Poster Treatment "Carry Bolt Cutters Everywhere": Werner Herzog Has 24 Amazing Pieces Of Advice "Carry Bolt Cutters Everywhere": Werner Herzog Has 24 Amazing Pieces Of Advice The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far Watch: 3 Graphic, Very NSFW Clips From Lars von Trier's 'Nymphomaniac Vol II — Director's Cut' Watch: 3 Graphic, Very NSFW Clips From Lars von Trier's 'Nymphomaniac Vol II — Director's Cut' The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki Christopher Nolan Says His Howard Hughes Film Is Dead, But He'd Still Like To Do A Bond Film At Some Point Christopher Nolan Says His Howard Hughes Film Is Dead, But He'd Still Like To Do A Bond Film At Some Point

Review: John Carpenter Retires, Forgets That He Had To Direct 'The Ward'

The Playlist By Gabe Toro | The Playlist July 7, 2011 at 2:02AM

An open field. A girl. A fire. A mystery. Ignoring a brief and ultimately irrelevant prologue, the beginning of “The Ward” immediately pulls us into the story of a classic horror convention, the Survivor Girl. Except, tantalizingly, we don’t know what she’s survived and, given a few orchestral cues, we may even question whether she has survived or not.
6


An open field. A girl. A fire. A mystery. Ignoring a brief and ultimately irrelevant prologue, the beginning of “The Ward” immediately pulls us into the story of a classic horror convention, the Survivor Girl. Except, tantalizingly, we don’t know what she’s survived and, given a few orchestral cues, we may even question whether she has survived or not.

This girl is played by Amber Heard, the young starlet who sadly never made headlines until her announcement regarding her homosexuality to the press, a strategy followed by her unfortunate lateral move to television in the likely-to-be-canceled “The Playboy Club.” Heard graduated from the same thankless roles any actress her age who will strip nude is forced to inhabit and, somewhere along the line, became an onscreen firecracker, a riveting screen presence that carries a similarly-electric charge as the early performances of her “Drive Angry” costar, Nicolas Cage.


Heard, amongst a cast of fairly eye-catching females, is persistent like a pistol as the new inmate at a fairly nondescript institution. Kept in the dark along with the more considerably-dislodged patients, she starts to openly rebel against a supposedly “experimental treatment” administered by laconic Dr. Stringer (Jared Harris, with one finger on the snooze button). And so it begins -- who is she? What did she do? What is this experimental treatment? Is the sixties time-period at all relevant?

The movie unfortunately has little respect for these queries, as it turns out, somewhat arbitrarily, that a decayed boogey(wo)man is stalking the halls. At key points, the floating specter is a lethal threat. During others, it just wants to administer a brief chokehold before vanishing. The tenuous reason for why this spook is so inconsistent is given during a tired non-explanation that implies that you will accept simply because you’ve seen several bad movies. The argument is that if you remove the ghost, you lose the more overt scares of the film. On the other, sturdier hand, ditching the phantom would have forced the filmmakers to create actual compelling drama between our characters.

But, director John Carpenter has known this. Despite the ultra-violence of “Assault On Precinct 13,” our interest is in the power struggle between the cops and the shaky alliance with criminals. “The Thing” is a memorably bloody horror story, though the film earned its reputation because of the alpha male tension and overbearing paranoia. Unlike those films, “The Ward” doesn’t have the familiar Carpenter feel, or even the regular Carpenter sound (and one can argue the memorable Ennio Morricone score for “The Thing” is clearly aping Mr. Carpenter’s earlier efforts). In place of the otherworldly droning synths of Mr. Carpenter and frequent collaborator Alan Howarth, we’re treated to an inelegant ooga-booga cue repetition from Mark Kilian. Apparently Mr. Kilian thinks you need a reminder to be scared in a John Carpenter film. The hope is that he doesn’t feel that way about other Carpenter films.

The 63-year-old Carpenter, who hasn’t made a movie in a decade, directs “The Ward” the way he probably dances today: creaky, without rhythm, and desperate to get back off the floor. With no concept of time or place, scenes melt into each other, perhaps in an attempt to create a dream state, but more likely with the hopes you won’t begin to question the complete lack of context. “The Ward” doesn’t seem like a John Carpenter movie, and at points, it doesn’t even feel like a theatrical release: more like something from Lucky McKee’s editor, or a lesser Larry Fessenden acolyte, quietly released on DVD from Ghost House.

Which isn’t to say the latest from the director of “Halloween,” “Dark Star” and “Prince Of Darkness” is without pleasures. Though sadly, they come mostly from Ms. Heard. You can’t keep your eyes off this girl, less of a young twentysomething and more of a force of nature. She is initially startled by the presence of the poltergeist, somewhat unconvincingly fleeing in terror. But once she takes up arms, her jaw clenched, her eyes hungry for vengeance, this ghost doesn’t stand a chance. [C-]

This article is related to: Films, Actresses, Review, John Carpenter, Modern Horror, Amber Heard, The Ward


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates