Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Watch: James Bond Is Back In First Trailer For 'Spectre' Starring Daniel Craig, Lea Seydoux, Dave Bautista, & More Watch: James Bond Is Back In First Trailer For 'Spectre' Starring Daniel Craig, Lea Seydoux, Dave Bautista, & More Terrence Malick's Next Film With Ryan Gosling, Rooney Mara & Michael Fassbender Reportedly Gets Titled Terrence Malick's Next Film With Ryan Gosling, Rooney Mara & Michael Fassbender Reportedly Gets Titled Watch: Jake Gyllenhaal Gets Bloody And Bruised In First Trailer For Boxing Drama 'Southpaw' Watch: Jake Gyllenhaal Gets Bloody And Bruised In First Trailer For Boxing Drama 'Southpaw' New Infographic Lays Out Canonical 'Star Wars' Timeline With Films, TV And Books New Infographic Lays Out Canonical 'Star Wars' Timeline With Films, TV And Books First Official Image: Jesse Eisenberg As Lex Luthor In 'Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice' First Official Image: Jesse Eisenberg As Lex Luthor In 'Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice' Watch: First Trailer For Arnold Schwarzenegger's Zombie Pic 'Maggie' With Abigail Breslin Watch: First Trailer For Arnold Schwarzenegger's Zombie Pic 'Maggie' With Abigail Breslin Idris Elba Replaces Jamie Foxx In Harmony Korine's 'The Trap,' Al Pacino, Robert Pattinson, James Franco Also Join Idris Elba Replaces Jamie Foxx In Harmony Korine's 'The Trap,' Al Pacino, Robert Pattinson, James Franco Also Join Watch: Explore The Loneliness Of Sofia Coppola's Films With This Supercut Watch: Explore The Loneliness Of Sofia Coppola's Films With This Supercut 10 Terrible Films Starring Great Actors 10 Terrible Films Starring Great Actors Watch: Tom Hanks Acts Out His Filmography In 7-Minutes On 'The Late Late Show' Watch: Tom Hanks Acts Out His Filmography In 7-Minutes On 'The Late Late Show' New Directors/New Films Review: Jia Zhang-ke Produced 'K' Is A New Take On Franz Kafka's 'The Castle' New Directors/New Films Review: Jia Zhang-ke Produced 'K' Is A New Take On Franz Kafka's 'The Castle' Viggo Mortensen Reveals He Turned Down Quentin Tarantino's 'The Hateful Eight,' Auditioned For 'Reservoir Dogs' Viggo Mortensen Reveals He Turned Down Quentin Tarantino's 'The Hateful Eight,' Auditioned For 'Reservoir Dogs' Jonathan Nolan Says His Original Ending To 'Interstellar' Was “Much More Straightforward” Jonathan Nolan Says His Original Ending To 'Interstellar' Was “Much More Straightforward” The 25 Best Animated Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Animated Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Films Of 2015 We've Already Seen The 25 Best Films Of 2015 We've Already Seen Best Of 2014: The 15 Best Movie Soundtracks Of 2014 Best Of 2014: The 15 Best Movie Soundtracks Of 2014 The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far 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 All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More

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.


Check out Indiewire on LockerDome on LockerDome

E-Mail Updates