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The Ward(2010)
Written by: The Arrow
Director: John Carpenter

Starring:
Amber Heard/Kristen
Danielle Panabaker/Sarah
Jared Harris/Dr. Stringer
Lyndsy Fonseca/Iris
6 10
PLOT-CRUNCH
Hot blonde (Heard) on the run, burns a house down. Hey, a chick's gotta cut that edge. 5.0. picks her ass up and slaps her in a nuthouse where a ghostly presence is going happy-go-slash-slash on the resident loony hoes. Will hot blonde be able to escape before its her time to check out?
THE LOWDOWN
JOHN CARPENTER is one of my top directors; why? Halloween, The Fog, Escape from New York, The Thing, Christine, Starman, Prince of Darkness, They Live, In the Mouth of Madness... any questions? Dude's been off the feature length film grid since his fun and underrated Ghost of Mars in 2001 and now he's back behind the camera where he damn belongs to give us yet another healthy dose of frights with THE WARD. Was it worth the wait? Well yes and no.

The word of yapper on THE WARD has been lukewarm for the most part, so I went in there with low expectations. But the moment the words: John Carpenter's The Ward faded in onscreen, expectations went through the roof to reach the moon and yes, Uranus. Man it felt good to see Carpenter's name backing a movie title again, it actually gave me goosebumps, yup love his work that much. The film itself reeled me in right off the bat with its very cool/stylized opening credits and its gripping prologue which was shot in a fashion that shouted loud and proud “Carpenter still has the touch”. Once within the ward, I was engaged throughout; tantalized by the mystery at hand, cock-teased by the ghostly happenings while getting my ass jolted by the potent scares on hand. Amber Heard in the lead was a wise casting choice. For me, she was rocking like Dokken in All the Boys Love Mandy Lane with her striking looks and solid performance, then she kind of became the "pretty girl" in films and The Ward gave her another opportunity to flex her acting chops and thankfully she did it with intensity and passion.

Also lets face it, I can think of worse way to murder time than gawking at Heard for a buck and half. Damn that girl is fine! Moreover, Heard was well supported with a mostly able side cast. Danielle Panabaker as the vain Sarah, Mamie Gummer as the bitchy Emily, D.R. Anderson as the cold orderly and Jared Harris as the "maybe he cares, maybe he doesn’t" Dr. Stringer stood out the most. With that stabbed, the cast was pretty much all on the ball. And man it felt good to see some practical effects (by genre geniuses KNB... again...) at play. That ghost design was dope and the red grub was thicker than my schlong. Carpenter was on top of his game visually too (I did get sick of that same steady cam shot down the hallway being used over and over again though); he gave the whole a chilling look, with an energetic camera on the prowl, all draped in bleak cinematography. I dug them early crane shots as well and no Mr, Carpenter has not forgotten how to generate suspense. He had me by the balls many o times here. Add to that an effective eerie score by Mark Killian (think a Giallo meets a fairytale like vibe) and a couple of gore howlers that had me grinning like the nutball that I am and you get an easy and fun times at the spook house.

So why isn't my score higher? The script. The flick tried so hard to be so many films at the same time (a slasher, a J Horror ghost movie, a mindf*ck mystery) that it kind of never found an identity of its own. Just felt like a greatest hits of better movies that came before it. Un-original was the word and me stimulated less than I should have been was the result. Also, was I alone in thinking that the security in that Mental Ward sucked ass to the point that suspension of disbelief had to be applied? A toddler could escape that Zoo; I know the thing is set in 1966 and all.. but still... am sure that back then they had grasped the complexities of a proper lock on a door no? Moreover, it always looks odd to me when a ghost becomes physical and starts slamming people around... I mean is it a ghost or a WWF wrestler? Not a biggie but it needed to be spat. My biggest peeve with the picture though was that when it all came together... it gave me... well... the EXACT SAME THING as another genre flick that came out in 2003. I of course won't say more, but being that the same ploy had been done before in such a memorable fashion, as the end credits rolled I was bummed with what the movie left me with.

All in all, I still boogied to THE WARD, it was not the glorious comeback that I wanted John Carpenter to have, but it was still a step in the right direction. Next time The Carp Man will hopefully pick a more unique and less derivative screenplay to work off of. You gonna check in this Crackerjack shack or what?
GORE
We get a spike in the eye, a nasty slit throat, a fried brain and more. Not a gorefest but when the kills came, they came in hard.
T & A
We get a shower scene filled with young naked chicks that shows nothing - i.e. an anti shower scene. Bah!
BOTTOM LINE
Look THE WARD was not up to Carpenter's usual standards but it was still a stripped down, morose, visually stunning and scare laced flick with a solid lead. I can see myself watching this one with a bunch of friends with brews in tow on Halloween or something; it would go down real good in that type of set up. Fast paced, suspenseful and grisly in all the right places, I was having a good time with it, it got the job done. With that, it felt like the script never found its own voice, hence lifting 2 or 3 voices from other better films to gap that void and yes the finale left me cold and groaning, being that I was so wishing the movie wouldn't go that way and that a 2003 flick did it already and in a much better way at that. A decent comeback for Carpenter; but its no Prince of Darkness yo!
BULL'S EYE
The screenplay is written by Michael Rasmussen and Shawn Rasmussen.

Ex Lions Gates head of acquisition Peter Block, produced the film.

The flick was shot in Washington, USA.