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Review: The Ward

Jun. 16, 2011by: Chris Bumbray

PLOT: A young woman (Amber Heard) is institutionalized in a mental hospital haunted by the ghost of a former patient. Soon, her and her fellow inmates are being stalked and picked off one by one by this evil force, which the head psychiatrist (Jared Harris) seems intent on covering up.

REVIEW: I wish I could say THE WARD is a return to form for John Carpenter. I grew up on his films, and HALLOWEEN, ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA, THE THING, and THEY LIVE are among my favourite flicks. Heck, I even have a soft spot for some of his outright flops, like MEMOIRS OF AN INVISIBLE MAN, and ESCAPE FROM L.A. While he hasn't made a good film in AT LEAST twelve years (VAMPIRES in '98, although most would list IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS as the last vintage Carpenter flick), I was psyched to hear Carpenter would once again be stepping behind the camera. Still, I had reservations about the tired sounding storyline (pretty girls being picked off one-by-one) which has been done to death (heck, he all but invented the genre!).


Sadly, this IS NOT vintage Carpenter, and may in fact be a worse movie that GHOST OF MARS. I honestly can't figure out why Carpenter chose to make such a cheesy and uninspired film as his comeback. Maybe the problem is that Carpenter's always been at his best when directing his own scripts, but here he's saddled with a script that screams direct-to-video. Perhaps he was trying to make something accessible beyond his rabid fan base, with him using a hot young cast of popular actresses, including Danielle Panabaker, Lyndsy Fonseca, and future star Amber Heard.

Besides Heard, everyone fares pretty miserably, as they're given dialogue that seems like it belongs in a sixties Hershel Gordon Lewis film. The characters are horrible, with all the stereotypes being represented, including the bad girl, the sexy girl, the smart girl, the childlike one, etc. Of course, each of the girls is also exceptionally good looking, and at times this felt like a seventies women in prison movie with all the good stuff taken out.


They also set the film in 1966, which I imagine is just an excuse to dress up the pretty cast in sexy sixties clothing (Panabaker's Diana Rigg/AVENGERS ensemble is a little much for a mental hospital me thinks). Only Heard manages to make the most of her role, as she's so charismatic, she even almost succeeds in making schlock like this palatable- although even she can't save the moronic twist ending, that screams SHAMALAYAN! Jared Harris also manages to walk away with his dignity intact, although one can't help but feel Harris is wasted, when he could have easily been the lead in a grittier, cooler Carpenter film. This is totally a by-the-numbers horror flick, and there's nothing about it (other than the font used in the credits) that makes it seem like a Carpenter yarn. Heck, he didn't even compose the musical score!

Perhaps the most misguided thing about the film is that, for some ungodly reason, Carpenter seems to be aiming for a PG-13. I actually just finished writing a review for another horror flick, VANISHING ON 7TH STREET, that also seems to be aiming for a PG-13. In that case, it works beautifully. Here, you really need the exploitation elements, as what else is an exploitation film without the exploitation? Evidently not much, and THE WARD was an absolutely miserable film to sit through.

However, I still refuse to write off Carpenter. Sure, he strikes out with THE WARD, but I'm not convinced he's done yet as a director. I think it's just the horror genre that seems to escape him a little these days, as the current trends don't really allow for the type of flicks he made in the eighties. I'd like to see him make a return to hardcore action, like ESCAPE FROM NY, or THEY LIVE. With the right bad ass leading man (preferably Kurt Russell), I'm sure he could pull off a great, fun, action flick. THE WARD just feels like a waste of the man's time, and a waste of ours as well.

Source: JoBlo.com

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12:57AM on 06/17/2011

I agree

Cheap "twist" that negates almost all of the movie's previous "scare" sequences, which are themselves loud obnoxious noise instead of a building of tension. Lame, lame, lame movie.
Cheap "twist" that negates almost all of the movie's previous "scare" sequences, which are themselves loud obnoxious noise instead of a building of tension. Lame, lame, lame movie.
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4:08PM on 06/16/2011

Disappointed

In response to "Can Ispeak to Ken"; you can't seriously be suggesting that Mr. Bumbray "didn't understand the ending"? This is a poor defence of a mediocre film. You're implying that the film is far more intelligent than it is (and thinks it is). No. The ending was simple enough for any idiot to understand, however it was also entirely unsatisfying and even insulting to the viewer's intelligence. The 2003 movie you're referring to indeed had a similar twist. The difference is that the twist in
In response to "Can Ispeak to Ken"; you can't seriously be suggesting that Mr. Bumbray "didn't understand the ending"? This is a poor defence of a mediocre film. You're implying that the film is far more intelligent than it is (and thinks it is). No. The ending was simple enough for any idiot to understand, however it was also entirely unsatisfying and even insulting to the viewer's intelligence. The 2003 movie you're referring to indeed had a similar twist. The difference is that the twist in that movie cleverly flipped your perspective on the preceding events. In The Ward, the twist flips you the finger and tells you that you've just wasted two hours. It's the ending that most viewers will see coming, only worse. The Ward is simply not good enough, especially for a Carpenter film.

Also, it may not be as bad as other genre movies, but then those other crappy genre movies are made by hacks rather than an established master of the genre. J.C. therefore deserves every harsh review for turning out something so lazy and uninspired. Wes Craven laid a complete turd with My Soul To Take before returning to some kind of form with Scream 4. I expect J.C. to make a similar comeback, and frankly every bad review of this bad film can only help that cause.
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9:07AM on 06/17/2011
So what your saying is, we should judge this movie more harsh because it is a JC film? I disagree and I think your argument is the reason why so many hated Unbreakable when it was first released. After the stellar The Sixth Sense, people were expecting so much from Shyamalan in his next film. Expectations were not met and people were very critical of the film because it was his follow up flick. It wasn't until a few years later after all the animosity settled, that people were able to go back
So what your saying is, we should judge this movie more harsh because it is a JC film? I disagree and I think your argument is the reason why so many hated Unbreakable when it was first released. After the stellar The Sixth Sense, people were expecting so much from Shyamalan in his next film. Expectations were not met and people were very critical of the film because it was his follow up flick. It wasn't until a few years later after all the animosity settled, that people were able to go back and enjoy the film.

And I said I don't believe C Bum *entirely* understood the ending. Yes he got the gist of it, but calling the other characters cliched, led me to this conclusion since the revelation in the end had a lot to do with these characters.

And dude.. did you read my whole post?? I gave the movie a 6/10. Last time I check that wasn't a good rating. It's more like a "meh" rating which I believe is fair. A 3/10 is extreme, which is my gripe with his review.
9:35AM on 06/16/2011
I think this review is way too harsh. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and I respect that but, I enjoyed this flick to a degree. It's no Halloween but, it's no Memoirs of an Invisible Man either. Definitely has it's flaws but, it's not that bad, there was some entertainment to be had and it was a bit of fresh air from all the mean spirited torture flicks that populate horror today. 6/10 is more like it to me.
I think this review is way too harsh. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and I respect that but, I enjoyed this flick to a degree. It's no Halloween but, it's no Memoirs of an Invisible Man either. Definitely has it's flaws but, it's not that bad, there was some entertainment to be had and it was a bit of fresh air from all the mean spirited torture flicks that populate horror today. 6/10 is more like it to me.
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9:09AM on 06/16/2011

3/10???!!!!

C. Bum I usually agree with you on most of your reviews, but not here. I've seen the movie and no way in hell does this movie deserve a 3/10. You are just so wrong on this.

Some of your arguments, leads me to believe you didn't entirely understand the twist. (On another note, I wish you would not have even revealed in your review the movie has a twist. That's kind of a spoiler.) The reason these "horrible" characters are cliched, has a lot to do with what's revealed in the end. I can't say
C. Bum I usually agree with you on most of your reviews, but not here. I've seen the movie and no way in hell does this movie deserve a 3/10. You are just so wrong on this.

Some of your arguments, leads me to believe you didn't entirely understand the twist. (On another note, I wish you would not have even revealed in your review the movie has a twist. That's kind of a spoiler.) The reason these "horrible" characters are cliched, has a lot to do with what's revealed in the end. I can't say more without giving the movie away. But I can say it wasn't Shyamalan influenced. There is however an 8 year-old cult classic that could easily take credit for influencing the ending of The Ward.

I think you went a little extreme here C. Bum. By no means is this movie Inception, but a 3/10 is overkill. I would say a 6/10. I just don't understand how you will be so lenient with Vanishing On 7th Street (another movie I've seen, which is also not the greatest) but so harsh with The Ward.

(I really don't know which color my bar should be here, for a post like this.)
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8:57AM on 06/16/2011
This movie is like a bad episode of Masters of Horror. It's cheap, the writing is flat, the girls are AWFUL (and way too hot/not in an era appropriate way), the twist is absurd.

it feels like it was shot in 1997
This movie is like a bad episode of Masters of Horror. It's cheap, the writing is flat, the girls are AWFUL (and way too hot/not in an era appropriate way), the twist is absurd.

it feels like it was shot in 1997
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11:27PM on 09/15/2010
Ouch.
Ouch.
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9:28PM on 09/15/2010

Why Are All Twists Shymalan!

Shymalan did not invite the twist ending in films ("The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari" was made in 1920), and even then, not all of his films use them (3 of them do not, which is just under half, by one film), so I don't get it. Unless of course, having not seen this film, it's that they were all dead the entire time, or are superheroes.
Shymalan did not invite the twist ending in films ("The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari" was made in 1920), and even then, not all of his films use them (3 of them do not, which is just under half, by one film), so I don't get it. Unless of course, having not seen this film, it's that they were all dead the entire time, or are superheroes.
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9:26PM on 09/15/2010
Worse than GHOSTS OF MARS??? I do not believe you. I REFUSE to believe you. I can't be shittier than GHOSTS OF MARS.
Worse than GHOSTS OF MARS??? I do not believe you. I REFUSE to believe you. I can't be shittier than GHOSTS OF MARS.
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3:50PM on 09/15/2010
So... the killer was Amber Heard the whole time?

...or the TREES were doing it.
So... the killer was Amber Heard the whole time?

...or the TREES were doing it.
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3:31PM on 09/15/2010
Well that sucks. I had high expectations for this. But I guess that can be said for every Carpenter release past his hey-day. A shame really.
Well that sucks. I had high expectations for this. But I guess that can be said for every Carpenter release past his hey-day. A shame really.
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2:49PM on 09/15/2010
i'll still see it just for Heard!
i'll still see it just for Heard!
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1:51PM on 09/15/2010

too bad

john carpenter has made some the best horror/sci-fi/action flicks ever. i hoped his return would be triumphant, not mediocre.
john carpenter has made some the best horror/sci-fi/action flicks ever. i hoped his return would be triumphant, not mediocre.
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10:28AM on 09/15/2010
[cries]
[cries]
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10:02AM on 09/15/2010
I'm still gonna see the movie, because I love John Carpenter.
I'm still gonna see the movie, because I love John Carpenter.
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9:27AM on 09/15/2010
I'm surprised with the review, since it is Carpenter we are talking about. Still going to see this. My expectations are high for this one.
I'm surprised with the review, since it is Carpenter we are talking about. Still going to see this. My expectations are high for this one.
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9:19AM on 09/15/2010
That's a bit disheartening to hear. I feel like that second picture looks nothing like Heard though.
That's a bit disheartening to hear. I feel like that second picture looks nothing like Heard though.
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9:14AM on 09/15/2010
Too bad, I was really looking forward to this. Oh well.
Off topic: Did you get to check out Insidious? I'm really looking forward to a review. I hear it's bad ass.
Too bad, I was really looking forward to this. Oh well.
Off topic: Did you get to check out Insidious? I'm really looking forward to a review. I hear it's bad ass.
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