Monday, May 30, 2011

The Ward (2010)

Am I The Crazy One Or Does This Movie Blow?

Ten years. I've waited ten years for a new feature film by horror maestro John Carpenter. The man behind such titan genre titles as Halloween, The Fog, Christine, The Thing, and They Live has returned (after a few hit-or-miss Masters of Horror episodes) with The Ward, which revolves around a girl who is put into a mental institution. The only loony I see here is Carpenter, who must've really needed a fast paycheck to put his name on a movie so bad, it makes Ghosts of Mars look like Citizen Kane.

The beautiful Amber Heard (And Soon the Darkness) plays the aforementioned girl, who is arrested by police officers after she sets fire to a farmhouse. Unable to remember anything except that her name is Kristen, she's placed in a mental ward where she, along with four other attractive girls, are haunted by the ghost of a former patient. Do Kristen's newfound friends know something that she doesn't? Is the mysterious Dr. Stringer (Jared Harris, Mad Men) hiding the answers Kristen needs to survive? Who are the "sad people?" The answer of course, is that nobody cares, because if you're a horror buff and haven't figured out this contrived plot's answers within the first ten minutes of the film, you may want to have yourself committed as well.

There is so much wrong with The Ward that it's nearly impossible to figure out where to begin. My biggest problem was figuring out the twist within the first ten minutes, as previously mentioned. The following 80 minutes did nothing for me because I was one-hundred-percent sure I was correct, and lo and behold, I was. The film was written by a couple of guys whose writing credits include only one previous film in 2005, and the script seems to be scooped up handfuls of better movies like The Woods, Identity, and ANY horror film that takes place in a mental institution. Every character is a hollow shell, fueled only by clichés and recycled dialogue, though Amber Heard manages to be likeable and true to the character with what little character development she was given.

More importantly, the horror aspects are nearly non-existent. The film may feature about three minutes of the ghost while the rest of the movie is Kristen attempting to escape and then getting caught. I'm not joking. This entire movie is Amber Heard trying to sneak out of the building and then getting caught and returned to her room, only to try again the next night. It also features classic mental institution staples as: wild girl being injected with sedatives (many times), patient never actually swallowing their daily pills and hiding them in the pillow case, a douchey orderly (he's only douchey because he does his job and keeps crazy people from escaping, mind you), nobody believing the "crazy" protagonist, and more. Also, the film takes place in the 60s, but this is never really used to its potential and seemingly exists solely as an excuse for the characters to play records or watch black and white television.

The Ward is a smorgasbord of repetition and lack of imagination, seemingly written by two dudes who watched way too many movies in the 2000s and assumed jump scares and plot twists were the way to go. Unfortunately for them, both are constantly predictable and never entertaining. It's sad to think a film this bad co-stars the daughter of Meryl Streep (no shit, she's really in this) and a handful of gorgeous, talented actresses who could have really put energy into a great film if they were just given the chance. Hopefully, this was just a warm-up exercise for Carpenter after his decade-long absence from feature films, and he'll return with something outstanding before another ten years pass. I shudder to think, but I doubt he ever will. In the meantime, we can hope, and you can take two of these and forget this movie in the morning.

1.5/5 Stars

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