Macabre Movie Mausoleum: The Ward

Hey there my faithful grave toppers and tombstones, I know what you're all thinking; there are still two more Freddy Kruger related movies out there, and while I'm not saying I won't ever review them, this Crypt Keeper knock-off, Dr. AzarRising needs a break from the clawed one.

Returning to my roots, I looked at Netflix for inspiration, and a trustworthy name appeared in my suggestions. John Carpenter. For any of you who don't know the name, Mr. Carpenter is the director behind such gems as Halloween, Escape from New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Thing and They Live (several of which will most definitely appear in this column at a later date) so I had high hopes for this, ignoring some of his movies of a lesser caliber, such as Escape from LA and Ghosts of Mars.

John Carpenter's The Ward (2010)

Director: John Carpenter

Starring: Amber Heard, Mamie Gummer, Danielle Panabaker

Not to start off on too sour a note, but initially my entire review was going to be: "The cops cuffed her after they got her in the back of their car" because there were so many glaring plot holes and crappily (in this context that is 100% a word) written scenes, I didn't think it'd do you justice to force you to read a full review. However, as the movie progressed it showed, that despite the creators' best efforts, there was actually a good story buried beneath said crap.

The movie stars Amber Heard, who isn't exactly a name actress now, but was even less so back in 2010. This is the most challenging role I've ever seen her handle, and while I wouldn't say she failed, she certainly didn't impress as the crazy/maybe not crazy new patient at an all-female psych ward. The other 'big' name in the movie is the guy who played Dr. Moriarty in the second Sherlock Holmes movie, Jared Harris (granted I had no idea what his name was until I looked it up just now). He's as good as one would expect in this type of direct to DVD movie as the doctor in charge of the ward.

Amber Heard plays Kristen, the newest patient at an experimental psych ward in 1966 Oregon. The ward has had a shady past of supernatural patient deaths, but they're still up and running, and admitting Kristen, who was arrested for burning down a barn. We aren't given much background about Kristen, but we're introduced to a colorful cast of other female patients, each playing different clichés expected in this type of movie; the repressed childlike thumb sucker, butch dominating female, pretty girl, and the relatable one. There's also the mean head nurse, and creepy attendant. The movie makes sure to hit all the tried and true (read: boring) characters we've seen in a dozen other psych movies. I will say one of the best things The Ward did was not overplay the sex. There was no patient molesting, no gratuitous nudity (no nudity at all actually, and I know that may turn off some potential viewers) or any of those types of things other movies rely on. It really let the actors live or die on their own talents, and not force anything that shouldn't have been there.

The biggest issue I have with the movie is that it feels like the only reason it takes place in the 60's is so the creators can excuse any of the blatant medical inaccuracies on the era. "Oh it was 1966, they didn't know better." Doctors don't believe a patient? How about a nice combination of electroshock therapy, hypnosis, and lobotomy? That'll work.

Kristen is haunted by some deformed ghost/demon/monster. It isn't explained initially, until later in the movie when we learn that the creature is the ghost of a former patient that the other patients had killed because she was mean and abusive to them. The ghost, Alice, is exacting her revenge on the girls, killing them off one by one, each in a different fashion.

The ending has a twist I wasn't expecting, but it by no means was surprising, if that makes any sense. I won't ruin it here, but we've seen similar executions of the same concept in far superior movies. It was a clichéd ending, but not the cliché you would expect based on the first three quarters of the movie

On to the rating...

While researching the movie for this review, I learned it was John Carpenter's first full length feature movie since the aforementioned Ghosts of Mars, and I don't know if I would have rated the movie better or worse had I known that prior to writing most of this. As it is, the movie was entertaining, to a point.

Amber Heard carries The Ward from scene to scene with serviceable skill, again probably the best I've seen from her prior or since (not that this is saying much). Also worth mentioning is Danielle Panabaker, better known as Caitlin Snow/Killer Frost from the popular CW show The Flash, has a supporting role in this movie. She plays the vane pretty girl. She’s rude to all the other girls, and tries to seduce an orderly, but fails furthering her sour disposition. I mention her, not because the character is important to the story in any way, but because the actress has come a long way since her role in this movie, and she is an absolute delight to watch as Caitlin Snow. Personally, I’ve been a fan since her role in Sky High. The rest of the cast is forgettable, including Jared Harris, who has done better for himself.

I feel like the movie would have fared better had it actually been written by Carpenter as well as directed, but he did all he could with the tools at hand, and it certainly could have been far worse.

No need to rush to see this movie, but no reason to run from it either.

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