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John Carpenter's The Ward - Review

Amber Heard in John Carpenter's The Ward

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 2 out of 5

JOHN Carpenter has previously directed some of the finest horror films the genre has to offer, such as The Thing and Halloween.

Sadly, his return to feature filmmaking after a hiatus of almost 10 years isn’t cause for celebration. Rather, The Ward may well drive you insane with disappointment and/or rage.

A psychological horror thriller, the film stars Amber Heard as an unstable woman who finds herself locked up in a mental asylum in 1960s America where she is terrorised by a ghost who is also picking off fellow inmates one by one. Jared Harris (of Mad Men fame) plays a psychiatrist attempting to figure her out.

The biggest problem with Carpenter’s film is that it seems to be caught between two minds. On the one hand, it’s a horror film whose supernatural elements don’t make sense when placed under close scrutiny. On the other, it’s a psychological thriller without the brains to pull it off.

Heard acquits herself well as the feisty heroine but her support is pretty thin with many characters resorting to genre stereotype. Harris, meanwhile, is not given nearly enough to do.

Carpenter attempts to enliven proceedings with numerous set pieces once the lights go dark but while there are some jumps, many seem telegraphed and some of the death scenes are unnecessarily unsavoury.

There are also only so many times the sight of Heard’s character running down corridors trying to escape proves effective.

The twist ending, meanwhile, is very much a letdown and a nonsensical one at that, while yielding memories of the far superior Shutter Island in terms of what it’s trying to pull off.

Alas, the wait for another Carpenter classic very much goes on.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 88mins
UK Release Date: January 21, 2011