Directed by John Carpenter
Distributed by Arc Entertainment
Horror fans have waited a long time for the legendary John Carpenter to make his return to feature filmmaking. Mainly because Carpenter himself (understandably) became disenchanted with the industry. Still, you know what they say – if it’s in your blood, then it’s in your blood. We knew he’d be back sooner or later, and that time has finally come. There are just a few problems, but we’ll get to them in a bit after the plot crunch.
The film opens sometime in the Sixties, and we’re quickly introduced to Kristen (Heard) as she’s being taken against her will to an insane asylum after committing an act of arson. Once there she meets a pretty motley crew of other troubled chicks (including Danielle Panabaker, Lyndsy Fonesca and Laura-Leigh) who all have their demons, including one in particular. You see something is very wrong in this place. Something that’s ready to take out the patients one-by-one.
The biggest problem with The Ward is that everything feels very been there, done that and at times seems a bit too derivative. At its heart it’s a going through the motions “ghost wants revenge flick” that we’ve all seen a hundred times by now. Let me be clear: If it weren’t for the fact that Carpenter directed this flick, I doubt it would even be a blip on anyone’s radar. It would be one out of thousands. So does he deliver the goods? Let’s just say he does what he can with what he has to work with. There are quite a few Carpenteresque moments in The Ward, but they feel more like shaking off the ring-rust than they do vintage. Shortcomings aside, Carpenter’s presence on just about anything can raise the bar on even the most mediocre of projects, which is definitely the case here.
Another thing elevating this flick a bit from the middle of the road is a truly standout performance from Heard. No bones about it; this is her film, and she handles her character with just the right amount of crazy slid neatly into place.
In terms of which package to get, the DVD or the Blu-ray, they’re pretty much exactly the same, except of course for the quality of the image and sound. The Blu film transfer is clean and definitely better than the standard definition DVD, but honestly? Not by a whole lot. The DTS-HD Master 5.1 is the true star of the show here, and it’s damn near guaranteed to have you jumping when you’re not sinking into your chair. The stereo separation is quite impressive and works well with Mark Kilian’s score. Speaking of which … I hate to say it, but had Carpenter scored this flick, it probably would have rated even higher than it did. He brings a true cinematic sensibility to his music, and one cannot help but wonder what it could have been like in his hands.
As for the extras, other than the trailer there’s nothing to see here. There is, however, a commentary track by Carpenter and Jared Harris (Dr. Stringer) that definitely gets the job done in terms of being informative and entertaining.
The Ward, while not stellar by any means, is absolutely worth your time. Is this the return to form for the master of horror that we were all hoping for? Probably not. However, it is proof positive that Carpenter still very much has gas in his tank. Should he continue cranking them out, I predict some delightfully dark days ahead.
3 out of 5
1 1/2 out of 5