Master of horror John Carpenter returns to form — and to the director’s chair — for this chilling thriller in which a young woman, Kristen (Amber Heard), is sent to a mental institution with a past as dark and haunted as her own. Terrorized by a ghost, each of the other patients in Kristen’s ward begin to disappear, and that’s just the beginning of her long nightmare. Jared Harris (“Mad Men”) and Danielle Panabaker (Friday the 13th) also star.
Rating: 8 out of 10
The master is back! It has been far too long since we’ve seen a new John Carpenter film. The last time we saw a feature length film by the esteemed director was 2001’s disappointing “Ghosts of Mars.” Well, I’m here to say not only is he back but this is the finest film he has made since 1994’s “In the Mouth of Madness.”
All of the John Carpenter trademarks are here: the gloomy and atmospheric cinematography, the suspense, the great buildups and chases, and the twisted ending. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I am a card carrying John Carpenter fan. His resume speaks for itself: “Halloween,” “Escape from New York”,” The Fog,” “The Thing,” and the list goes on. However, there were many that thought his time had passed. He had gone through a very productive 1990’s only to walk away from filmmaking into a semi-retirement. I really hope he doesn’t stay away this long again because “The Ward” shows vitality far younger than his age and hearkens back to a time where films unfolded slowly over time to build to a true climax. A lot of the credit for the film goes the terrific performances all around, but particularly Amber Heard who plays a convincing and strong lead. Her strength as the character of Kristen really roots the film and drew me into the story. The script is also very good by brothers Michael and Shawn Rasmussen. But, in the end, it’s John Carpenter’s direction that brings it all together. The scares will make you jump out of your seat and the action will have you on the edge of it. The last 30 minutes are absolutely gripping. If there’s a weakness, it takes a bit of patience to get to the good stuff. The first 45 minutes will have you confused but just sit tight; all will be explained eventually. It really feels good to see John Carpenter back to his low budget horror roots where he belongs. Hopefully, he’s back for good.