"This film is like the Dawson's Creek version of a mental ward, where everyone is impossibly pretty and overacted."
The Ward, sees Director John Carpenter's return to his horror roots and unfortunately half way into the film, I knew this middle of the road, cheesy psych ward 'horror' was not going to live up to my expectations.
The film starts of in a confusing manor as Kristen (Amber Heard) is seen looking slightly confused as she stands back in her nightie to watch in horror and delight as she watches the farmhouse that she just set a match to, burn to the ground. Unfortunately about five seconds later the police turn up and drag her kicking and screaming off to the local nut house where she is banged up along with five other girls in 'The Ward', where we learn nothing more about these girls other than there only crime must have been being too attractive for 1966 where our film is set. And boy don't we know it. The sets and costumes are cliched beyond belief at times, and far too colourful for a real 1960's government institution.
We follow Kristen as she tries to discover why she has been locked up, apart from burning down a farmhouse obviously and having really unexplainable Daryl Hannah in 'Splash' type crimped hair. After numerous attempts at escape, she realises something other than the bad acting is a bit off, as one by one her inmates disappear at the hands of an apparently burnt and withered ghost girl.
This film is like the Dawson's Creek version of a mental ward, where everyone is impossibly pretty and overacted. The difference is I loved Dawson's Creek, but maybe that's because I was sixteen at the time, and therein lies the problem. I'm not sure if this was Carpenters intention, but The Ward feels like its aimed at a much younger audience. It is perfectly possible to make a film about young female suffering in an institution and it not feel like the Brady Bunch gone wrong. All of the other girls in Kristen's Ward are complete stereotypes, and don't get me started on the little wimpy girl who clearly got sectioned because she thinks she's a child, but it wasn't endearing or sad, it was just cheesy and silly. For example I couldn't help but compare The Ward to films like Girl Interrupted which dealt with the same genre and themes but in a much more realistic and gritty way. However having said this, The Ward, is not a gritty drama but a teen horror from an American horror legend, so some allowances need to be made.
The only actor that didn't make me feel like I was watching a TV film was Jared Harris who plays the head of the Ward Dr.Stringer, who's clever mix of caring doctor and experimental therapist, keeps us guessing until the end if he's the good guy or the bad guy.
To be fair, there are some genuinely jumpy parts, and the murdering ghost girl is pretty creepy, reminiscent of the girl in 'The Ring'. There is also a reasonably surprising twist by the end, it's just a shame the acting and the script couldn't keep me interested enough to really care by the end.