The Ward - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Ward Reviews

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Super Reviewer
November 5, 2013
People are just too mean to this latest John Carpenter film. The man hadn't made a film in ten years, and he has had a long and illustrious career. Not only that, but he directs widely acknowledged camp and horror films. This film, though certainly flawed, overindulgent, and mindless at times, is nothing worse than he had previously put out. There are a lot of great elements at work in this film, but it also has a bland follow-through and a hollow ending. There seem to be a lot of great things about the film, but nothing that brings it together to make it anything close to memorable. Carpenter cast indie darling Amber Heard, who is reaching acclaim in roles that usually have her driving fast cars, giving guff, and wearing breast baring clothing. This film is no different, as her first scene has her barefoot, wearing a slip, and covered in dirt. She is exploited, as are others, as the entire film revolves a group of girls. Kristen (Heard) is admitted to a psychiatric ward where she meets several other girls, each of whom are as bland and tasteless as the next. That's the one horrendous oversight in this film: none of the characters could be real people. Female characters are not well written in most films, I understand that, but here they made up the entire film which is too much to bear. They throw in a really cutesy little girl persona onto a young woman as well, and it's the most despicable thing I've ever seen. Still, having the setting be a 1966 psychiatric ward, having period clothing and sets, and having a ghost who is psychologically disturbed terrorizing and murdering patients? That sounds amazing. Even the ending was at least a bit inspired and somewhat original. The execution was just all wrong. Carpenter has done some amazing things with goofy premises before, but here he doesn't reign in the temptation to be crass and shallow. It's just not big enough or smart enough to understand its own premise, and that's a true shame, because this could have been as eerie and intelligent as "The Haunting" if it was given a chance.
Super Reviewer
December 21, 2012
Horror master John Carpenter has been absent for quite some time. This is his first directorial effort since Ghosts of Mars which was released in 2001. This is a film that had the potential of being a terrific supernatural horror movie. However this happens to be a dull, bland and unimpressive affair. John Carpenter, who is one of most legendary of horror directors, crafts a film that is formulaic and predictable. This had a very promising start, but in the end it fails to really grab your attention and it focuses more on delivering cheap scares and boring, not so well written dialogue. Carpenter has done far better work than this in the supernatural genre and he proved that with 1980's The Fog. The Ward is a mediocre movie that leaves horror fans wanting more out of their experience. I think John Carpenter can deliver a better film if he really puts his mind to it. This was disappointing affair, and I expected something much better than this. This is just a case of being an undeveloped horror picture that could have been fun and entertaining. However, Carpenter doesn't deliver and it just doesn't stand out among his other works. This film makes Ghosts of Mars look great by comparison and if I had to pick one of the worst that John Carpenter has made, it would have to be this one. As a horror film, it is void of effective scares that can leave you on the edge of your seat till the final frame. The Ward, given a rewrite or two could have worked well enough and be a fine return to form of Carpenter's early days. But I'm still waiting on him to create a more refined picture that will bring back the quality that his fans expect from such a unique talent.
Super Reviewer
½ May 26, 2011
Oh dear you have to expect more from John Carpenter than this. A straight to DVD horror that has a very low budget and more of a 12A rating feel to it. Not scary, a few jumpy scenes and that's it. Well at least it has Amber Heard in it, to make it more interesting!
Super Reviewer
April 8, 2012
3 stars!
Super Reviewer
½ June 30, 2011
With this film John Carpenter makes a return to directing feature films after a decade long hiatus in which he spent his time doing other things. Although it is nice to see him back in action, it's too bad his return isn't as awesome as it should have been.

Where to start here? Well, it takes place in Oregon in the mid 1960s and concerns a young woman named Kristin who is apprehended after burning down a farmhosue and taken to a mental hospital and admitted into a locked down ward for troubled young women. There's a really odd atmosphere to the place, and some really "off" stuff going on, and Kristin becomes determined to uncover the mystery behind a strange force that is seemingly stalking her and the other girls.

Part mystery, part slasher, part supernatural goings on, with tons of psychological thrills and huge debts to both Identity and SHutter Island, The Ward is jammed packed with all sorts of stuff going on, and, while it is interesting, the plot really could have been a lot less cramemd and also better constructed and executed. There's some godo stuff that really works, but the bottom line is that the end result is rather lackluster and comes off not as a Carenter film, but as a film by someone trying to make a Carpenter film.

There's a few moments of decent violence and gore though,and that's nice, and there are soem really well done scares and moments fo tension, but there's a few too many jump scares, so after a while they begin to lose their imapct. At least the camera wok and production values are decent. Also, while it does stick out, the song and dance scene is kinda fun and brings a welcome bit of levity to an otherwise gloomy affair.

As far as acting goes, Amber HEard is okay in the lead, but I don';t think she's quite able to completely pull off some of the more emotionally challenging parts of the role. She's great at being strong and good looking though. I could have used more of Panabaker, as well as Fonseca, but those two do decently enough given their screentime.

All in all, a fair, but ultimately average horror thriller. The twists aren't as gripping as they should have been (not too original), but the film is at least not boring. Still though, I hope Carpenter doesn't wait as logn to make another film. Not only that, let's hope it's a more compelling and stronger affair than this one.
Super Reviewer
March 2, 2012
Come on Carpenter, you are better than this.
Super Reviewer
½ October 24, 2011
It wasn't a terrible movie, but it did lack in originality. The twist in this movie has been done so many times; it wasn't even shocking.

The jump scares are executed extremely well, but like all jump scares they don't last and are really cheap. The story line would be good, if I hadn't ever seen it before. Unfortunately, I can name at least a couple movies that share many of the plot characteristics in "The Ward". The predictability of this movie is outrageous. I knew exactly when there was going to be a jump scare because it would be a quiet scene with the music playing softly then all of a sudden BAM jump scare. Even though the jump scares were predictable, it still made me flinch....but that may be because I had the volume turned up too loud. Anyway, the plot itself was predictable, and really really unoriginal!

The movie is like a mix of Shutter Island (at the end: "we're not crazy, you are") and Identity (twist: MP disorder)...there's probably a lot more than that, but those two are the only ones that came to mind.

The music was really really good in this movie though. I thought the music was genuinely creepy/eerie and contributed a lot to the ambience of the film. When I notice the music in film, it's either because it's really bad or really good. This music was sooo good. It creeped me out more than the movie itself.

It wasn't the worst scary movie I've ever seen, but there was definitely room for improvement.
Super Reviewer
November 23, 2011
John Carpenter's comeback film, The Ward, does not reflect the same director who gave us Halloween, The Fog, They Live, and The Thing. The Ward stumbles in almost every way straight to video films stumble, most obviously lazy filmmaking, poor acting, and even poorer writing.
One appeal of the horror genre is that most such films are made by indie directors, on low budgets with seemingly out of date equipment, and inexperienced but cheap actors. When such a film works, it's because the director is very resourceful, and has meticulously thought out the story, plot, and themes. When it fails, the result often invokes much unintentional laughter and a film that is so unbearably bad it almost never sees the light of day.
Carpenter's new film shows that he is no longer as resourceful as he used to be. Not only did he choose a flawed script, he forgot to fix the problems. When a story works, the poor filmmaking is often forgiven. But when the story sucks, the poor filmmaking is even more apparent.
What's the film about? Simply a girl who is admitted to a haunted psychiatric ward. There are only a handful of inmates with her, all becoming cannon fodder for the demon until the main character remains standing. But there is a twist, and the twist is so predictable, you see it coming before the halfway mark.
The Ward is not eye-gouging bad, but it is instantly forgettable. It's only 85 minutes long, but it's 85 minutes you could have spent watching a much better movie. This is a half-assed approach to low budget horror, and the biggest problem with that - one John Carpenter should have been aware of - is that low budget filmmaking has to be anything but half-assed.
Super Reviewer
January 12, 2011
Cast: Amber Heard, Mamie Gummer, Danielle Panabaker, Laura-Leigh, Lyndsy Fonseca, Jared Harris, Sydney Sweeney, D.R. Anderson, Mika Boorem

Director: John Carpenter

Summary: 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.

My Thoughts: "The film had some good scenes that made me jump, but it lacked the scares. The film is on the creepy side and holds the suspense until the end, which leaves you interested until the end. Amber Heard is good in this as well as her fellow ladies Lyndsy Fonseca, Danielle Panabaker and Mamie Gummer. I would say Laura Leigh too, but in all honesty her character Zoey annoyed the hell out of me with her child like attire and her baby voice. Now if that was what she was going for, then kudos to her she succeeded. I actually really enjoyed the movie even though you might be thinking "it's another scary flick in a psych ward", which yes it is, but this is John Carpenter, and he makes anything better. Even though this is by far not his greatest work. So expect the ending to maybe surprise you. Maybe I should have seen it coming, but instead of trying to figure the film out and pick it apart, I just set back and enjoyed a good little scary flick on a dark, cold, stormy California night. Good times. : )
Super Reviewer
July 9, 2011
What the heck did I just watch...
Super Reviewer
½ October 15, 2011
Sarah: If I were you I'd watch out, new girl. 

"Only Sanity Can Keep You Alive."

Well that we disappointing. John Carpenter's return to filmmaking has an odd feeling of amateurism. If this movie was made by a first time filmmaker then it would be passable, but coming from a horror master like John Carpenter; it isn't. I think most of the amateur feeling comes from the fact that Carpenter didn't write the film, which was a big mistake. 

The writing wasn't the only thing that was bad about this movie though, so the blame is still widely on Carpenter's shoulders. In a film like this, there has to be atmosphere and I don't believe there is enough of it. That's sad, because that should have been the easiest thing about making this movie. You're story is set in a psychiatric hospital, with a bunch of crazy people running around and a ghost killing people. How can't you make that atmospheric? I don't know how, but he managed to do it.

The lack of atmosphere created a film which is in no way scary. So how do you still scare your audience when you are presenting a film that isn't creepy? You use a shit load of jump scares, and that is all Carpenter did. Except after the first one, those aren't even effective anymore because we see them coming 30 seconds before they happen. 

If I can say anything good about this movie, it is that it looks good. The film has some nice cinematography and some pretty effective light work. That's all I have to say that is good about this film. But at least Carpenter is making movies again. Hopefully he can make a few more good ones because this was a piss poor psychological thriller disguised as a piss poor ghost story.
Super Reviewer
½ September 12, 2011
John Carpenter steps behind the camera and fills The Ward with all the necessary elements of a good thriller.The weakest component of the film is the plot. At certain moments, the story does feel like a slow burn, but there aren't a whole lot of minutes that are wasted. As the picture progresses, pieces of the puzzle are strewn out before a finale is able to put them all together.The setting is an appropriate one for suspense and scares. As things unfold, it is clear that the scares take precedence over maintaining a good suspense level. The violence is bloody, although used in light moderation, and the makeup effects are nicely done and showcased at the right times.The characters are the highlight of this picture and the performances are there to back them up. Amber Heard is a delight to watch, along with the likes of Danielle Panabaker, Lyndsy Fonseca, Laura-Leigh, and Mamie Gummer.The Ward doesn't do anything out of the ordinary, but its characters help to make this an enjoyable watch and it is all done in under 90 minutes.
Super Reviewer
August 4, 2011
The twist at the end was good. I know this movie is kinda similar with every other horror movies but this is not that bad.
Super Reviewer
½ July 17, 2011
"Only Sanity Can Keep You Alive"

A thriller centered on an institutionalized young woman who becomes terrorized by a ghost.

John Carpenter's return to directing a feature length movie after such a long break is, to be honest a little disappointing. It's still relatively good, but after he made such strong steps back towards the genre with his two "Masters of Horror" episodes I can't help but feel this is a step backwards.

Of course you have to consider that his involvement with this is solely as director. He didn't write the script or the score and isn't listed as a producer. The writers themselves aren't greatly experienced having penned only one previous horror film (at least only one that made it to production anyway) so it's not a huge surprise that we see a good number of clichés. The basic story itself isn't the most original either (I could name at least one other well known film with almost the same premise).

Now the directing itself is as solid as you'd expect from the horror veteran and I think I can safely say that he's raised the quality of the film considerably with his involvement. Mark Kilian has also provided a fairly solid score and made a good attempt to make it sound like a Carpenter one. We also get a strong performance from Amber Heard in the lead role. Overall it is quite a mixed bag, with a good number of quality moments. Unfortunately these don't last quite long enough and you quickly find yourself dragged back down to the level of an early 80's slasher flick.
Super Reviewer
April 30, 2010
Visually it's on par with anything else John Carpenter directs and has the feel of being in comfortable territory. The music while not done by John is quite good and helps the film move along as well as a solid cast led by Scream Princess Amber Heard. The plot however is a whole different story. Simply put it's weak. And it uses a gimmick that has been done before. Several times before actually.
Hopefully this was a chance for Carpenter to reacquaint himself with directing and will allow him to really live up to his name with future projects.
Super Reviewer
½ July 2, 2011
The Ward is not anywhere near the standard that I usually expect from John Carpenter. Sure, he's made a lot of not-so-great movies in the last twenty years, but this might just be the worst. Not only is it completely unoriginal, terribly put together and horribly written; it's basically just Sucker Punch (and the end of Identity) without the great visuals. No matter how many hot ladies you throw in this, it's inexcusable to have such lazy execution. The characters are beyond cheesy and just don't have any credibility. Even the killer is just goofy; which is really sad considering this could have been at least somewhat good. There's zero imagination and the production quality is reminiscent of Masters of Horror, minus the crazy plots. Literally the only good thing about the movie is the great score from John Carpenter. Other than that, it's just a waste of time. For something that was supposed to be the return of one of the greatest film-makers of the 80s, this just doesn't have what it takes.
Super Reviewer
½ November 20, 2011
A surprisingly tame outing for horror master John Carpenter, The Ward plays more as a mystery/suspense film. It begins as a dark drama about a group of girls in a psych ward and then slowly shifts gears when a ghost seemingly starts stalking them. Starring Amber Heard, Danielle Panabaker, Lyndsy Fonseca, and Jared Harris, the cast is quite good and give fairly strong performances. The script however, is a little weak. By and large the story feels familiar and makes several obvious hints as to what the twists will be. Still, the plot comes together rather well and delivers a few chills. Though different from the typical Carpenter flick, The Ward has a bit of his trademark style and is a pretty solid psychological thriller.
Super Reviewer
½ January 7, 2012
Legendary director John Carpenter returns to the director's chair after decades with colossal expectations stemming from his earlier masterpieces such as Halloween and the Thing. A genius, Carpenter is largely famous for his focus on tension and atmosphere to deliver omnipresent chills rather than the occasional jump or spook. Whilst the Ward may seem like a total dud when compared to Carpenter's earlier works, one has to compare it to horror films of today in order to find any redeeming factors the Ward has.
One of the problems with the Ward is it's predictability. A movie centered around the mentally ill screams Shutter Island style twists and the would-be jaw dropping revelation at the end simply doesn't cut it simply because audiences are expecting something like that right from the beginning.
When a horror film has a weak script, the director must redeem it by lacing in scares and creating ample tension. In today's time, the monotonous "peakaboo" stint is something the supernatural have become heavily reliant on and thus, scares no one apart from the idiotic characters on screen. Carpenter falls prey to the trend and whilst the jumps are hit and miss, he hardly ever laces in his genius of building tension and atmosphere.
One plus point of the film is that given the quality of the horror films in today's time, The Ward isn't half as bad. Carpenter does attempt to build tension in one sequence which thankfully shows there's some of him left in there (a bit like Alice from the film). Whilst the Ward will not be appreciated by the educated moviegoer, the casual moviegoer will be awestruck by the attempted intelligence of the script, leaving the cinema hall mildly intrigued. Also the performances, whilst not grounbreaking, are adequate to make the events seem somewhat believable.
Also the entire film features an upmarket look with the cinematography, make-up and background score adding to the authenticity of the film.
Overall, The Ward is a hit and miss horror film. Horror fans and educated moviegoers will be heavily disappointed whilst the casual moviegoer will savour this one-time-watch. Carpenter needs to study his own previous work in order to return to form.
Super Reviewer
October 23, 2011
Recently myself and a couple of fellow geeks had a season of John Carpenter movies. We decided to watch them in backwards order, beginning with his "Masters Of Horror" episodes and ending with "The Resurrection Of Bronco Billy", his oscar winning student short. There was a very good reason for us choosing this tactic. Carpenter's work has been in such decline since the late eighties that had we started at the beginning of his career we probably would have given up halfway. Having something to look forward to got us through shit like "Vampires", "Village Of The Damned" and "Memoirs Of An Invisible Man".
Armed with the familiarity of Carpenter's career path and having read scathing reviews I went into this expecting the worst. What I got was far far beyond what I believed the "worst" could actually be. This is so bad I could safely say that in a years time I'll be awarding this turd Rotten Waffle Awards for Film, Director and Screenplay. If I awarded bad editing this would most definitely storm the category. I can't remember the last time I saw a movie so badly cut together and it makes me think that when John was finished on the set he didn't care to involve himself in the post-production.
Apart from the always reliable Heard, the cast is the worst ensemble I've seen in a long time. Even by scream queen standards the young actresses here are shockingly bad. Jared Harris is far too good for this shit and can't hide his embarrassment.
Unusually for Carpenter he hands the musical duties to a relative newcomer Mark Kilian. When Ennio Morriconne scored "The Thing" and Jack Nitzsche did likewise with "Starman" they both came up with scores that sounded identical to what Carpenter probably would have come up with. In the mid eighties this was a good tactic, unfortunately Kilian pulls the same trick here. His score sounds like a parody of Carpenter, kind of what might be heard in a Wayans Brothers spoof of his movies. The main riff is blatantly ripped off from Goblin's "Suspiria" theme. Whereas that's one of the creepiest musical themes in any movie, this is one of the most amateurish.
As I've said many times, when brothers collaborate on a movie, nine times out of ten the results are a disaster. Here it's the Rasmussen brothers who have cobbled a mess of a script together. If I had ended a primary school essay with the twist we're given here, my English teacher would probably have torn up the pages in disgust at it's lack of effort. I won't give it away but yes it probably is exactly what you're thinking.
Have I anything positive to say? Well there are a handful of nicely composed shots that show Carpenter still knows how to use the widescreen frame. Now if only he still cared about creating atmosphere, suspense and spinning an entertaining yarn.
Ryan M
Super Reviewer
½ October 11, 2011

John Carpenter's "The Ward" is an uneven cataclysm; a mess, a bore, and kind of a dud. I can't say it's terribly bad, but it's a mood piece that has plenty of atmosphere and "jump scare" to boot, although the story is one that no amount of craft can support. Carpenter hasn't really made a good film for a while now, and this is his first directorial feature since 2001's "Ghosts of Mars". Will the man ever recover from his coma of mediocrity, or shall he remain in it forevermore? Only time will tell, but from where I'm standing, the (genuinely negative) results appear conclusive. "The Ward" is just "meh". Nothing worse and nothing better than just that. It's an easy skip and a complete waste of time, although I wouldn't go so far as to call it trash. It is far from Carpenter's worst movie, but considering he's also the guy who made the masterfully-directed "Halloween" and the remake/re-imagining "The Thing", there's plenty that he has to live up to, and "The Ward" doesn't come anywhere close to success.

Kristen (Amber Heard) strikes a match and lights a farmhouse on fire, burning both the exterior and interior of the building as it stood. We don't know why she did this, but the police find her in time and bring her to a psychiatric hospital, where she is treated for the problems that could have provoked her destructive nature on that day. Kristen finds it difficult to cope with these inexplicable problems, and her stress only makes her look less-and-less normal each day. She is helped by the head Doctor of the ward, Dr. Stringer (Jared Harris). During her stay, she also attempts to socialize with the other insane and emotionally disturbed girls around her (a few of which are portrayed by Danielle Panabaker, Laura-Leigh, Lyndsy Fonseca, and Mammie Gummer). She befriends a handful of them immediately, and in their moments of proper extensive dialogue, it is revealed that the spirit of a former patient haunts the ward from the inside-out. This is the ghost of the girl Alice, who has a connection to each of the girls in a peculiar way; each one different from the next...or the last.

As one would expect, the girls get curious since the adult characters consider them mad. They try to make peace with the ghost of Alice, although they soon learn that things just aren't that simple. Regardless, their efforts take them to dark places, and by the conclusion, every fractured, loose-ended piece of the puzzle is put in place. Such a shame that it still feels incomplete and worst of all, rather inconclusive.

The film makes the mistake of focusing more on cinematography and mood alone instead of the more important elements such as characters and story. While there was certainly some potential in each of these girls, Carpenter makes no attempts to give them likable personalities. There's a girl that is seemingly unable to let go of her childhood values and behaviors. I would have liked to know more about her and her origin story, even if she was mildly annoying at times, but no luck there. And when all is said and done, there's little to actually CARE about. The characters, on top of the flawed storytelling methods, do not exactly make an entertaining film.

Technically, this is a 50/50 sort of film. It looks great in some scenes, and some of the shots set up some seriously moody and atmospheric moments (or at least what seems like one), but then other scenes are just visually...boring. Maybe I was too distracted by the film's apathy towards its substance to accept its sense of style, which really isn't all that bad. Carpenter still "has it" as a fine director of creepy scenes that take place earlier in the picture, but alas, he does not emerge victorious at the end of it all. There were some inspired elements to the films, but the absurd outweighs the entertaining and satisfactory and therefore, I can't say I was interested whatsoever. "The Ward" is most likely to be the most boring film from this year that you'll find hardest to hate. But then again, maybe not; I really had to - and wanted to - cut it some slack for having a few good parts in the midst of its lack of compelling drama and/or horror. This is not a bad horror movie. But it isn't a good one either, and when ghost stories are ghost stories, this one is fairly average.
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