John Carpenter is one of the most well-known names in the horror universe and he has a number of titles under his belt that are unquestionable horror staples: Halloween, The Thing, The Fog and In The Mouth Of Madness are just a few amidst many. After 2001’s mediocre Ghosts Of Mars (perhaps the worst Carpenter film I have seen and, yes, I have seen almost all of them) John Carpenter went on somewhat of a hiatus. He directed a couple episodes for the Masters Of Horror series and “produced” a thing or two (which he describes as essentially saying hello and going home) but that’s about it. In 2009, however, Mr. Carpenter’s silence was broken with the announcement of The Ward which made its way to the United States, at long last, in the summer of 2011. Upon its release I noticed that most of the reactions to The Ward were rather negative and it wasn’t until recently that I was afforded the opportunity to watch the film in a concentrated session and come to my own conclusions.
To get it out of the way now, I thought The Ward was excellent; is it the best John Carpenter film? Of course not. Is it his worst? Nope, definitely not. John Carpenter took a well-deserved break and came back strong with his signature sensibility of tension-building, atmospheric direction that permeates The Ward’s entire duration. I was pretty enamored about fifteen minutes into the film, very much enjoying the 60s atmosphere that was convincingly executed through the film’s visuals, use of language (both verbal and body) and character mentality. The pacing of The Ward is done with Carpenter’s masterful precision as the tension builds from the very beginning and is satisfied with a pretty unexpected conclusion; furthermore, the use of the film’s supernatural element is quite successful as it adds a slightly surreal and jarring edginess to the The Ward that would otherwise not be there. The supernatural element’s make-up (which appears to be a mix of organic and digital effects at times) and overall appearance is genuinely menacing and is somewhat unique to boot – a cross between a zombie and a ghost, maybe? No less, it’s effective and very Carpenter.
I, admittedly, do not watch many new films since I tend to find more value in film-making from the past so most of the The Ward’s actors were unknown to me prior to viewing The Ward although most of them seem to have some popularity thesedays. Either way, the acting is quite good and I felt all of the women did a good job acting out their parts accordingly. Jared Harris (the only actor in the film I have seen in another feature beforehand I believe) played the role of doctor very well as he was able to convey the character’s clinical, cautious coldness with both accuracy and conviction.
Despite not having the most original plot out there and some ho-hum script-writing, The Ward still manages to be a successful horror film that possesses much more class than most of its contemporaries; indeed, there is more to this flick than mindless bloodshed and teenage characters (unnecessarily) swearing every other word. If you are a John Carpenter fan than there is no reason you shouldn’t enjoy The Ward to some degree as it displays his timeless and identifiable style of composition and atmosphere without fault; heck, even if you’re not all that familiar with John Carpenter’s body of work you should still give The Ward a shot when you’re in the mood for a good horror flick heavy on the thrills, atmosphere and suspense – you won’t be disappointed!