John Carpenter’s The Ward (2011) Review

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THE WARD

*** ½ Out of 5

Tagline- Only Sanity Can Keep You Alive

Release Date- June 8th, 2011

Running Time- 88-Minutes

Rating- R

Screenplay- Michael & Shawn Rasmussen

Director- John Carpenter

Starring- Amber Heard, Danielle Panabaker, Mamie Gummer, Laura-Leigh, Lyndsy Fonseca and Jared Harris

Nearly 40-years into his career John Carpenter comes out with The Ward his first feature film since Ghosts of Mars back in 2001. In-between the two films he directed Cigarette Burns & Pro-Life for the Masters of Horror, but now Carpenter returns to feature films and going into the movie I was a bit concerned. In general most filmmakers don’t make the transition from one era to another and while I’ve seen every Carpenter film with the exception of his TV movie Elvis, I haven’t hated any of his films there were some I liked more than others, but none I disliked. The 90s his films did lack compared to those of the 70s and 80s, but they were still enjoyable even if they weren’t classics. Don’t go into The Ward expecting anything like Halloween or the Fog; if you take the movie for what it is, you might find yourself enjoying the movie even if it does have its problems.

John Carpenter has stated he’s only out for a payday now and while he dislikes the Halloween sequels he likes when they’re made since he gets paid for it. It’s quite a shame Carpenter has put the dollar above his artistic vision since he is a true pioneer in the world of filmmaking and has been ripped more times than I can count. He was even offered H20, but turned it down due to not being offered enough money and The Ward is clearly a paycheck movie, but there are still enough of Carpenter’s techniques on display to keep The Ward an entertaining movie.

The screenplay by Michael & Shawn Rasmussen was kind of weak as the plot is rather thin and plays out more like a slasher flick; the reason behind the haunting isn’t explained until an hour in and it almost seems as if it was added in as an afterthought. The characters weren’t very developed at all as we really don’t know much about them at all however they are entertaining and that’s the saving grace to the script. Despite these problems I wouldn’t say The Ward was poorly written, but it just doesn’t have a real structure and like I said plays out like the run of the mill slasher flick with a killer and its victims. My biggest gripe is the twist at the end, which I cannot get into since I don’t wanna spoil the movie, but it’s really a major letdown and I just hate twists for the sake of it and this really had me letdown.

After nearly a decade John Carpenter returns to some mixed results; the pacing of the film is actually fairly good despite the lack of plot. Carpenter does manage to make something out of nothing and seeing as the movie is only about 88-minutes it doesn’t take long for the action to kick in. There are some slight pacing problems at times, but that has more to do with the weak story than Carpenter’s direction, but Carpenter doesn’t fully take advantage of his setting either. Like the script playing out like a slasher film, Carpenter’s direction is very slasher movie like filled with jump scares and while it’s a letdown to see Carpenter go down that road it’s still mostly effective.

Horror filmmakers are the ones that seem to lose it the most from one generation to the next, but John Carpenter shows he’s still more than capable of making a solid movie. Like I said don’t go in expecting anything as suspense and tension filled as Halloween, but for a filmmaker nearly 40-years into his career The Ward turns out far better than I could have ever expected. Carpenter does provide some decent suspense and perhaps a decent scare or two and while, he does rely more on jump scares everything is staged well enough to make this a fun ride. The Ward isn’t gonna go down as one of Carpenter’s best films, but again I thought it was a fun movie even if nothing memorable.

Overall The Ward may isn’t gonna be remembered as one of Carpenter’s best films and odds are will draw more negative reactions than positive and I guess when it’s John Carpenter the bar is set high, which isn’t really fair. Like I I said don’t expect another Halloween, but a film by a filmmaker nearly 40-years into his career and with that said results really aren’t as bad as they could have been. Despite the sub-par script the characters are fun and even if Carpenter’s setups are a bit cliched they still work well and thus make this an entertaining movie despite the flaws. The performances are strong and I just loved Danielle Panabaker and the score by Mark Kilian was pretty good, but it would have been better if Carpenter composed the music, but it still works well. In closing just don’t expect vintage Carpenter and you might find yourself surprised.

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15 Responses to “John Carpenter’s The Ward (2011) Review”

  1. Victor De Leon Says:

    You and I are of like minds on this film. It’s not vintage JC but it is an above average entry these days among all the junk that is out there. I agree (Strongly) on some of your points: JC is just looking out to get paid. For years he’s been only about the dollar signs. If you listen to some of his interviews over the years he seems to be only interested in how, what and when he gets a paycheck. “If they pay me, I’ll do it” kinda talk. It’s a shame. Also about the weak story and pacing. I took points off for that as well. But I would gladly take average JC as opposed to no JC. Good review.

    • Thanks Vic. Too bad he’s about the paycheck. But movie still turned out well. We’ll see how I feel on another viewing since I wasn’t expecting much.

      At least he still gives effort and doesn’t just phone it in.

      As for the layout I keep playing around with it I must of changed it 5 times in 2 days lol. Another thing we have in common lol but I will probably change it again lol

      • Victor De Leon Says:

        True about his effort. He did seem to be warming up with The Ward. It had a great score too. I hope Darkchlyde works out for him. He isn’t sought out very much these days and his films never do well at the BO. The Ward saw a VERY limited theatrical release and probably recouped it’s money overseas and with VOD, etc etc

      • Yeah it’s odd how is films perform. Most of his work in the 70s and 80s are very well regarded despite not being huge hits. Some of his films actually did perform well, but with a catch.

        The Fog made a lot of money compared to its budget, but pulled in half of what Halloween did and thus seen as a letdown. Weird how Hollywood works sometimes. But yeah he isn’t very sought out, which is a shame since most of Hollywood is full of no good hacks like Michael Bay and Brett Ratner

      • Victor De Leon Says:

        I agree whole-heartedly I don’t really like any of the new horror directors out there. I dig Ti West. Don’t care for Eli Roth. I enjoyed Absentia, so I hope that Mike Flanagan does well. Some others come to mind but I can’t remember their names lol. Oh, James Wan! Can’t forget him.

      • Roth is ok. I don’t dislike his work. But not something I seek out. I do though like Rob Zombie and Adam Green. Aja is ok (well if he would stop only doing remakes).

      • Victor De Leon Says:

        I like Marcus Nispel a bit. Forgot about Green. Hatchet was cool but I didn’t care for H2. I have not seen Frozen yet. That was Green, right? Rob Zombie, hmm…I don’t think I’ve liked any of his movies. I know. I’m harsh, lol

      • Yes Frozen was Green. Loved it. Nispel is ok. Chainsaw and Friday the 13th were cool, but yet like Roth not someone I would seek out.

        I do quite like Zombie. Corpses and Rejects were cool. Loved Rejects. Halloween is flawed, but I still mostly liked it. Hated Halloween 2 now I love it. Weird how that works.

        Lucky McKee is a good filmmaker. Had him on my radio show. Total asshole by the way lol

      • Victor De Leon Says:

        I’ve only seen May by Lucky. So, he was a total dick?

      • Yeah. Interviewed him on my old show. His answers sucked it was obvious he didn’t wanna do it, but he was ok. Then towards the end he went on a rant. Just a fucking idiot basically.

      • Victor De Leon Says:

        Oh wow. Gotta love the ones that go on a rant or two. ah well. Fuck him and his crap movies lol.

      • Yup. Lost me as a fan. Oh well it was bound to happen at some point.

  2. Victor De Leon Says:

    Oh and I love the new Theme! (wink wink)

  3. Nice write up! I liked this movie, and really enjoy (cmon who doesnt!) seeing Amber Heard. Quite the genre girl now, loved her in All the boys love Mandy Lane 🙂

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