It’s been close to a decade since John carpenter’s last theatrical release (the less-than-stellar Ghosts Of Mars), a fallow period in which he helmed episodes of the Masters Of Horror TV show and saw many of his classics remade. Often very badly.
But this, carpenter’s 20th feature, reveals the director of Halloween and The Thing hasn’t quite lost his touch, crafting an effective if somewhat old-fashioned (both in tone and execution) asylum-set chiller that doffs its cap to Sam Fuller’s seminal Shock Corridor (1963).
Set in a 1966 Oregon, Amber Heard’s Kristen is a troubled woman sent to the north bend Psychiatric Hospital after burning down a farmhouse. Placed under the care of Jared Harris’ alternately sinister/ sympathetic shrink, Kristen’s confined to an all-female ward along with a batch of repellent nurses and fellow patients (Danielle Panabaker, Mamie Gummer, Lyndsy Fonseca, Laura Leigh).
But there’s someone – or rather something – else prowling the hospital’s shadowy corridors, picking people off…
The Thing aside, carpenter’s Mo has always been to suggest rather than to show. While there’s more gore here than typical for him, this is no Saw clone, relying on shock editing and boo! moments to deliver the thrills.
The ‘twist’ ending isn’t hard to guess, but carpenter wrings tension from the clichéd material, his trademark widescreen camera floating creepily through dark passageways.
Meanwhile, Heard throws herself gamely into a woefully slim part. It has its failings, but The Ward just about rewards.
Neither a total return to form nor his worst, this is a middling shocker salvaged by Carpenter’s class.