The Ward

The Ward isn’t a bad film, though for John Carpenter’s first feature in nearly a decade, it’s a little dispiriting. I’m not sure if some reservoir of inspiration seeped away over the years since 2001′s underrated Ghosts of Mars, but this handsome asylum-set chiller may be the first ever Carpenter film that isn’t immediately recognizable as such. Working from a screenplay by Michael and Shawn Rasmussen, Carpenter sets a ghost loose to harass a group of improbably pretty ladies confined to the maximum security wing of the North Bend Mental Hospital in 1966. He knows what he’s doing, and The Ward isn’t a bore; there’s some lovely period detail, and the scares come at a brisk clip. But aside from a couple of flashes of distinctiveness — one visceral fight scene near the end vaguely reminded me of the Ring parody in one of the Scary Movies, where the creepy J-horror ghost starts punching Anna Faris in the face — none of Carpenter’s usual oddball flair is in evidence. For one thing, this is the first of his films since 1992′s triflingĀ Memoirs of an Invisible Man to which he didn’t also contribute one of his iconic musical scores.

I’d nonetheless be perfectly content to praise The Ward‘s conventional horror movie craft if it weren’t also so silly. The script is more or less a disaster, flailing around repetitively before unleashing the world’s dumbest and most overused twist ending — yes, that one. You know the one. The overall experience is really quite weird. I expected anything in the world from John Carpenter, but not a half-decent, utterly ordinary horror flick of the direct-to-video variety.

-- Eugene Novikov

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Screening Log

Snitch

Ric Roman Waugh, 2013

Score: C

Side Effects

Steven Soderbergh, 2013

Score: C+

10 Years

Jamie Linden, 2012

Score: B-

The Place Beyond the Pines

Derek Cianfrance, 2013

Score: B+

Warm Bodies

Jonathan Levine, 2013

Score: C

Beautiful Creatures

Richard LaGravanese, 2013

Score: B-

The Window

Ted Tetzlaff, 1949

Score: B+

The Chase

Arthur Ripley, 1946

Score: B

Street of Chance

Jack Hively, 1942

Score: C

The Taste of Money

Im Sang-Soo, 2013

Score: C+

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