Instability (the Ward, 2010)
Carpenter’s final film to this point is the Ward. It was his first feature length film since 2001’s Ghosts of Mars. Carpenter said he had fallen out of love with film-making. And so, the Ward was to be his return to his love. And I wish I could say it is a triumphant return.
The Ward is the story of a young woman, Kristen, in the 60’s locked in a mental ward. She is locked away with several other young women. She tries to get along, but feels there is something wrong. And it is not just the cruel employees who mistreat the girls. It appears the ward may be haunted.
The film quickly throws away the question of if it is in Kristin’s imagination.
It becomes obvious there is a ghost and she is killing off the girls, working her way back to Kristin. They discover the name of the ghost is Alice a prior patient of Jared Harris’ Dr. Stringer. Oddly, the hospital seems unconcerned with the disappearing girls. And then there is the twist…a twist that is pretty easy to see coming early on in the film…and a twist we saw in the 2007 film Identity. I am not saying you cannot have a reveal similar to a previous film. But you better find a way to make it a surprise.
The problem is not really the performances…everybody is doing their best with very thin characters. I suspect that this was partially intentional. That each girl was some brand of archetype. But they lack the depth beyond this to sell them as real characters, which again fails to hide the big twist towards the end.
I realize the story and script are not the fault of John Carpenter. He did not write this film. Carpenter was strictly in the capacity of director with this one, even the music being composed by someone without input from Carpenter. Which is regrettable, because he has some terrific musical output the last couple of years.
I truly had high hopes for the Ward, but it feels like a really pedestrian offering from a talented director.