Movie Review: The Ward (Confirmed: Eh and a 1/2)
In 1966 Kristen (Amber Heard) burns down an old house in the country. She gets caught at the seen by some police officers who seem to know who she is and is soon taken to a secure ward at the North Bend Psychiatric Hospital. Along with fellow residents Iris (Lyndsy Fonseca), Zoey (Laura Leigh), Emily (Mamie Gummer), and Sarah (Danielle Panabaker), Kristen deals with the bullying orderlies, the cruel head nurse, and the appearance of a mysterious and haunting figure that begins stalking the girls on the ward. Trapped within the ward, Kristen begins trying to uncover the mysterious disappearances of previous girls that she's learned about from her fellow patients while concocting a plan to escape before she suffers a similar fate. Listen, setting a film in a mental asylum, especially in the past, just automatically makes a film creepy. Asylums are a great setting for horror films and this one utilizes the setting well.
While the movie does have a creepy and tense atmosphere at times, it really relies on jump scares. I won't argue too against jump scares here because to be honest, I have to admit that most of them got me. I will say that if I were watching this film without knowing who the director was, I never would have guessed John Carpenter. That's not a good or a bad thing, just a fact. Typically Carpenter's inimitable style is immediately recognizable, but that's not as transparently on display here. There's no reason that a director can't utilize a different style in their methods, but I am curious as to what drew Carpenter to this film. It's just so...ordinary compared to most other films that Carpenter has worked on or written. I really should listen to the included commentary track (I'm not one that often listens to commentary tracks, sorry!).
OK, FYI----HERE THERE BE SPOILERS!!!
So, it turns out that the film is really about a girl who has created multiple personalities and all of the residents of the ward that we've been meeting are not actual residents in a mental hospital, but in fact various aspects of the main character's personality. The main character played by Heard is actually named Alice and a part of her original personality is killing off the extra personalities through treatment. Yes, all of this is happening inside of someone's head. I hate that. Hate it, hate it, hate it. Unless a movie is extremely clever or extraordinarily unique, I hate when a film discounts everything we've seen or the characters we've grown to love. It's the narrative equivalent of learning that something was "just a dream" and it just feels like the audience has been cheated. The first two-thirds of this movie were great. The characters and the plot was set up well and the movie was both frightening and mysterious, but when this plot element gets introduced it just makes me feel like everything that matters has flown out the window. It feels almost exactly like the plot twist at the end of the film Identity, which is another film that isn't bad, but feels like a great concept that gets robbed of a satisfactory ending. I didn't dislike The Ward, but it wasn't ultimately as satisfying of a film as I hoped.
Confirmed: Eh and a 1/2