In a perfect world, there is no crime, no disease. In a perfect world, we are at peace at the personal level, the global level and every level in between. In a perfect world, no good deed goes unrewarded, nice guys finish first and true love conquers all.
In a perfect world, John Carpenter never makes a movie like “the Ward”.
The film opens in the autumn of 1966 where we see a dazed and disheveled girl, Kristen (Amber Heard), walking down some rural roads until she comes to a farmhouse. She does what any beautiful country girl does at a farmhouse: she burns it down. Naturally, the authorities show up and take her where they would take any dangerous firebug: the local mental hospital. Here, we find that she has been admitted to a ward where the doctor (Jared Harris) is trying new treatments, girls mysteriously disappear and there is possibly a ghost lurking about. Of course, Kristen is going to break out because she’s not crazy.
Sadly, I feel crazy for even leaving the house to go see it.
Track back with me if you will to October and the release of Wes Craven’s “My Soul to Take”. I called that film the worst genre film of 2010. I stand by that. It had a big budget and a legendary director on its side and, at best, it was derivative offal. Similarly, this is easily the front runner for worst genre film of 2011. While “Ward” doesn’t have the same budget “Soul” had or all the 3-D bells and whistles, you have John Carpenter in the big chair directing and that has to count for something. Well, it does, at least for some things. I just don’t think good judgment in making this his first feature film in ten years (his last being “Ghosts of Mars”) was not chief among those things. The script, penned by Michael Rasmussen and Shawn Rasmussen bludgeons us with its stereotypes, assaults us with its poor logic and tortures us with its big reveal. In short, this horror movie was laughable – literally. This was the first time I’ve ever been in a theater with a serious horror movie playing where the audience was laughing at the climactic confrontation at the end: not quite snickers, not polite chuckles but doubled over in their seat belly-laughter.
Yes, it was that bad.
And I really can’t even tell you why. On the offhand chance you have the disposable income to waste on this farce, I don’t want to spoil the movie so you can have the same “Did they really just go there” look on your face that I did.
The disastrous script aside, Carpenter did the best he could with what he had. The actors top to bottom were solid. Heard got to show off more of the tough chops that she displayed in “Drive Angry” and Jared Harris played his part as Dr. Stringer with just a hint of Sam Neill mixed in.
“The Ward” is an embarrassing addition to Carpenter’s filmography. The audience doesn’t have to be crazy to watch it, but I’m sure it would help. Granted, in a perfect world, that wouldn’t be necessary.