Making his grand return to the director’s chair in nearly 10 years, John Carpenter returns to the genre that made him one of the most successful filmmakers of the Movie Brat generation. Perhaps not since Halloween and his work as a producer on Halloween III: Season of the Witch has Carpenter developed such an effective thrill-ride and scare-fest as The Ward, full of classic haunted house motifs and psychological questions.
The Ward stars the beautiful Amber Heard along with an assortment of good looking female mental patients (don’t worry, their good looks are actually part of its imaginative plot) who are all suffering from the same delusion: the corpse of another girl is slowly picking them off one by one. Jared Harris plays the mental ward’s head psychiatrist (an intended pun) who is trying to understand why all these girls are suffering from the same imaginary concoction.
What makes The Ward particularly special is its weight. The film feels gruesome and heartwrenching; helped by an atmospheric score by Mark Kilian (the first score not composed by Carpenter since Ghosts of Mars, but brilliantly captures his style). The story is also helped by its 1960’s period setting. A lot of the methods used by the staff in this story are dated, including electro-shock therapy, so Carpenter’s intrigue with the days of his childhood fit well with this story. Refreshingly nostalgic in a classic John Carpenter sense, the best horror film of the year. His return is a welcome one.