John Carpenter’s The Ward

If you want to see Amber Heard in a mental institution, this is the movie. The effective scenes of tension and command of the frame you expect from Carpenter are there and just when you think you have a complaint (hey, these other inmates are just standard issue aspects of a psyche – the quiet one, the crazy singing one, the one who seems to not belong because she is sane) there turns out to be a reason for it. There is even a shock treatment scene and a Nurse Ratched character, but it is no Cuckoo’s Nest. It shares with a few movies of its time my least favourite kind of ending, without getting into details. The journey is better than the arrival at the destination. The commentary track discusses the idea that in a Nineteen Sixties setting certain events would not have been scrutinized. We keep watching for the suspense and the jump scares. The Ward is a contained idea, with genuine scenes of jeopardy that still play almost a decade later, despite knowing the ending. Worth visiting this compromised version of the Carpenter aesthetic. It could not be done anamorphic but still feels wide and decisive. He did not compose the music this time around, but it still feels like the Carpenter stamp is there. Also worth looking at the Masters of Horror anthology episodes he directed, “Cigarette Burns” (which to me plays a lot like Flicker by Theodore Rozzak) and John Carpenter’s Pro-Life which is laced with satire and insanity.