The Ward takes place in an Oregon mental institution in the late 1960s and doesn’t have a single good Cuckoo’s Nest reference. I’m not sure one would have helped—writes Michael and Shawn Rasmussen are fairly tepid (they play toward director Carpenter’s eighties weaknesses in fact). Maybe if they’d modeled the film on Cuckoo’s Nest, things would have been better.
The film is Carpenter’s first feature work in a decade. It’s his first work for hire project since even longer… it shows.
There’s very little in the way of imaginative casting. Lead Amber Heard is terrible. I assume he couldn’t recast her. She handles the screaming parts better than the talking parts.
Some of the supporting actors are good—Mamie Gummer, Laura-Leigh, Jared Harris and D.R. Anderson. The Ratched stand-in, played by Susanna Burney, is awful.
Mark Kilian’s score is all right. At times, it reminds of an old Carpenter synthesizer score, enough so I almost thought Carpenter pulled the double duty. But he didn’t. Because he didn’t care about The Ward.
His composition is still strong. The film features some of his first ever CG work and it’s not poorly done. It’s pointless and a waste of time (and a surprising sequel to Ghosts of Mars due to the effects crew), but it’s not poorly done.
If one can get past the weak acting, it’s a decent enough waste of time. The intentionally convoluted, twist filled plotting compels.
The Ward doesn’t pay off, but it’s not worthless.
Directed by John Carpenter; written by Michael Rasmussen and Shawn Rasmussen; director of photography, Yaron Orbach; edited by Patrick McMahon; music by Mark Kilian; production designer, Paul Peters; produced by Peter Block, Doug Mankoff, Mike Marcus and Andrew Spaulding; released by Warner Bros.
Starring Amber Heard (Kristen), Mamie Gummer (Emily), Danielle Panabaker (Sarah), Laura-Leigh (Zoey), Lyndsy Fonseca (Iris), D.R. Anderson (Roy), Susanna Burney (Nurse Lundt) and Jared Harris (Dr. Stringer).