Halloween Scene: The Ward (2010)

Hey Halloween Scenesters, sorry about the lack of posts since Wednesday. I was down in the big bad city covering the New York Comic Con for CBR. I thought about watching some horror flicks either on my laptop or my phone, but after a long day hoofing it around the con floor and the mean streets of NYC, I just wanted to hang back. I did start reading Joe Hill’s Heart Shaped Box and will hopefully finish up by the end of the month, though I’m not putting any money on that. Anyway, I kind of made up for the lack of posts today by watching three horror movies, starting off with The Ward.

Before today, I had not heard of The Ward. I didn’t know it starred UM favorite Amber Heard (she’s gotten me hundreds, maybe thousands of hits just for mentioning her in Never Back Down) and I especially didn’t know that it was directed by John Carpenter. Essentially, I knew zilch about the movie. And, to be honest, I was a little nervous. I’ve probably only seen about half of Carpenter’s filmography and love the greats like Halloween and The Thing, but after watching The Fog again last week and knowing that many horror directors lose their steam as they age (not a hard and fast rule, but pretty common), I wasn’t sure if it would be any good.

Thankfully, it was. For the most part. The movie’s impossible to talk about without getting into spoilers, so I’ll say now that it’s worth looking at. Okay, SPOILER TERRITORY AHOY! The movie starts off with Heard burning down a house and going to an insane asylum. We’re not sure what happened or why she’s there, which is kind of refreshing. It’s impossible not to think about Sucker Punch while watching this film as it’s also about a bunch of girls in an asylum not set in modern times involving some shady goings on. Of course Ward doesn’t have a pointless, confusing story and giant robot action scenes. Well, thanks to the twist at the end, it might be a bit confusing. It does have a ghost trying to kill off Heard’s fellow patients in the ward, which appears out of nowhere as often as it should and in just the right moments to cause a sufficient amount of scares. Had I been watching this alone at night, I think I’d have been a lot more creeped out.

So you’ve got a spooky flick with scares where a ghost/zombie thing is brutally murdering mentally unstable young women and then you get to the twist ending, See, the reveal here is that all of the characters we’ve seen are representatives of a woman with multiple personalities. The woman is named Alice and she’s the ghost Heard was hunting for. The idea is that Alice was held captive in the house she burned down and developed different personalities to deal with her situation. The doctor at the mental hospital — played by Mad Men‘s Jared Harris — has been doing some radical therapy with Alice to essentially murder the other personalities and make Alice whole again. At first I didn’t like the ending. I hate those finales where it’s like “everything you saw is fake!” except when it makes sense and matters, like The Usual Suspects. The more I thought about The Ward, though, the more I felt like the movie did make sense and does matter because the aspects being knocked off, while seeming good to us from the perspective we were shown, were actually hurting Alice. It only seems like it doesn’t matter on the surface because of the way you watch the film the first time around, but I bet, like Suspects, it makes a whole different kind of sense when you watch the movie a second time. I do look forward to that one day.

Okay, SPOILERS ARE OVER. I do have one general complaint/query about the movie, though. I’m not sure why it was set in the past (early 60s, I think, making Harris’ involvement more meta than intended). What was gained? The threat of electroshock therapy, possibly? Wouldn’t it be believable that an older, modern establishment might still have a facility like that? A mysterious threat like that could have added another layer, like kids being worried about monsters in the dark. Also, while the costumers did a good job of making the characters look like they were set when they were supposed to be, I think everything looked a little too slick or maybe the girls looked a little too modern to really sell the period piece aspect.

Anyway, I’m glad that Carpenter didn’t disappoint. The scares were solid and I was invested in the story. Even if the period wasn’t convincing, the movie looked good and had a style to it. The monster looked great. I cringed several times during kills/attacks. Plus, it’s got an ending that not only made me think about the movie, but also makes me want to watch it again. I’d call that a pretty big success. It was, by far, the best flick I watched today.

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