2010 Certificate: 15

Synopsis

Horror veteran John Carpenter returns to the big screen following a break of ten years with this slasher horror set in a 1960s mental hospital. Amber Heard plays the institutionalised firebug who finds herself trapped alongside other damaged female patients in a clinic ruled over by Jared Harris's creepy physician Dr Stringer. Carpenter conforms to the terror template he created decades ago for an effective slice of chills'n'gore.

Director

  • John Carpenter

Cast

  • Amber Heard

  • Jared Harris

  • Lyndsy Fonseca

  • Danielle Panabaker

  • Mika Boorem

Review

"I love cliches," says horrormeister John Carpenter when discussing his first return to that most imitated of genres in almost a decade.

Which is a shame...because Carpenter practically invented the modern horror movie with a slate of classics including Halloween (which spawned slasher icon Michael Myers), The Thing (with its revolutionary sfx) and Christine (featuring a murderous Plymouth Fury).

The Ward is not a bad horror film...but it's not a great Carpenter film. Happy to conform to the very formula which he helped create, it's briskly effective rather than genuinely shocking.

Amber Heard plays Kristin, a teenage arsonist who's picked up by local rozzers when they spot her gazing at the blazing frame of a farmhouse she's just torched.

Without much ado, she's admitted into a daunting Gothic psychiatric hospital called North Bend (as in "drive you around the") and stuck in a room with four similarly damaged hotties.

There's a feisty blonde, a prickly brunette, an arty type and a fourth one who seems to have regressed to childhood. And they're all looked after by Jared 'Mad Men' Harris's sinister Dr Stringer.

It's One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest meets Beverly Hills 90210 as Kristin realises that - even for a mental hospital - something's a little strange. Especially, when she's throttled in the shower by a horrific harridan with suppurating flesh.

This pans out slickly if predictably. Heard is fine as the resourceful babe determined to get to the truth even if the final twist invited shrugs rather than gasps of horror.

The goods news is that Carpenter's back....but hopefully now for something completely different.