Well, at last John Carpenter has returned to his roots within the horror industry with The Ward! I, personally, had waited for this moment for a fair while – and was not disappointed with his latest effort. This turned out to be a great little horror film, proving to all that he has not lost his touch. He does not succumb to the frenetic, action-packed style of directing as is now popular with modern filmmakers, but sticks to what he does best with his much understated way of doing things. Of course, this film is by no means perfect, and by no means nightmare-inducingly scary, but definitely deserving of more praise than it is currently being given credit for.

The film follows the story of a young woman who gets taken to a mental hospital, but has no idea why she is being kept there. Things then take a further ‘turn for the worse’ when the other patients start getting killed off one by one. There are plenty of ‘jumpy’ moments throughout the film, but this is complimented nicely with scenes of genuine tension and menace, giving the audience its fair share of thrills throughout. The film does take a fair while to get properly started, and can almost be seen as splitting into two separate halves (much like can be done with the French-Canadian film Martyrs!), as the first segment focuses more on building up an unsettling atmosphere whereas the second has more action, and is more fast paced and exciting.

I think that when talking about this film, credit should be given to Amber Heard, who helped to carry the story along and taking the viewer on a journey which leads us to some unexpected places. Her character was a fairly complex one, all being told, and she remained realistic and ‘three-dimensional’ throughout. It would have been easy to have just done the old ‘I’m not crazy’ bit but she portrayed the character as thinking logically about her situation and making every attempt to get the hell outta that place – something which the other girls in the ward with her did not, as if they were already resigned to their fate for some reason.

This film has been described as being predictable, which it is, in a sense, however, it is the sign of a good story-teller when that sense of expectation doesn’t detract from the enjoyment of it. The Ward is not meant to be taken too seriously, but rather as an exhilerating ride back to the sixties, back to a One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest-type situation!

The twist ending was a real treat and managed to ensure that the film turned out to be not just your basic horror movie, but something with more depth to it. Similarities have been drawn between this and Shutter Island (for obvious reasons, once you’ve reached the end of both films) and even Sucker Punch (rather more tenuously), and this separates it from being just another slasher flick. Although the premise for this film is not completely an original one, I think that it handles itself well in telling a somewhat different story to the one that audiences have heard many times before. Where the cliches really come to the fore is simply due to the backdrop of the mental institution – with the familiar grumpy, strict nurse, the electric shock therapy and the numerous pills and syringes popping up frequently. The mental facility works as an ideal setting in creating an eerie, foreboding atmopshere, unfortunately though, John Carpenter seems to have settled in his potrayal of it, not really offering any fresh insights into the location.

If you’re a horror fan, this is a must-see, if for no other reason than the fact that John Carpenter directed it! If that name doesn’t ring any bells with you, then a brushing up of your horror roots is in order, need I mention Halloween and The Thing as just two examples. This film gets a thumbs up from me as being a gripping watch from start to finish, without the use of excessive gore and limbs flying all over the place (as modern horror often feels intent on!). I strongly recommend horror fans to check this out if they get the chance!