I’ve been on a bit of a horror kick lately. The Ward caught my eye, mostly because it’s from John Carpenter. I enjoy most of his work, and he’s one of my go-to directors for a good scare. It is also set in North Bend, Oregon, and I have a major soft spot for movies set in my home state, especially obscure little towns like North Bend. With those two things going for it, I couldn’t resist.
The movie follows Kristen, who is captured by police and sent to The Ward early on, after an unexplained and intriguing chase through the forest that ends with her burning down an isolated farmhouse. Once captured, we follow her and her far-too-pretty to be believable ward-mates as she tries to unravel the mystery of what happened to Alice, a ghost that is haunting the ward. Her “friends” seem to know something about what is going on, but are reluctant to help.
Most of the horror stuff that Carpenter is known for (as either a writer or director) tends towards the slasher-flick. The obvious example of course is Halloween and its many descendants. The Ward, on the other hand, is much more psychological thriller than slasher, at least until the very end. Up until the last fifteen minutes or so, there’s the constant sense of wrongness and building dread, but not much in the way of big scares or gore. The story is interesting, the characters easy to get involved with, and the pacing is good for the most part. I found the final confrontations with the ghost of Alice to be a little formulaic though, almost boring. Luckily, the denouement of the story and final scenes more than make up for any mis-steps that lead up to them.
I’d give The Ward a strong recommend for fans of horror or psychological thrillers. I gave it 4/5 for my Netflix rating.