July 2011 | (USA) | John Carpenter | 89 min | R
Synopsis: Kristen (Amber Heard) is admitted to the North Bend Psychiatric Hospital in 1966 after she sets fire to a house. As she acclimates to this new setting of locked doors, restricted company, frequent medications, and forced treatments, she learns that there is an additional threat to the ward and its patients: the ghost of Alice Hudson. Alice, out for revenge, chases the girls slasher-style throughout the asylum until the film culminates in an unsurprising twist ending.
Review: Wrong monster, wrong place. The slasher/haunting plot is misplaced in a setting rich with its own horrors, none of which are fully taken advantage of.
It’s either fitting or extremely inappropriate that I’m writing this review on the tenth of October, World Mental Health Day. Because I have an interest in the history and cultural construction of mental illness, I was excited about The Ward’s setting in a 1960s asylum, a time and place when mental illness was a potent source of fear, not just fear of one’s own psychological demons but of how those demons might be “treated.” The opening credits immediately locate the film’s themes amongst barbaric treatments with splintered images of actual woodcuts, illustrations, and black-and-white photographs, all depicting patients undergoing agonizing treatment. The homage to these historical treatments gives Carpenter a promising starting point on which to build his narrative of horror.