During the 1960’s the act of being in a psychological hospital was possible worse than what put you there to begin with. Hospitals during the period were known for harsh conditions, poor treatment, and the use of shock therapy. It’s during this period that we find the setting of the John Carpenter Directed film The Ward taking place.
The Ward opens not in a calm opening seen but instead it opens with a murder. A young woman scared for her life is suddenly attacked and killed by an unseen assailant. Moments after this we find a young woman standing out of a burning farm house, which was thankfully empty. The police arrive and the young woman ends up at the North Bend Psychiatric Hospital.
As the film progresses we find out that this little “fire brand” is known as Kristen (Amanda Beard). She is put into a room that was previously home to Tammy who was the unlucky victim at the start of the film. Kristen is introduced to others in her wing that all have their own problems and mannerisms. There is Emily (Mammie Gummer), the wild one who loves stirring problems with the other girls. Sarah (Danielle Panabaker) is the snobbish, flirt, within the group who seems to feel better putting others down. Zoey (Laura-Leigh) is traumatized to the point she dresses as a young girl and must always have her stuffed bunny with her. Lastly there is Iris (Lyndsy Fonesca), who loves to draw in her sketchbook and is friendly to all the other girls. It’s possible that her mannerisms are why she may hold the secrets to the questions Kristen eventually starts to ask.
Kristen is put under the care of Doctor Stringer (Jared Harris) who seems to really care about the girls and will do his best to heal Kristen. The good doctor does his best to try and get Kristen to open up about her past but all he does is push her to multiple escape attempts.
The Ward takes into these women’s lives and shows us the struggles each has surviving in this psychiatric hospital. The mystery of the psychiatric hospital begins to grow as a figure starts to appear. Eventually Kristen is attacked and after telling a nurse she receives the dread electroshock therapy. It’s here that she learns of Tammy and the mystery and horror grows even more from this point in the film.
John Carpenter waited nearly ten years after directing Ghosts of Mars to direct another film. It’s fortunate that his unique style was used in this psychological Horror Film. Since films such as The Thing, The Fog, and others Carpenter has become a master at building suspense. The Ward does not let you down as those around Kristen start to disappear, or are they killed by that dark figure?
Amanda Beard helps to sell the character of Kristen to the point you begin to sympathize with her plight. She just wants out of the hospital and attempts to escape many times. You may even begin asking why she is truly trying to escape. Is it the hospital, being locked up, or her own memories? This is what Carpenter does well when shooting a film. He’ll take the story and frame it so that you could be on the seat of your pants waiting for the next scare. So let’s close with this…………………..BOO!!!