And so the return of the once-great director's continues ... Joe Dante came back with one of my faves last year - "The Hole in 3D" - and now the King Of The 80's returns.
Carpenter has alot to live up to, but equally alot to answer for. For every "Halloween" there's a "Vampires" and for every "Escape From New York" there's a "Escape From L.A." His return sees him on familiar ground - a thriller/horror rather than action/sci-fi. And maybe that's the problem for him and for us - it's too familiar. A plethora of ghost killer thrillers has audiences all-too prepared for shock tactics so to scare them an atmosphere of uneasiness and creepiness has to be delivered in spades.
And that's where Carpenter fails. All the elements line up waiting to work their magic - the creepy psychiatric hospital; the sour-faced head nurse; the creepy doctor; the inmates with a secret... but none of them match up to what has gone before. The hospital is no Overlook Hotel; the nurse is no Nurse Ratchet; the doc is no Lector... and the inmates are, well, there-in lies the problem!
Without trying to give anything away, "The Ward" tries a ploy that has been done before in movie history but with a twist like that, once you've seen it deployed, it can never surprise you again. The man who literally had you watching through fingers has those fingers clenched into a fist that supports your weary head. No shocks, no surprises, no script.
Carpenter has always worked on a budget that is probably equivalent to that of the catering budget on a Hollywood movie but he has always managed to make the best of it and make up for it with chills and thrills. But here with a "ghost" that seems like an after-thought and a well-trodden run through the halls of horror, it would be best to self medicate rather than take a dose from this hospital.
There is a film that you should see instead of this, which will be listed at the end if you wish to read it if you don't mind a spoiler.
UK release date: 21/01/11
*SPOILER ALERT* Watch "Identity" instead - it's a much better personality thriller.