Mediocre: John Carpenter's The Ward
Directed by John Carpenter
Written by Michael and Shawn Rasmussen
Produced by Peter Block, Doug Mankoff, Mike Marcus, Andrew Spaulding, Adam Betteridge, Rich Cowan, David Rogers, Mischa Jakupcak, Hans Ritter
Starring Amber Heard, Jared Harris, Mamie Gummer, Danielle Panabaker, D.R. Anderson, Lyndsy Fonseca, Laura-Leigh Claire
Never mind its trademark titular credit, for any major studio's unimaginative hireling might've helmed this tepid thriller as professionally and perfunctorily as did Carpenter for hire at the conclusion of his cinematic career. Not an idiomatic flourish is to be savored through a dreary slog initiated by a young woman's (Heard) arson of a farmhouse and subsequent consignment to a psychiatric hospital where a rotting, roughhousing revenant menaces she and her fellow inpatients (Gummer, Panabaker, Fonseca, Claire). More interesting than the predictably prosy plot is an occupation of opposite extremes by the progeny of famed leads: the most frantic inmate, Gummer's as hammily horrid as hideous, while Harris exudes sangfroid skillfully as the facility's chief psychiatrist. With mixed success, otherwise photogenic players contend with their script's daffier dialogue and considerable cliches; Heard's as able as forgettable, and thusly fit for a picture notable only for its directorial berth and satisfactorily restrained period detail of attire and appointments. His fans may wince at momentarily successive dissolves or a cribbed conclusive shot, but the auteur can scarcely be blamed for the clumsy conventions of a project for which he invested minimal creative input before collecting John Carpenter's Final Paycheck.