John Carpenter’s ‘The Ward’ (Blu-ray Review)

All good things come to those who wait.  That’s what they say, right?  Well, I’ve been patiently waiting for my favorite director of all time to make a full feature film for about ten years now and here we are ten years later with the master of horror’s newest feature film entitled The Ward. After a couple of false starts, mainly due to an overseas error on the import Blu-ray release, we were subjected to a Fall delay.  Then the flood gates opened up and a domestic distributor stepped up and took charge.  John Carpenter’s The Ward had it’s VOD premiere last month (or two) along with a limited theatrical release across the United States, before finally being released on the might Blu-ray format.  All of this within a 2-3 month time span.  I could not be happier.  So how was the movie? How was the Blu-ray?  Grab some adult diapers and enter if you dare.  John Carpenter’s The Ward is now admitting. 


Boy, this has been a long time coming.  In fact, it’s been ten years in the making.  John Carpenter’s The Ward is the master of horror’s first feature length film in a decade, the last having been John Carpenter’s Ghosts of Mars, a science fiction western tale.  The Ward brings us back to Earth, so to speak.  In fact, The Ward takes us back in time to the 1960’s.  The beautiful but disturbed Kristen (Amber Heard) is quickly picked up by authorities after she burns down a house.  It seems she’s got a proclivity for the old pyromania.  Well, the law will have none of that, and she is thrown into a psychiatric ward.

Once committed to the facility Kristen is monitored by Dr. Stringer (Jared Harris) who counsels her and tries to get her back on the road to recovery.  Kristen boards up with a few female patients that have already been at the ward for who knows how long, but with that small bit of hope that they will be released sometime soon.  Shortly after bonding with the crew, Kristen starts to hear and see things at night.  Disturbing things.  There was once a patient named Alex (Mika Boorem) who met up with some unusual circumstances, and now haunts the ward and Kristen is the new target.  Hospital staff refuses to believe her and some of her so-called compatriots also don’t believe her.  It will have to be up to Kristen to discover what’s going on in the ward.  Alone.

I heart John Carpenter.  He’s been a big budget (and low budget) independent filmmaker, producer, writer, composer for forty years now, and at times I feel that he gets treated like Rodney Dangerfield used to get treated like.  He gets no respect!  Why?  He’s been doing it his way, with the exception of Memoirs Of An Invisible Man, since the beginning of his career.  How many working directors can honestly say that they control their own films and scripts?  Not many.

I was bummed out when I heard and read that John Carpenter had pretty much semi-retired from Hollywood, because he was burnt out and sick of the Hollywood system.  I kept hoping against hope that he would return to the director’s chair at some point.  He did come back briefly for two episodes of the Masters of Horror anthology, but it wasn’t the same, even though the episodes were great.  Then a couple of years after those episodes had premiered there was a rumbling of rumors that said he was in production of something called The Ward. It was a very specific kind of rumbling, because it stated that his next project was going to be an independent horror film in which he would act as director only.  He would not be producing, writing, or composing any of it.  He was simply there to tell the actors what to do, yell action, cut, and go back to his trailer.

Fine.  Any John Carpenter is better than no John Carpenter, in my opinion.  It would be weird to watch a film that Carpenter didn’t write or score himself, though.  Obviously, by the length of this review you can see that I totally approve of The Ward. In essence, it’s a stripped down back-to-basics kind of horror film.  You have a bunch of hot girls being chased by an evil that will not be stopped unless they team up to stop it.  It’s very empowering, in that sense.  Filming started in the Fall of 2009 and premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in 2010.  As usual, there was a bunch of drama involved with rights acquisitions and it took a lot longer to secure a domestic release.  The UK rights were secured by Warner Brothers and the Blu-ray was made available for pre-order, but was quickly yanked and postponed due to an encoding error.  The wrong aspect ratio of 1.78:1 instead of 2.35:1 was used.  It was back to the drawing board, it seemed.  Then all of a sudden the domestic companies handling video distribution scrambled and got their stories sorted and in the early Summer of 2011 made its premiere in a unique movie model release.  VOD, theatrical release, and home video release.  All within a three month time span.  Score one for the fans!

I usually do not read other reviews before making up my opinions on films, but had to break that rule, because some of the nagging and complaining that littered the web focused on the same tripe over and over.  “There were too many jump scares,” etc.  Uh, yeah?  It’s a horror movie, and if the jump scares make you jump, then the HORROR film has done it’s job .  It is a haunted house story that takes place in a WARD!  What did the haters expect?

I’m elated that I am able to bring you this review and hope that you will give John Carpenter’s The Ward a spin on Blu-ray.  If you’re a JC fan then you will be happy.  I await the master’s next films.  Darkchylde anyone?  😉


John Carpenter’s The Ward is presented in 1080p 2.35:1 widescreen.  Set in the 1960’s, the color palette easily reflects this.  The girl’s outfits and certain environments have this pastel look to them that really makes you feel that you’re living in that time period.  Skin tones are also on the natural side, if only on the matte side.  Powder, girl.  There is an awesome layer of grain throughout the entire film.  Contrast can run a little hot, but I reckon it has to do with stylistic filming choices.  There is one scene in the film where all the girls are standing by a window and the sun comes through the blinds, and these beams of sunlight slowly cut in front of them.  It looked like a painting come to life.  DNR is nowhere to be found and black levels are consistent.  The Ward looks pretty damn good!


John Carpenter’s The Ward is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1.  This is a wild one, indeed.  Dialogue, even in its several hushed spots, sounds clear and audible with no distortion or need of adjusting the volume control.  The music pounds away at the speakers in a fluid and clean fashion with no hints of clipping or crackling.  The LFE goes for a jog as it really pounds the low-end home.  There are plenty of scares throughout The Ward and I am happy to say that this DTS lossless track had me committed! 

Special Features 

John Carpenter’s The Ward has only two special features to speak of, but one is a doozy.  Commentary!  Before Robert Rodriguez’s audio commentaries were sheik, John Carpenter use to lay them down like no other.  He is joined by actor Jared Harris who plays Dr. Stringer.  They both get along great and trade back and forth antics that happened on and off the set in addition to Carpenter adding insight on what went behind the creation of The Ward. I highly recommend it.  A trailer is also included.

  • Audio Commentary by Director John Carpenter and Actor Jared Harris
  • Theatrical Trailer

Final Thoughts 

So has John Carpenter finally made it back into the realm of full feature films or is he a bit rusty?  Rusty isn’t the proper word, but he sure is back.  I do think that his focus is there, because on The Ward he only served as director and nothing more.  This frees him up immensely as he does not have to worry about his own script, score, etc., because other people are now in charge of that.  John Carpenter’s The Ward is a well directed horror film that was desperately needed, because the current environment of horror film schlock leaves a lot to be desired.  John Carpenter’s The Ward is creepy to the extreme and who really doesn’t want to see a bunch of hot girls running around getting stalked by a ghost?  I do!!!




Order John Carpenter’s The Ward on Blu-ray!


7 Responses to “John Carpenter’s ‘The Ward’ (Blu-ray Review)”

  1. Brian White

    I can’t wait to see this over the weekend!

  2. Gerard Iribe

    Hope you enjoy it, Brian. I’m gonna watch it again.

  3. Brian White

    I couldn’t be happier with this.

    Brilliant show!

    JC brings back the building intense fear he originally brought in the 70s with Halloween without the use of heavy CGI. Gotta love that! It’s the story that’s central here.

    Also…wow…you got a girl not only trying to escape the ward and it’s security, but also a ghost too. How’s that for raising the stakes! But it gets better. The twist is phenomenal. I won’t say what film it reminds me of because it will spoil things. But this is a MUST BUY. Horror fans across the world…click on Gerards buy it now link above. Don’t wait!

    Amber Heard!!!! Love her!

  4. Gerard Iribe

    Good job, Brian! I’m glad you enjoyed it!Yes, I love Amber Heard, too!

  5. Da Marcus

    Pretty well done review Gerard, thank you for that.

    Can’t wait to see this on Sept.29, when a waiting of more than 10 years comes to it’s end … and finally the NEW JC-Movie will be shown at cinemas in Munich, Bavaria.

    Since 1981 i saw every new Carpenter Movie at cinema … and it’s definitly how you wrote ”Any John Carpenter is better than no John Carpenter”.

  6. Matt Goodman


  7. Da Marcus

    Awesome Movie. Even better than I expected. Can’t wait to see Carpenter’s next one … hope its Darkchylde and/or the Bloody Benders.