Directed by: John Carpenter
She made us slobber and cringe as “Zombieland“’s 406. She kept us in stitches as Angie in “Pineapple Express“. Now, she’ll make you scratch your head and wonder just what is going on.
A Supernaturally Tormented Girl
Amber Heard leads in The Ward as the vastly confused and supernaturally tormented Kristen, a patient in a seemingly sinister psych ward. Kristen has no memory as to why she has been institutionalized though she is plagued by vivid recurring nightmares. Her four fellow residents are of little to no help in explaining anything so she is left to learn for herself, and in doing so begins to notice an odd pattern of missing patients. Eventually the girls open up about Emily, someone who used to be a patient of the ward. The others felt she was out of control and did what they had to do to protect themselves, but what exactly? Is Emily the ghost that has been haunting Kristen? Is she responsible for the strange disappearances?
John Carpenter never fails to deliver a delicious thriller mixed with some sort of otherworldly phenomenon and The Ward is no exception. The suspense is killer (I jumped, twice!) and the unraveling mystery is timed wonderfully. It seems like these days directors think a good movie can’t happen in less than two hours and thirty minutes. Not so. Sometimes a good 90 minutes is all you need. We find an excellent example of that here, and even with time for a decent twist at the end. Nothing uncharted or possibly unpredictable, but the storyline does a fine job of misdirection. Although, I’m sure it’s one of those movies that may be interesting the second time around, in order to watch it from a different perspective but it will undoubtedly lose it’s re-watch value after that.
This Tight Thriller/Horror Delivers
If it hasn’t been clear so far, I’m giving this flick a very high rating. It’s definitely worth watching for those thriller/horror fans out there. The story gives your mind something to chew on the majority of the time while there is also some eye candy on screen. Between gruesome ghosts popping up during shower time and an angry torture scene, you will be glued. Not to mention that this seems to be a psych ward for the unnaturally cute, so there’s that when nothing crazy (ahem) is happening. Watch it for the ghosts, or the girls; either way you’ll be in for a treat.
James Reviews John Carpenter’s The Ward [Theatrical Review]
I’ve been contemplating this review for the last week since seeing the film. I’ve been attempting to piece together the words that can fully describe the way I feel about this film. When I was seeing it with a full theater and then reacting to it every day for roughly a week and a half now. And I’ve gone from happy to angry to sad to ultimately let down, as if I hadn’t seen a girl I was once in love with for over a decade, trying to rekindle the flame of passion and the whole date kind of ending in an awkward embrace. We both go in for a kiss but miss each other’s lips completely.
The Ward is set in the 1&60’s at a psychiatric hospital, particularly in ‘the Ward’ section of the hospital, where the most dangerous of offenders are put to be treated. Kristen (Amber Heard) is the newest patient after being found in just her undergarment while burning down a house. With no explanation why she did it and Kristen’s mind blocking the actual reason out of her mind, she appears to be a lost cause but Dr. Stringer (a stellar Jared Harris) has hope that he can cure her. Along the way she meets the other girls in the ward; the nasty Emily (Mamie Gummer), the artistic Iris (Lyndsy Fonseca), man crazy Sarah (Danielle Panabaker) and childlike Zoey (Laura-Leigh) who help guide her through her own demons and a possible demonic being that is killing them one by one. Can Kristen come to grips with her past and stop the murders that are going on?
Will you care, though? It’s been a decade since Carpenter had made a feature film (in-between he had made 2 great episodes of Masters of Horror) and the surprising thing is it’s a competently made film but with none of the Carpenter-esque style and bravado we’ve grown to know and love over his career. The Ward feels like a world in a bubble, where beautiful crazy people are all put together in the same area where they can mingle with the One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest-lite staff while a killer is on the loose. Is it in her head? The staff of course doesn’t think so but Amber Heard doesn’t give the character much weight. She tries but like we see in most Hollywood fare, they tend to cast someone in the lead that wasn’t able to handle the material. It’s a comical performance, with a flashback that boggles the mind.
The biggest problem with the film is that at points the characters say something that sounds so ludicrous that it elicits uproarious laughter from the audience when it isn’t intended whatsoever. Being used to ‘so bad, it’s good’ films, this isn’t what Carpenter and company were going for in this film. It’s a supernatural thriller with a twist ending so bad, it had people laughing and questioning that this wasn’t a fake out ending to throw off the viewers. But no, the film ends with a thud that seems to have borrowed the exact ending to a recent thriller by another great director who has been consistently making good films for the last four decades. Not to ruin the twist, but it’s one of those endings that have been the norm in films since The Sixth Sense and The Usual Suspects but tend to take a film from being mediocre to the dumps.
Can I suggest anyone to go see this film? Yes I can. That might sound contradictory but it’s mainly because it’s a John Carpenter film and it’s one of those rites of passage in the world of horror to watch this master at work. This film isn’t the most offensive film to come out this year but it completely misses the mark. It’s Carpenter directing on cruise control, which is disappointing after convincing yourself that Ghosts of Mars couldn’t be the worst film he’s ever made. It’s a middle of the road horror film, which is a bigger offense than something that is outright awful. This has laughably bad moments, but the film has no soul. It’s a waste for Jared Harris, who seems to have gotten the memo for the kind of film he was cast in. The rest just seems procedural and we’ve seen better films dealing with this topic.
I wanted to love this film more than anything. When I heard Carpenter was finally coming back with a feature length film, I knew I had to be there. Not as offensive as Dario Argento’s films since the early 1&90’s, but it saddens me even more because of the time span between films. Hopefully I don’t have to wait another decade for John Carpenter to come out with a new film. But I won’t be keeping my hopes up and maybe I won’t be let down like I was with this film. You’ve broken my heart, Carpenter. At least I can throw on my copy of The Thing to remember the good times we’ve shared.
Psych Ward Reviews shows the dire state of mental health care in the U.S.
If the ACA gets repealed, psychiatric care—and the stigma surrounding it—will take an even greater hit.
The state of psychiatric care in America, and around the world, lives at the intersection of our debates about access to healthcare and our prejudices about mental illness. Many mental health advocates repeat a version of the phrase that if you break your leg you see a doctor, so it should be the same if your brain is “broken.” And yet many with mental illness are told to suck it up, walk it off, or that it’s not that big of a deal.
This makes for a sorry state at psychiatric care facilities, where both caretakers and patients are often ill-informed about what makes for good treatment. To revisit the analogy, we know that if you break your leg and your doctor doesn’t put you in a cast, they’re a bad doctor. But most of us don’t have the same understanding when it comes mental health. This is why Kit Mead is attempting to open the conversation by collecting reviews of psychiatric wards across the globe.
Psych Ward Reviews provides firsthand reviews from anonymous patients and staff, including details that may have affected treatment. Some are pretty jarring. “My mental health leaving the hospital was far worse than when I arrived (after a suicide attempt!),” said one patient of Washington Adventist Hospital in Takoma Park, Maryland. “While still medically unstable, they took me upstairs and put me in a chair in the hallway where I waited for more than 1.5 hours before someone admitted me. They then took me into a closed bathroom and strip-searched me. I could barely stand.”
News Articles on New Mexico Children’s Psychiatric Hospital https://t.co/h6QB7V7RjD
The site also allows for patients to note other prejudices that lead to mistreatment, such as if they were abused because of their sexuality, gender identity, or race. “If you’re a minor and trans, forget about it. They will NOT respect you in any way,” said another patient of Prairie St. John’s Psychiatric Hospital in Fargo, North Dakota.
Mead attributes many of these negative experiences to an apathy toward mental health, which then gets compounded with other prejudices. “It doesn’t seem to be a commercial resource that people want to invest in,” they told the Daily Dot over email. “The quality of inpatient care and the human rights violations in psych hospitals don’t seem to concern as many people as it should.”
In 2012, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a study that showed while many adults agree mental health treatment is effective, many did not think people are caring or empathetic toward people with mental illness. Those who didn’t agree mental health treatment is effective tend have less education, or come from cultures in which stigmas against mental illness are much stronger.
Morgan Shields, author of a study about psychiatric ward standards in the U.S., says that mental illness is not treated the same way as other health problems. “To be frank, the underlying reason is perhaps a societal apathy towards the disabled and/or individuals experiencing psychiatric distress,” she told the Daily Dot. “Unlike other areas of healthcare, psychiatric care serves individuals whose sense of reality can be and is discounted—this power dynamic has been difficult to penetrate. Therefore, unlike other areas of healthcare, self-advocacy is difficult.”
Of course, not all psych wards are bad. Many people credit their psychiatric stays with getting them on a healthier path. And that’s what Mead hopes to provide people coming to the site: information on how to get the best care and how to advocate for oneself—because not every psych patient looks the same, nor do they have the same needs or come from the same background.
While Centers for Medicare Services (CMS) may provide guidelines on psychiatric care and there are provisions in the ACA that encourage quality monitoring and accountability, these measures are basic measures and often don’t take into consideration treatment for LGBTQ patients, minors, patients of color, and others who have marginalized identities.
“We were only at the very beginning stages of quality monitoring for inpatient psychiatric facilities, and CMS had only recently (in 2014) implemented a pay-for-reporting program for inpatient psychiatric care,” said Shields. “Facilities did not have to perform on the measures, but that was a potential next step.”
However, Shields and others are worried the ongoing movement to repeal ACA would be a huge step back for psychiatric care in America, and could exacerbate the problems already reported on Psych Ward Reviews. “I am concerned that we will not take that extra step, let alone improve the measures to include the patient experience and properly document harms,” said Shields.
Mead agrees. “Psychiatric health care is complex, but losing insurance is a bad thing. People might have to rely on potentially abusive support to cover health costs. Those who want psych care could lose access. So a repeal would have negative effects.”
#ACA expanded the scope of the Mental Health Parity Act, which improved access to autism-specific services. This is now in jeopardy. 6/ pic.twitter.com/fu09ax2lIS
Aside from an ACA repeal, there are also the ramifications of having a president that doesn’t appear to consider mental health a worthwhile issue. Though he has a vague call for “reforms” to mental health care on his website, he made numerous disparaging comments about mental illness throughout his campaign. Multiple times he equated mental illness with violence, and regularly calls opponents “crazy” or “basket cases” on Twitter.
“Nearly one in five American adults will experience a mental health issue in a given year. That includes a huge portion of Trump’s supporters—and an even greater group when looking at the national population,” wrote Lindsay Holmes for the Huffington Post. “Trump’s dialogue is completely damaging to many of the people he’s hoping to govern.”
Mead’s immediate goals are to provide for those seeking care, but they hope that Psych Ward Reviews could be a resource used for more oversight. “[The site] is the first step in getting data that says that the model isn’t effective and we need to move to community-based services,” said Mead. “They will also keep people a bit safer in hospitals while we seek alternatives. Even if policy doesn’t change, it will still give people an outlet for their experiences.”
And that outlet now looks more valuable than ever.