When an old farmhouse is set ablaze by Kristen (Amber Heard), a distraught young woman, she is taken by police to the North Bend Psychiatric Hospital. She awakens in a special ward with four similarly unbalanced and wayward girls: Sarah (Danielle Panabaker), a flirty and sass-talking know it all; Iris (Lyndsy Fonseca), a sensitive and talented artist who tries to make her feel welcome; Emily (Mamie Gummer), a reckless but playful outcast; and Zoey (Laura-Leigh), who hides behind a childlike persona and her beloved stuffed bunny.
Kirsten’s therapist, Dr. Stringer (Jared Harris), tries to uncover the root cause of her breakdown, but despite his calm and understanding manner, she resists any attempts at help and rehabilitation.
Unfortunately, the hospital is not the sanctuary it seems to be. Kristen begins to have strange run-ins with a shadowy phantom who roams the halls when the ward is locked down at night. Persistent and inquisitive, she goes digging for information about former patients and soon becomes convinced that no one ever leaves the ward alive.
The Ward marks a resurgence in director John Carpenter’s celebrated stylistic mojo, with his trademark prowling camera, jump scares, and the sort of atmospherics that typified The Fog and Prince of Darkness.
Set in the sixties, the film’s tone and style have much in common with the works of one of horror’s great, under-recognized masters, Val Lewton, while also nodding in the direction of Samuel Fuller’s cult classic Shock Corridor. Led by previous Midnight Madness starlet Amber Heard, the titular lead from All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, Carpenter’s cast of locked-up bad girls brings the picture to life.
The Ward is Carpenter’s return to form after a decade-long absence, further proof that he deserves the mainstream critical respect and recognition of an American auteur.