John Carpenter’s The Ward opens this friday in UK cinemas, if you are still uncertain about going to see Danielle Panabaker play Sarah in the supernatural thriller, here are some fresh reviews of the film. I’ve only included the parts mentioning Danielle, but you can click on “read more” to read the whole review.
The mainly-female cast is solid. The always-fun-to-watch Heard (and no, it’s not just because she’s beautiful, but that helps) ably carries the film as the mysterious Kirsten, who finds herself locked away with no memory of her past and no idea why she is there. Fonseca, Panabaker, Gummer and Boorem, too, are all first rate as the inmates with a secret to hide. There’s a touch of Girl, Interrupted to proceedings, with just a whiff of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. It wouldn’t be a proper loony-bin film without the requisite evil (or are they?) nurses – Nurse Lundt (Burney), in particular, channeling Cuckoo’s Nurse Ratched. And seeing as this is the 1960s, it would be remiss not to have a scene or two of patients a’twitching and a’writhing on the guerney as they get a dose of shock treatment.
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There are two things that become apparent within a few minutes of The Ward‘s opening. The first is that the occupants of The Ward are all unusually young, glamorous and make-up clad, from the flirtatious, catty Sarah (Danielle Panabaker) to the bespectacled, artistic Iris (Kick-Ass‘ Lyndsy Fonseca). The second is that everything about The Ward feels alarmingly familiar, even a little tentative. There are numerous moments – false scares, prowling shots, long shadows – that have been seen myriad times in numerous other slasher horror and suspense movies of the last 30 years.
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Kristen’s fellow patients are four other girls, all equally vague. Only the spiteful Emily (Mamie Gummer) and wannabe seductress Sarah (Danielle Panabaker) stand out, but are still banal and unappealing. It feels harsh to attack the wooden acting, but the miscast bunch aren’t able to work with the feeble script.
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Set in 1966, it’s the story of a girl called Kristen (Amber Heard) who wakes up in a mental hospital after setting fire to an abandoned farmhouse, although she can’t remember why. Kristen shares the ward with four other girls, Iris (the artist), Emily (the tomboy), Sarah – Danielle Panabaker – (the beauty) and Zoey (the baby). They all seem to have traumas of their own but Kristen is even more troubled by the fact that she’s the only one who wants to get out… we care about the girls. They’re all very likable, and the way we follow them as the story unfolds makes us want to see them get through it in one piece.
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