Fans excited to see John Carpenter back in bigscreen action after nine years’ absence will find limited cause for joy in “The Ward,” a horror opus that briskly — maybe too briskly — charts ghostly doings at a nuthouse. Sporting the genre veteran’s familiar stylistic sheen, but undone by its script, pic as yet lacks a U.S. distributor, and won’t likely burn up the B.O. anywhere, though home-format biz should be snappy.
After setting fire to an empty farmhouse, Kristen (Amber Heard) joins four other troubled young women in a locked in a psych ward. She has no idea how she got here, though flashbacks to a nasty basement-captive situation suggest she’s suppressing. Also under the “care” of Dr. Stringer (Jared Harris) are man-hungry princess Sarah (Danielle Panabaker), nerdy Iris (Lyndsy Fonseca), childlike Zoey (Laura-Leigh) and aggressive Emily (Mamie Gummer). Their number keeps dwindling, no one believing Kristen’s claims that a grudge-bearing dead patient — is stalking them. As usual Carpenter uses the widescreen frame with aplomb, but pic suffers from too little character detailing (even if a late twist explains that), rote scares, and emphasis on a hectic pace over atmosphere.