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“John Carpenter’s The Ward,” Reviewed

“John Carpenter’s The Ward,” Reviewed (photo)

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Somewhere in the bowels of North Bend Psychiatric Hopsital lurks a monster. It might be a ghost. It could be someone pretending to be a ghost. Or it might be a red herring meant to disguise one of the most ridiculous plot twists in the horror movie handbook. Whatever it is, that monster is haunting “John Carpenter’s The Ward,” the first theatrical horror film from the one of the genre’s unquestioned in a decade. It is not one of his finest pieces of work.

Amber Heard stars as Kristen, the newest resident of North Bend’s restricted ward. The rest of the girls — Emily (Mamie Gummer), Sarah (Danielle Panabaker), Laura-Leigh (Zoey), and Iris (Lyndsy Fonseca) — don’t like her. The doctor (“Mad Men”‘s Jared Harris) is creepy. And, oh yeah, at night or when the lights go out, Kristen sees a terrifying ghost girl, wandering the halls, stealing her blankets, or trying to kill her.

This, I think, is a fascinating set-up for a horror movie: a ghost stalks the inmates of a mental institution, who are incapable of convincing anyone they’re being haunted because their doctors are convinced they’re crazy. Unfortunately, that is not the set-up for this horror movie. That sort of complexity would require a ward that could believably function as a real working hospital, with a concerned if skeptical staff of health care professionals. Alas, the tightly (and kookily) structured plot mechanics of “The Ward”‘s screenplay by Michael and Shawn Rasmussen demand a hospital filled with the sort of sneering, snarling baddies who practically smack their lips with anticipation when it’s time to electroshock someone.

Until its crazypants and borderline hilarious finale, “The Ward” is basically a run-of-the-mill gotcha-slasher in a mental hospital: mysterious killer, beautiful young victims, spooky surroundings, jump scares, final girl. It’s the work of a technician, not a craftsman; functional but not inspired (and while she can get out of a straitjacket faster than Houdini, Amber Heard’s no Kurt Russell, either). At this point in his career, Carpenter is like The Rolling Stones at this point in theirs: living legends subsisting on their greatest hits and occasionally releasing albums of new music as an excuse to keep touring the oldies. “The Ward” is sort of John Carpenter’s “Voodoo Lounge:” serviceable but forgettable.

“John Carpenter’s The Ward” is now available on VOD. It opens in limited release on July 8. If you see it, we want your take. Leave us feedback in the comments below or on Twitter or Facebook!

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at IFC.com

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…