Back behind the camera for his first feature since 2001’s Ghosts of Mars, John Carpenter serves up some sluggish and silly shock-scary horror with The Ward, a tale about the supernatural mysteries that engulf Kristen (Amber Heard) after she burns down a farmhouse and is institutionalized in a spooky mental ward. This story, penned with next-to-no inventiveness or wit by Michael and Shawn Rasmussen, is set in 1966 only so plausibility won’t be stretched by bits involving electroshock therapy and lobotomies, but such antiquated, crude medical procedures have by now become such rote genre clichés that there’s no terror to their employment, just yawns. Kristen’s symbolic dreams, strange interactions with her fellow inmates (each one a distinct “type”), and frequent run-ins with a mutilated-faced specter all foreshadow the inevitable twist ending. Yet before the film can reach its deflating Sixth Sense-style denouement, it first indulges in a bevy of loud-noise jolts that, relative to the ominous atmospherics of Carpenter’s masterpieces, seem thoroughly beneath the director. Even Carpenter’s trademark widescreen framing seems lethargic, providing a sinister recurring shot of the ward’s hallways but otherwise failing to gussy up what amounts to a torpid guessing game about the true nature of Kristen’s identity and circumstances. From a wannabe Nurse Ratched, caring doctor (Jared Harris), and sexually deviant orderly (who, despite unseemly whispered threats, rejects the come-ons of Danielle Panabaker’s crazy girl), to Heard’s feisty if featureless protagonist and a ghoul straight out of central casting, The Ward proves a musty shadow of the filmmaker’s smart and stylish classics.