Main cast: Marcy McGuigan (Dr Ryan), Eve Annenberg (Alice Beecher), Darnell Roberts (Doctor), Ethan Marten (Alfred), and Rip Torn (Narrator)
Director: Jeffrey Fine
Dr Ryan is the new boss of Hanniwell Institute, an asylum for the loonies and what not, and she intends to get that place up to snuff within 90 days. Right away, she is portrayed as a bad doctor because she wants to separate her emotions from her patients as much as possible, as she points out correctly that getting too emotionally invested in her patients is a surefire path to burning out. Of course, this show extrapolates this to coldness and carelessness – a sure sign that the people who wrote the script don’t understand anything about healthcare practice and also don’t believe in therapy. That’s right, “real” and “effective” therapy is portrayed as some kind of hugs-a-lot kind of things that will never work in real life.
At any rate, Dr Ryan soon begins to see creepy people and hear strange noises – suggesting that the whole place is haunted. Ooh…
Clearly a watered-down carbon copy of House on Haunted Hill, minus any gore and other things that would make it unpalatable for mainstream TV, Black Ward is an average opening episode for the Ghost Stories anthology. Despite being made long before the unimaginative slew of found footage crap and Paranormal Movie clones started the decay of modern horror, this episode brings to mind the standard jump scares and pointless running-screaming down dark halls while accompanied by all kinds of boos and loud noises. It’s also bizarre how Dr Ryan seems unable to grasp that she may be bumping into ghosts even when it’s pretty obvious. I mean, does she genuinely believe that there will be a sudden slew of actual hospital staff suddenly showing up in some dark underground chamber that was previously locked up?
A nice twist will be, perhaps, that the whole thing is the imagination of an asylum resident who thinks she is a doctor, but alas, this one plays it straight and reaches an overdone kind of climax that can be seen coming once the ghost is revealed to be some poor abused sensitive sod.
Still, I do like how the episode manages to capture the old-school style aesthetics of horror that is akin to the glory days of the 1970s, and I’m happy to see if future episodes would be more interesting than this by-the-numbers shrinks-are-bad ooh-dark-tunnels aaah-ghosts episode.