French filmmaker Pascal Laugier’s newest film finally gets wide US release today through VOD. Ghostland (sometimes referred to as Incident In A Ghost Land) is his first film in six years and is a return both to horror and France since his iconic 2008 film, Martyrs.
Like Martyrs, this film is gorgeous, very well made, but so brutal and focused on traumatic cruelty it is likely to split the opinions of horror fans everywhere. Put another way, if this is your bag, you’ll love it. If not, you’re probably going to hate it.
Pauline, played by French pop star Mylene Farmer, is moving herself and two daughters to their new home. The property is a beautiful, gothic home set in rural acreage. Best of all, they got the home through inheritance and so the situation seems perfect. The setting couldn’t be better for youngest child Beth, played initially by Emilia Jones (Brimstone, High-Rise) and later by Crystal Reed (best known for TV shows Gotham and Teen Wolf), who wants to be a horror writer. The setting appears straight out of a Poe novel. She loves it. The same can’t be said for older daughter Vera, played initially by Taylor Hickson (Deadpool) and later by Anastasia Phillips (Reign), who is pissed at leaving her friends, boyfriend and life.
Mom’s life with the girls seems vaguely troubled by recent events that aren’t spelled out. So, from a general perspective the move seems perfect. Well, that is, until they arrive.
Recently it seems the town in which the new house sits has seen a rash of torturous break-ins. In fact, not only have the recent break-in’s been brutal, but the victims have all been mothers and daughters. Uh oh, sounds like foreshadowing to me! Sure enough, the family is barely inside and unloading boxes when two nefarious figures arrive with torture on their minds.
The movie then jumps forward years. Beth has indeed become a renowned horror writer, but has long moved out of the spooky homestead. Lately she’s been experiencing very lucid nightmares about the torture she endured at the hands of those intruders. She would chalk it up to the lingering effects of trauma if it weren’t for two things. First, she has very real physical repercussions to these dreams. She will wake up with a swollen lip or cuts and whatnot.
Beyond this, thanks to a phone call to sister Vera, she learns her mother and sister are experiencing the same horrifying dreams. Now, this, she can’t deny. So, she packs up and heads home to get to the bottom of it.
Unfortunately for them all, she does not return home and find relief. Once the three are reunited in the home, things really start to get strange and much much worse. Their return as a triumvirate has unleashed the evil previously kept at bay in their dreams. The remainder of the film, which is the majority, is made up largely of the brutalization of these three women.
For me, this movie comes down to this. What do you look for in a good horror film? If it is plot, suspense or thrills, this probably isn’t the movie for you. If you dig on horror for the gruesome escapism, well, you may dig it. If you watch for the creepy, gothic design and vibe of a film, then this definitely delivers.
The best thing about Ghostland is certainly the look of it. It is breathtakingly shot by cinematographer Danny Nowak, who puts in arguably his best work here. The production design by Gordon Wilding (Goon) is also simply fantastic. You can practically feel the dust. The setting, down to the last detail, is right at home in any Vincent Price flick. Heck, there are even wonderfully shudder-inducing dolls. It’s just really great. If gorgeous gothic spooks are your bag, you’re gonna love this.
Where the movie really falls short is on writing, plot and character development. There really isn’t much of any of that. The filmmaker has made something very straightforward. Take it or leave it.
I’m with him on the visuals and the overall vibe, loving the nods to classic horror. I’m not really into all the rest, though, as torture movies really aren’t my thing. Watching an hour of women getting pointlessly brutalized just doesn’t get me going. Again, it’s all about what you look for. I LOVE roller coasters. My significant other hates them. Just because she hates them, doesn’t make them bad. It just means it’s not her thing. So, that’s my disclosure here. This kind of movie isn’t my thing. If it’s yours, sweet, this movie is for you.
Did you love Martyrs? If your answer to that is an emphatic hell no, you may want to skip Ghostland. Many many of fellow horror fiends absolutely love Martyrs and consider it a classic. If that’s you, you’re going to love this film. It is very similar in approach, style and overall experience. Heck, Taylor Hickson is currently suing the production company for injuries she sustained to her face during filming in broken glass. Yeah, so, it’s that sort of movie.
In the end, Incident in a Ghost Land is a wonderfully crafted, impeccably shot torture film that I am very glad I never have to see again. Same goes for Martyrs for that matter. *shudders*
Like any good horror fan, even though it’s not really my thing, I really appreciated this flick and all well made horror. No one involved in this project did a bad job and it delivers on it’s promise on all levels from the music down to the costume design. So, check it out, if you dare. Incident in a Ghost Land (Ghostland) is out now on VOD. Let us know what you think on Twitter, Reddit, or over in our Facebook Group!