Incident in a Ghostland Movie Review
Written by Hamzah Sarwar
Released by Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Written and directed by Pascal Laugier
2018, 91 minutes, Not Rated
Released on July 24th, 2018
Crystal Reed as Adult Beth
Mylene Farmer as Pauline
Anastasia Phillips as Adult Vera
Emilia Jones as Young Beth
Pascal Laugier scarred me for life with the unrelenting savagery of Franco-Canadian birth child, Martyrs (2008). The graphic torture of young women is brutal and tests the boundaries of depravity. There is, however, a philosophical perspective on suffering that burns its flaming effigy into the mind and deep into the soul. The notion that suffering is a gateway to purification and sanctity offers up a disruptive antithesis to the ‘torture porn’ tidal wave. While Martyrs transcends this subgenre, it is still engulfed by the weight of its history. Laugier’s flawed English-language follow up, The Tall Man (2004), barely registers on the horror-scale; Incident in a Ghostland sees the Frenchman return to his home-invasion roots.
Following the death of a great aunt, Pauline and her daughters (Beth and Vera) arrive at their inherited house only to be stalked by rampant killers. That fateful night pierces the narrative and it’s not until sixteen years later that we see Beth (Crystal Reed) go on to fulfil her dream of becoming a horror author. The Lovecraft devotee appears to have escaped her troubled past and lives a good family life in Los Angeles. When she’s summoned back to that bleak home to see her aging mother (Mylène Farmer) and Vera (Anastasia Phillips), it becomes evident that they are still living in the shadow of that painful night. While Pauline suspiciously doesn’t appear to have aged at all, Vera is gripped with paranoia and visions of the predatory killers who appear to haunt the premises.
However sadistic it may sound, Laugier is clearly more at ease in this more polished and pruned world of violence. The elaborate production design is teeming with creepy one-eyed dolls, a labyrinthine haunted house and even a bullish ogre to go along for the hellish ride. Despite its aesthetic pleasantries, there is no shying away from this truly agonising experience. It pits young women at the mercy of a ravenous bloodthirsty maniacs. With unclear motives behind their sadism, it becomes abundantly clear that the pleasure is not in shining a light on the why, but the act of destruction itself.
Our leading ladies are pushed, smacked, groped, bitten, smelt, semi-raped and even threatened to be burnt. Even for a hardened bloodhound, I just can't see the point of it all. Incident in a Ghostland is a regressive, warped fairy tale that could at a stretch serve as a critique of the freakish satire it puts on display. One of its few redeeming features is the underlying sense of whether events are playing in the dark corridors of girl’s minds or in fact are actually taking place. After being bludgeoned for so long, it’s difficult to make sense of these hallucinations or to care of their origins.