Film Review – ‘Incident in a Ghostland’

Release date: OUT NOW on DVD/Download

As the latest offering from horror extraordinaire Pascal Laugier, ‘Incident in a Ghostland’ is equal parts shocking and frustrating, a missed opportunity that squanders a compelling concept and relies too heavily on genre tropes we’ve seen many times before.

As the latest film from acclaimed Martyrs director Pascal Laugier, Incident on a Ghostland arrived with fairly high expectations, and it’s clear to see why due to the territory he’s playing with. It’s a home invasion thriller with a series of twists, as Beth (Crystal Reed and Emilia Jones) and her sister Vera (Anastasia Phillips and Taylor Hickson) find themselves fighting for their lives when a pair of home invaders gate crash their first night in their new home.

When the sisters are reunited at the house sixteen years later, they are forced to revisit the trauma that haunts them – and it becomes clear that their lives depend on getting to the bottom of what happened that night.

There’s a noteworthy ambition in Ghostland, an attempt to reinvent the home invasion genre that ends up being the film’s saving grace. There are more than a few rug pull moments throughout, and Laugier does a good job of putting his central characters through the ringer as the boundaries between fact and fiction start to blur. Actresses Crystal Reed and Anastasia Phillips are impressive as the sisters stuck in a nightmare like something straight out of a David Lynch movie – think Martyrs with a generous dose of Twin Peaks and you’re halfway there.

It’s in its most baffling and head-scratching moments that Ghostland is at its best, an enjoyable supernatural puzzle that constantly forces viewers to question what they think they’re seeing.

This sense of enjoyment is lacking from the latter half of the film, when it morphs into a familiar, generic horror that feels as though it’s more intent on paying homage to seventies slasher flicks than it is enjoying being its own beast.

It’s this descent into predictability that makes the conclusion feel so unsatisfying. In an attempt to give its audience answers, Ghostland unintentionally drains away much of the sense of fun and suspense that had been building throughout. That’s not to say there aren’t sparks of it still on show (Reed’s Beth has some great moments of insight in the latter part of the film that are delicately handled) but the ending is ultimately signposted too soon, and suffers as a result.

In keeping with his track record, Laugier goes all out with the grotesque in this film, and while it doesn’t quite top Martyrs’ most unsettling scenes there’s still plenty of nerve-shredding, heart-pounding horror set pieces on offer to keep fans happy. But in many ways Ghostland is the seed of a controversial, memorable story that doesn’t quite go far enough – you can’t help but feel that it might have worked better if some of its central mysteries remained unsolved.

Included with this DVD release is a feature-length ‘Making Of’ documentary about the production of the film, as well as an interview with the director, which touches on just how he goes about scaring his audiences.

Alex Straker

Horror, Mystery | France, 2018 | 15 | 3rd September 2018 (UK) | DVD, Blu-Ray, Download | Arrow Video | Dir.Pascal Laugier | Crystal Reed, Emilia Jones, Taylor Hickson, Anastasia Phillips

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