Incident in a Ghostland (also known internationally as simply Ghostland) is the latest film from Martyrs director Pascal Laugier. It tells the story of a mother and two daughters who inherit a creepy house from a dead relative, the brutal attack they endure early on, and the aftermath of that.
When Laugier made Martyrs, he made what many to consider to be a modern horror masterpiece, so right off the bat, that’s a lot to live up to, and it’s unrealistic to expect that kind of lightning in a bottle on a consistent basis. The Tall Man, his 2012 follow-up, didn’t quite seem to grab audiences the same way, and with Ghostland, many fans have been hoping for another modern classic.
What we get is a film that feels plucked from the very era that Martyrs is from, yet feels more like an American film than one of the notorious “New French Extremity” films of the day. That’s not just because this is a (mostly) English-language film. What the camera shows us just doesn’t quite go to the places Martyrs or some of its peers would go to with similar subject matter. And that’s okay, but worth noting for anyone expecting another film of this type. If anything, it should make the film more palatable for a wider audience. Don’t get me wrong. There’s some pretty nasty and brutal stuff happening in this film. It just doesn’t quite elicit the same jaw dropping you would associate with the films in question.
As with Martyrs, however, there’s more to Ghostland than the violence that drives the plot. What’s offered here is perhaps not as profound as what Martyrs‘ revelation gave audiences to chew on, but it is the deeper themes that make this film more interesting than just the standard home invasion movie it appears to be early on.
This part of the movie feels fairly generic and appears to be ridden with logic issues, but hang in there as much of this is resolved as the film progresses. Unfortunately, the viewing experience is somewhat tiring until the film begins to show its hand, and you realize that there’s more here than first meets the eye. That’s not to say the events become 100 percent compelling from there, but suffice it to say, I didn’t check the time to see how much longer the movie had after that.
Generally speaking, the acting in Ghostland is pretty solid, though there are some spotty moments early on. Granted, some of this may have come from dialogue choices. The casting is actually remarkable. Two characters are played by two different actresses, who look perfect as each other at different ages. It’s also shot well and looks good from a cinematography standpoint (some great outside-the-box close-up shots come to mind), and the makeup effects are very good. Even the score shines with its moments of melancholy piano.
The jump scares are mostly predictable and ineffective, but while they are present, this isn’t exactly a jump-scare type of movie–so that shouldn’t be a deal-breaker. Overall, Incident in a Ghostland is not a wholly satisfying experience, but there’s enough there to make it worth watching. You can check it out in select theaters or on VOD on June 22.