UK Release Date: 3rd September 2018
Runtime: 91 minutes
Director: Pascal Laugier
Writer: Pascal Laugier
Starring: Crystal Reed, Anastasia Phillips, Mylène Farmer, Emilia Jones, Taylor Hickson, Rob Archer, Kevin Power
Synopsis: Years after a brutal home invasion that they all survived, a family comes together and everything seems to unravel for them all over again.
It has been a decade since Pascal Laugier made Martyrs and became one of the voices at the vanguard of the blood-soaked horror movement that became known as New French Extremity. He has since made just one movie – English language debut The Tall Man – but is back in the fold now with Incident in a Ghostland, heading to Blu-ray and DVD this week via Arrow Video. The DNA of Martyrs is clearly still present in Laugier’s latest, which is grim, unflinching and occasionally very tasteless and problematic. With all of that said, though, there’s enough tension and ingenuity to make this an effective horror movie.
Things get going in rather conventional fashion, with Pauline (French-Canadian pop icon Mylène Farmer) taking her kids to a secluded new home (“Jesus Christ, it’s Rob Zombie’s house!”). The quiet and timid Beth (Emilia Jones) is a Lovecraft-inspired horror writer, while Vera (Taylor Hickson) is mainly just upset that she’s had to leave her boyfriend behind. They are menaced by a candy truck en route to the house and its occupants break in later that evening, before the women fight them off. Years later, Beth (Crystal Reed) is now a successful writer in Chicago with a husband and child, but is drawn back to her home and her family when she receives a panicked call from Vera (Anastasia Phillips), who remains deeply traumatised by what happened to them.
It’s not a spoiler to say that there’s a lot that’s seriously wrong at home, but it would be a spoiler to say anything more, so we’ll leave the plot there. Incident in a Ghostland hinges more on plot twists and revelations than Laugier’s other work and these turns are delivered with real flair and intrigue, up-ending the movie and the audience in the way that any good revelation should. Laugier gets real tension from the early home invasion scenes and the reality-meets-fantasy material of the middle section, leading to a third act that, well, is a little more problematic.
A charitable reading of Incident in a Ghostland‘s last 30 minutes would call it an homage, showing respect for the down and dirty horror classics of the 1970s and 1980s. There are certainly explicit nods to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and, to a lesser extent, The Last House on the Left. However, this sort of queasy material feels rough and unnecessary in 2018, particularly as it trades in obvious stereotypes and straight-up bigotry. As much as Laugier keeps the tension high and cranks up the violence for a gripping descent into the grotesque, there’s something off-putting about this sort of material in an era which has seen horror become more progressive and prestigious.
With that said, though, the effectiveness of Laugier’s filmmaking is such that Incident in a Ghostland delivers the scares, despite its questionable ideology. It’s not as breathtakingly original as Martyrs and it’s a long way from the gruesome invention of New French Extremity – a spirit kept alive this year by Coralie Fargeat‘s masterful Revenge – but there’s enough here to keep genre fans happy. DVD feels like its ideal home, as it’s more video nasty than multiplex treat.
Nothing available for review, but the press release tells me that the disc itself is packed with loads of interviews and original writing on the movie by FrightFest’s Alan Jones.
Pop or Poop?
It flirts with some incredibly problematic material, but Incident in a Ghostland is at its best when its writer-director opts to move away from shock and focus on his tricksy narrative structure. There are some solid jump scares and a nice escalation of tension, helped by committed performances from all involved in front of the camera. It’s unfortunate that home invasion conventions and outdated characters rear their ugly heads, as that prevents this from being as satisfying a horror tale as it could have been.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.
Incident on a Ghostland is available on Blu-ray and DVD in the UK now, courtesy of Arrow Video.