Incident In A Ghostland
Directed by Pascal Laugier
Arrow Blu Ray Zone 2
Warning: Big spoilers in this one...
sorry, I want to talk about certain stuff.
Pascal Laugier, who made the very interesting thriller Martyrs (reviewed here and don’t bother with the US remake, is my understanding) wrote and directed Incident In A Ghostland which was, if memory serves, pushed heavily at FrightFest a few years ago. I missed it for some reason (probably it was either on at an inconvenient time or clashing with something else) but I’ve since bought the CD soundtrack and so I wanted to see how the visuals of the film fit in with the music.
Well... I’d have to say that, while the title implies that this is some kind of horror movie, the truth of the matter is it’s a kind of home invasion thriller instead. Now, to be fair, I’ve ever really got much enjoyment from home invasion or other, close cousin movies where one group of people are terrorised by another group of people. They just tend to feel somehow mean spirited to me. This one is made more tolerable by being shot really nicely with some great compositions and colour palettes. Nothing particularly obvious comes to mind to demonstrate any overt stylistic flourishes from the director, at least on this first watch but, trust me, the mise en scène is easy on the eye and will captivate your ocular candy needs right from the outset.
Now, I’m not sure what a Ghostland is but, maybe it’s slang for a specific type of derelict landscape because, frankly, there’s nothing supernatural in this movie here, people. Instead we have a somewhat obvious series of events which somehow fail to fully captivate, despite the great shot design and the really strong acting turns from the five ladies who make up the three main characters of this picture... Crystal Reed, Mylène Farmer, Anastasia Phillips, Emilia Jones and Taylor Hickson. Truth is, the film just fails to surprise and disappoints on that kind of level so much so that, despite some solid work from all involved, the film telegraphs all its so called ‘twists’ before the first 25 minutes or so are done.
The set up sequence lasts just over 20 minutes and, in that time, it manages to let the cat out the bag quite a bit. For instance, when one of the two sisters who are the main protagonists tells their mother that they’d found a book containing fake interviews made up about the other sister, it kind of sets one on a watch out for anything in later scenes in the movie which may be similar illusions of the character. So, yeah, when after the first 20 mins we jump several years into the future to see the successful career of one of the two girls who has achieved her dream and become an extremely successful horror writer, it didn’t take me long into this similarly extended sequence to realise that the whole thing could well be just an elaborate construction of her mind and that no time had passed at all. There are some visual indicators which kind of clue you in on a somewhat subconscious level in this second sequence and so, when the moment came and I found out that a lot of what I’d been watching was, indeed, a lie... I was already kind of expecting it and it kinda stole the thunder of the moment, to be honest.
Given that the two sisters are being terrorised by two people who like to treat them as childrens’ dolls, it almost then gets giallo-like in its potential solutions because, frankly, after a while anything could be an alternative reality and there was even a few points where I thought this movie was going to go down the same route as The Twilight Zone episode Five Characters In Search Of An Exit and everyone would realise they were just dolls at the end of the narrative. I’m marginally happy that Laugier chose not to go that way but I was effectively distracted enough that I kind of gave up caring about who survived this thriller and who didn’t. Which is a shame.
The music to the movie itself is fine. An effective score provided by... well, Todd Bryanton if you believe the IMDB or Georges Boukoff, Anthony D’Amario and Ed Rig if you believe the soundtrack album... is a mixture of both simple piano melodies and the modern, atonal sounds associated with contemporary Hollywood horror movies. It’s about the only element of the film which approaches the tradition of the horror genre and, ironically, the best thing about it. I’m listening to it as I type these words, in fact.
This lack of supernatural shenanigans or non-human monsters seems somewhat ironic when the movie opens with a pointed reference to the great H. P. Lovecraft and even, at one point, has one of the characters meeting the man himself in a sequence (which, as you’ll probably guess, is also a construct). And, to be fair, the film could have easily changed things to fit into the artificial label of ‘horror movie’ but, instead, decided to take a more direct route to its pleasures. Something which may or may not have been a good call, we’ll never know.
Like Martyrs, Laugier seems to have a penchant for battering around the lead characters and, in this, the ladies faces are pretty disfigured by the two main antagonists. Indeed, I believe one of the younger actresses, Taylor Hickson, also sued the film company for a heavy facial injury when she throws herself through a ‘glass’ window... which I’m guessing doesn’t make for a fun time on set. These films seem to be a bit of a gruelling experience to shoot for the actresses taking part in them, by the looks of it.
And that’s about all I’ve got to say about Incident In A Ghostland, I’m afraid. This one is far inferior to this director’s previous movie in terms of gripping atmosphere and it doesn’t have that film’s pseudo-religious mystery element thrown in to the equation either. Not a terrible film by any means but not one I’d recommend to a friend, to be honest. I think this director does some interesting stuff though so maybe he’ll pull a masterpiece out of his pocket next time. I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed for that, methinks.