Incident in a Ghostland Blu-ray Review
Seeing the film blind improves the experience
Incident in a Ghostland Film Review
They broke me, and now they’re playing with youFrench cinema has always been one to push boundaries. And in recent years it has been the horror genre that has benefitted from this desire to see how far, or how much, an audience can endure. Films such as Irreversible (2002), Haute Tension (2003), Inside (2007), Martyrs (2008) and most recently Raw (2016 – also known as Grave) has pushed shock, gore and tension to extreme limits. Taking Martyrs as an example: it starts off as one film, hard, suspenseful and energetic, then morphs into another, gory, sickening and disturbing before finishing on a revolutionary and depraved note – a film that has to be endured rather than enjoyed in an almost profound experience. Writer/director Pascal Laugier, who helmed Martyrs, is also responsible for tonight’s feature: Incident in a Ghostland, so I was expecting extraordinary things once the disc started to spin.
The story tells of a single mother and her two daughters who have inherited an old, isolated, house. But on their first evening intruders break in and subject them to extreme torture; the after effects of which they seem unable to escape. I don’t want to say anymore as seeing the film blind improves the experience.
Suddenly you are in an awful film
The first third of the film is expertly seen, Laugier pulls out all the stops, ramping up the tension at every turn, leaving clues to the fates and generally creating a sense of unease. This is very true of the house, the very essence of the haunted mansion, but when the invasion occurs, despite the build-up, it seemingly comes out of nowhere and suddenly you are in an awful film.
When the youngest daughter returns to the house, the film shifts gear a little, becoming far more traditionally supernatural, the scares come thick and fast, while there is no let-up in the tension – it is remarkable and edge-of-the-seat stuff as you are left in the dark (literally) as to where the film is going. But. Once the film returns to ‘reality’ something suddenly seems to be missing; we return to home invasion territory but, from the man who brought us Martyrs, it is remarkably tame (even if the ideas are awful).
Thus the result is, dare I say it, rather ordinary. And perhaps that is the price to pay: there is only so far you can push the boundaries before there is nothing more to see or do. It is possible that the American distributors/censors neutered the screenplay/final product, but it doesn’t play out like that. So while the build-up is pure, unadulterated terror, the revelation and pay-off can’t compete and, for me, ultimately let the piece down.
Incident in a Ghostland Blu-ray PictureThe disc presents a widescreen 2.35:1 aspect, 1080p/24 transfer, using the MPEG4 codec, and is reviewed on a Panasonic 65DX902B Ultra HD 4K TV with a Panasonic DMP-UB400 Ultra HD Blu-ray player. The digital image is well detailed showing up decent skin texture (and the odd suspect prosthetic) and clothing weaves. There aren’t many distant shots, but the bleak fields, and establishing shots of the house show keen edges; while close ups, such as the dolls, of ghastly wall paper, are well defined and never soften.
Colours are slightly desaturated, pushing earthy tones, but are nevertheless strong without bleed. Flesh tones are natural, and reds are suitably deep and sickening (blood, bruises, etc.). Brightness and contrast are set to give, for the most part, deep blacks; the cellar showcases the best, while holding some good shadows. However, there are numerous occasions when the blacks do grey, shortening the frame depth considerably. White scale is good and shows no signs of clipping.
Digitally there are no issues and the source is pristine.
Incident in a Ghostland Blu-ray SoundThe DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround track wastes no time in bringing together an immersive mix that is chock full of effects ready to make you jump! The engine of the car running outside as the story is told is very nicely realised; while the stereo effects of the truck moving on the road past the car is great. But things really hot up once we are in the house, with the track going hell for leather to make you jump, and produce an eerie sense of foreboding, with creaks, bumps and another settling noises to keep you on the edge. The jump scares are suitable loud; while the bass is deep and penetrating adding to the depth tremendously. The score is well layered into the mix, while the dialogue is natural, never lost and given plenty of directionality. In the depth of the cellar it’s an oppressive track and one that is truly atmospheric.
Incident in a Ghostland Blu-ray ExtrasThe Phantom Image – Over an hour’s worth of feature that is filmed exclusively behind the scenes and shows the making of the film, candidly, during its actual shooting process; witness on set discussions, camera set-ups, stunt set-ups, makeup and filming – a unique look behind the process.
A Point of View on Terror – Is a 15 minute interview with writer/director Pascal Laugier (filmed for this release) where he discusses his passions, drives, film process and previous products. In French with subtitles.
At the Heart of the Film’s Music – a fascinating 26 minute feature that examines the film unusual score with contributions from Pascal Laugier and composers Georges Boukoff, Eric Chevallier and Anthony d'Amario. Again in French with subtitles.
Interviews – spend 9 minutes each with Pascal Laugier and actresses Crystal Reed and Emilia Jones as they discuss the film and gush over their fellow crew and the film in general – press release stuff.
Incident in a Ghostland Blu-ray VerdictFrom the director of Martyrs (2008), Pascal Laugier, comes Incident in a Ghostland, the story of a home invasion on a mother and her two young daughters, and the repercussions thereafter. While the first third of the film is an exercise in tension, terror and endurance, once the film returns to ‘reality’ it loses, for me, much of its tautness, becoming far more traditional, so whilst the ideas are sickening, the execution lacks originality and energy.
As a Blu-ray set, the package from Arrow is pretty decent; the picture is clean, dark and moody, well detailed with good colouring, and the DTS-HD MA 5.1 sound is terrific, wasting no time to immerse the viewer in an eerie, loud, bass filled tack that it truly terrifying. The extras package is also great, with plenty of behind the scene material and discussions form cast and crew.
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