Incident in a Ghostland Film Review
Seeing the film blind improves the experience
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 brake 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, 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, 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.
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