In 2008 Pascal Laugier brought Martyrs into the world of horror and blew people’s minds. Graphic and disturbing beyond belief at times the movie shocked many but proved itself more than a gratuitous blood fest with its brilliant story.
Now working more in the mainstream 2012 saw him bring the legend of the Tall Man to the screen staring Jessica Biel and after a brief break he is back again premiering his new movie Incident in a Ghostland at this year’s FrightFest.
Opening with a seemingly traditional horror setup two teen sisters are driving with their French mother to their new home which they have inherited from their eccentric aunt who recently passed away. As they travel they discuss Beth’s obsession with writing scary stories something her sister Vera has no interest in at all.
Reaching the huge house located in the middle of nowhere they find it filled with junk and more disturbingly tons of old dolls. Suddenly a candy truck pulls in their drive and next thing they know their home has been invaded by a huge violent deformed grunting giant and a slim strange sadistic woman.
Dragging Vera off to play the giant disappears and Beth is left alone with the other assailant but her mother rushes to the rescue overpowering the terrible twosome and dispatching of them before anything more awful can befall the sisters.
Cut to many years later and we discover Beth had been dreaming of her past. Now married with a son she is a very successful author and her latest novel is her most personal and powerful yet.
Named Incident in a Ghostland it is inspired by the events of her childhood, events that took place in the house where her mother and sister still live. But something else is going on in that strange house where she was once attacked and now Beth must go back to save her deeply unhappy and unhinged sibling who seems to be stuck in the past trauma unable to escape.
Toying with its audience the same way the horrible warped beast and his buddy in the film play with the creepy dolls that fill the spooky home they break into, Pascal Laugier who wrote and directed the movie obviously enjoys keeping everyone on edge.
Dealing in grand clichés and horror movie staples the story shifts in its first half never quite letting you grab hold of what is really going on or even what genre it may be throwing in supernatural elements to a seemingly straightforward yet horrible home invasion narrative.
When the curtain is finally drawn back and the mechanisms revealed rather than diminish the second half in fact it accentuates the tragedy and desperate plight of the central characters making us even more engaged and involved that we had previously been and rooting for a righteous cathartic climax that we luckily do get delivered to us at the end.
The cast are excellent with four actresses playing the two central characters in their teenage years and as adults. As a young Beth Emilia Jones, seen in High Rise, is cerebral and shy happier writing dark and haunting stories than facing reality. As an adult Gotham’s Crystal Reed retains that meekness and although Beth is now rich and famous her powerlessness at her sisters malicious malady reduces her to her adolescent state.
Seemingly bitchy the younger Vera, played by Deadpool’s Taylor Hickson, hides her true feelings of worthlessness from the world knowing her mother loves her sister more than her and she is unable to do anything about it. As the adult Vera Anastasia Phillips has the hardest role of all and the torture she goes through both emotionally and physically is often hard to watch for us and Beth.
Delivering jump scares aplenty alongside some far more unsettling scenes Incident in a Ghostland harks back to Martyrs in many ways telling a powerful tale that pulls no punches about victims in terrifying situations and what they must do to survive without totally losing everything they once were.