Incident in a Ghostland is directed by Pascal Laugier, already infamous for his film Martyrs, which was said by some to be one of the most disturbing films ever made. His latest has an extraordinary opening 20 minutes: a brutal home invasion. A mother has brought her two daughters to a house she has inherited, which you automatically know is deeply creepy. It’s filled with antique dolls and has a general vibe that lets you know something’s not right.
Several years later, one of the daughters, Beth, has gained some fame as a sub-Stephen King author, and has written about her ordeal in a book called Incident in a Ghostland. She receives a call from her sister Vera, who demands that Beth returns to the house. As you can probably already guess, this is not going to end well. Any logical person who went through what they experienced would have sold the house immediately, but she and her mother have stayed on!
The upshot is that after her return to the house, Beth’s reality starts to crumble around her. The storyline from there is pretty predictable. On top of that, the villains of the piece are a transgender person and huge mentally handicapped person—and who needs another transgender villain after Silence of the Lambs? There’s also a pretty ridiculous Lovecraft angle, including a bizarre Lovecraft prosthetic. The comparison just isn’t there—he would never have written something so stupid, his point was writing about the unknowable, without easy answers at the end.
Visually, some bits are reminiscent of Gilliam’s Tideland, especially the creepy house. But despite the excellent first 20 minutes, it’s just not a very good film, by a director whose reputation seems to be completely overblown, and whose writing is terrible and deeply unimaginative.
The disc includes a new interview with the director, and a feature-length behind-the-scenes documentary and more.