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European films

Incident in a Ghostland film review: Pascal Laugier’s nasty horror again sees young women brutalised

This claustrophobic horror film is a brutal misogynistic, transphobic and a feat of endurance to watch, even for fans of this genre. The female characters are portrayed as weak and unstable and the whole film lacks motivation and compassion

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 15 May, 2018, 7:04am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 15 May, 2018, 7:04am

2/5 stars

A horror writer revisits the site of a violent childhood experience in Incident in a Ghostland (known simply as Ghostland in some territories). Committed histrionics from the female leads only exacerbate the brutality of the experience of watching Pascal Laugier’s nasty horror film, which even dedicated genre fans will struggle to endure.

Part of the early 2000s’ New French Extremism movement, Laugier gained notoriety for the divisive Martyrs, which sees a woman repeatedly brutalised until she literally sees God. Ghostland similarly gets its kicks from the sustained torture of young women, who are themselves portrayed as uniformly weak and unstable creatures.

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The film follows Beth (Crystal Reed), a celebrated author of horror fiction and self-proclaimed H.P. Lovecraft fan, as she returns to her childhood home, where her mother (Mylène Farmer) and sister (Anastasia Phillips) are still reeling from a savage home invasion 16 years earlier.

The creaky old house, tucked away in a suitably remote location, is piled high with creepy dolls, stuffed animals and musty antiques left behind by an eccentric aunt. It’s the perfect setting for an exercise in claustrophobic horror, and Laugier obliges, confining much of the action to the dingy basement and cluttered hallways.

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To his credit, Laugier’s playful use of timelines and shifting realities keeps the audience engaged – just long enough to ensure the next round of sustained torture hits its mark. But his flagrant disregard for character motivation, compassion or humanity ultimately takes its toll.

Misogynistic, transphobic and persistently mean-spirited, Ghostland is an exhausting and unrewarding watch, in which the audience is reduced to just another prisoner, held against their will in Laugier’s sadistic prison of unrelenting nihilism.

Incident in a Ghostland opens on May 17

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