Incident in a Ghostland follows a teen girl, Beth (Emilia Jones, Crystal Reed), with dreams of becoming a famous horror writer in the shadow of HP Lovecraft. She joins her mother and sister, Vera (Taylor Hickson, Anastasia Phillips) in moving into an old house that belonged to a relative. After the family survives a brutal attack from two serial killers, Beth must find a way to move on from the traumatic event and pursue her dreams.
Incident in a Ghostland Review
This film is one to cover beyond merely critiquing its content. The film is known most famously not for its finished product, but for its controversial production. Actress Taylor Hickson sued the production company following the disfiguring of her face after an accident on set. The...incident...in question involved the director demanding that Hickson punch glass harder, leading to her shattering the glass and getting deep cuts on her face. Despite this unfortunate event, in which the actress was fully deserving of her right to sue, the film would finish production and be released.
As far as "love it or hate it" movies, this film appears to be one of the most polarizing in recent memory. The brutal subject matter is dividing enough, but the incident behind the scenes surely subconsciously affected some viewers as well. I personally found the film to tackle some intense angles, but as is the case with many psychological horror movies, the film struggled with pacing at times.
It's hard to discuss the film further without some spoilers, so...be prepared. Psychological horror has become a somewhat predictable model. About 7 times out of 10, the lead actor is experiencing some kind of mental break that is causing hallucinations or an entire world created from nothing. This film does use this predictable model, but uses it to further the reality of the story rather than as the climactic twist. It presents the imagined reality about halfway through, allowing the story to progress much further than these types of scenarios have in the past.
The brutality and enigmatic behavior of the killers, combined with the creepy doll-ridden set and style of filming, gives a stronger horror atmosphere than most psychological thrillers, which puts this film safely in the horror realm for me. These elements are what separate this film from most and bring it into a style all its own.
Yet, it still struggles to maintain its pace throughout. As the original reality begins to breakdown, psychological thriller tropes rear their ugly heads and the film becomes irritatingly repetitive. It was strong enough that I almost lost interest, but the promising reviews I had read convinced me to press on. In the end, I'm glad I did, but the lull made it difficult.
There is some hefty tension, and I loved the juxtaposition of the Lovecraft aspirations and the slasher reality. It created a unique experience that I was inevitably satisfied to witness. Powerful horror films with disturbing subject matter tend to leave residue. This film definitely did that to me. So however flawed it may be, the film as a whole was something different and something impactful, and worth a watch for those with stern enough fortitude.
Horror Rating System
Horror Qualifier: 8/10 Horror Quality: 7/10 Film Quality: 6/10