INCIDENT IN A GHOSTLAND, directed by Pascal Laugier (Martyrs, The Tall Man), follows two young girls and their mother as they move into a deceased relative’s house.

Beth is an aspiring author, lover of H.P. Lovecraft, and adored by her French-speaking mother. Vera, the other daughter, is jealous of Beth’s relationship with their mother and is also upset over leaving her boyfriend behind. While on the road to the house, a candy truck passes them and the strange occupants, concealed by tinted windows, wave. As the family makes its way to the new house, it is discovered that a murderer is on the loose, killing parents and leaving the children. Beth is transfixed by the story, but Vera brushes it off as another story that Beth made up.

The house, in and of itself, is strange and covered with knick-knacks and old dolls. The family doesn’t even get to sleep in the house for one night before danger enters. The struggle between the girls and the murderers is evident, but the real struggle in the film happens between reality and imagination. Laugier blends the two worlds superbly, but the film falls flat with the standard storyline. There is so much set up with Beth’s imagination that it is disappointing when it doesn’t save the girls in the end, and is instead, something that needs to be fixed. Maybe that says more about Laugier’s view of the world than anything. With that said, the film’s quick pace keeps you on your toes and the characters alone are worth the 90-minute run time. I found that I had a great affinity towards Beth and her sister.

The film has a few well-placed jump scares, but the story does feel formulaic right down to the dolls and the murderers. One of the killers is mentally handicapped and the other appears to be gender fluid, which may not have been the best choice in the current cultural climate because throughout history, queer folk and the mentally challenged have been the villains, perpetuating the stigmas surrounding them. My question regarding this choice is whether it is supposed to appear shocking to the public and are we supposed to be afraid of their otherness or is it actually a comment on the current cultural climate? If the latter is accurate, it’s a poorly executed comment without any background or empathy for the killers. Despite my grips for the film, though, I did find it enjoyable, but by no means groundbreaking. INCIDENT IN A GHOSTLAND is now in select theaters and available On Demand.

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