I went into Incident in a Ghost Land (2018) knowing nothing, I hadn’t seen a trailer or ever heard of it and I recommend you do the same, if you haven’t seen it, go watch it and then come back because this article has all the spoilers.
The film starts with a lovable trio, mother and two daughters, as they drive to their new house. We learn that the youngest, Beth, is a Lovecraft superfan and aspiring horror novelist, her elder sister Vera is a moody teenager and they don’t seem to get along, their mother, Colleen, is friendly and warm and has a bohemian sort of style that is rubbing off on both daughters.
A creepy ice cream truck passes them on the highway, and they get their first glimpse of a strange couple. In a store they stop in along the way, a news report reveals a little detailed account of a murder in the area, it’s a frightening forewarning of events to come, glossed over by the young girls.
They arrive at the house and it has all the charm of a Halloween horror maze with spooky dolls littering every room. The antagonists of the film don’t waste any time, they attack the family on their first night but are courageously fought off by Colleen. They’re a frightening couple whose intentions are unclear at first and not much better explained as the story progresses. This makes them especially frightening, they’re humans with no supernatural power but have monstrous qualities and juxtapose each other nicely, one rather large and bald, the other very thin with long black hair that covers her face for most of the film.
We jump forward in time and Beth has moved on from the horrific events of that night, she’s married and has a son. She’s also a successful writer and has done television interviews talking about the release of her latest novel.
She receives a call from Vera who in a hysterical voice asks Beth to help her and so she’s forced to come away from her new safe haven and return to the house that for some unknown reason, the family decided to keep despite the trauma they suffered there.
When she returns home her mother hasn’t aged, she’s still warm and bright and doesn’t seem to have suffered any mental toil from the events, unlike Vera.
Colleen is almost keeping Vera like a captive in the basement where she has padded the walls with old mattresses. Beth begs her to get Vera help but is blissfully ignored.
That night they’re attacked again, the same intruders, the same ordeal but when Beth wakes the next morning, covered in bruises, she blames Vera.
This is where the film punches you in the gut and the reason I have praise for this film is that I really didn’t see this coming. Vera convinces Beth to open her eyes, stop avoiding the truth and accept that she’s still a little girl and they’re still in the house. Colleen didn’t save the girls and was instead killed; the girls have been held captive and tortured by their aggressors. It’s horrible.
There are a lot of clues in the lead up to the reveal, Colleen looks no different, Beth’s adult life is under developed but it’s easy to overlook such things as many films under develop their characters, I had no idea but it made so much sense once the truth was revealed.
Watching adults struggle through the tropes of the horror genre doesn’t faze me anymore but children can churn my guts up and have me biting my nails and squinting in an attempt to see less of the screen. The remainder of the film shows the girls fighting tooth and nail to escape peculiar torture and frightening mistreatment at the hands of their captors.
They’re dressed as china dolls, burned and sexually assaulted (this is mostly alluded to or suggested as opposed to graphically shown, though I would say it’s not for the faint of heart and I didn’t enjoy this aspect of the movie).
The girls finally escape once Beth is able to accept reality and work with her sister after a few heart pounding failed attempts.
Incident in a Ghost Land is ghastly, the production design is horrible, the twist and turns are unbearable... all said in the most positive ways of course, after all this is horror.
You can catch Incident in a Ghost Land streaming TOMORROW on Shudder. It’s their new exclusive! Check them out HERE
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Written by Holly-Mae