Film

“Incident in a Ghostland” Is a Disturbing and Effective Critique of Misogynist Torture Porn

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The grisly post-torture-porn horror flick Incident in a Ghostland serves as an effectively punishing critique of the relentless misogyny that has become a staple of every stupid Texas Chain Saw Massacre knockoff that pits sexually active women against emotionally disturbed serial killers.

Writer-director Pascal Laugier (Martyrs) dwells on the wounds (bruises, welts, tears, and so much blood) that mega-popular horror novelist Beth (Crystal Reed) sustains as she’s relentlessly chased and bludgeoned by two silent, unnamed assailants. A vicious, stab-crazy ice cream truck driver (Kevin Power) and an obese, Leatherface-like brute (Rob Archer) attack during her long-deferred visit to her PTSD-afflicted sister Vera (Anastasia Phillips) at Ghostland, Beth’s neglected rural family home.

Thankfully, the graphic representation of Beth and Vera’s physical suffering is frequently offset by a chain of disorienting — and unexpectedly empowering — hallucinations and dreams within dreams that force Beth to wonder: Are Archer’s and Power’s characters real or just visions of long suppressed psychological trauma? Beth and Vera soon realize that some doors in what Vera astutely calls their “flea market–chic” haunted home, which comes complete with porcelain dolls and wall-mounted deer antlers, lock from the inside while others don’t have any locks at all.

And eventually, Beth and Vera allow themselves the freedom to daydream happier endings for themselves, including a hallucinated cameo appearance by a long-dead celebrity author. Ghostland may sometimes play like a mindlessly gory slasher clone, but Laugier’s tormented girls consistently prove to be stronger than their brutalized bodies.

Incident in a Ghostland
Written and directed by Pascal Laugier
Vertical Entertainment
Now playing, Kent Theater, Brooklyn

 

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