Every so often, you stumble on a film that genuinely surprises you. "Incident in a Ghostland" was one of those films. At first blush, it's a fairly standard piece of horror fare presented by French director/writer Pascal Laguire.
When we come in the proverbial door of this film, we're presented with a family clearly on their way to moving into a new home and neighborhood. It becomes apparent that Beth, the eldest daughter with a "Wednesday Addams" air, is an aspiring horror author. After sharing her newest writing with her mother, sister Vera makes it clear that she's less than supportive by tearing into the story's ending. Vera's relationship with their mother is also troubled, the first hint being her acid tone as she snaps at her mother for speaking to her in French.
Our discovery of the family's internal relationship is interrupted by the sudden sound of police sirens behind them. However, the source of this sound turns out to be a van with candy stripes running down the side. Beth and her mother wave at the driver, who has a somewhat off-putting air. On the other hand, Vera flips the van's driver, the bird, with a sneer.
During a stop at a local convenience store, a newspaper headline reveals that there have been a series of break-ins and murders in the local area. The astute horror fan will quickly draw the connection between this van and this series of murders. Things are clearly already getting in motion.
What this movie is not, however, is a slow burn. The night the family arrives, the violence begins almost immediately. We're witness to a brutal attack on the family by a man of immense proportions who clearly has some developmental disability and the driver of the truck mentioned above. Thankfully, the girl's mother fights valiantly and manages to dispatch the invaders.
In the next scene, we see Beth as an adult and a successful writer. She has released a book with the same title as the movie. She receives a panicked call from Beth saying she must return home. Beth's voice is shrill, hysterical, and not at all well. Vera returns home to see her mother, and we discover that Beth never stopped reliving that night. It is here, dear reader, that we leave you to the rest of the film.
If everything above sounds like standard fare, let us assure you that what follows will have you second-guessing yourself. Every time we thought we knew the film's plot, it shifted again in the most delightful ways. It's been a tool long since we've had this kind of experience with a film. What could have been done in a way that would have left us feeling cheated and unfulfilled instead turned into one of the finest presentations of horror we've seen in a while. "Incident in a Ghostland" is, we feel, one of the genuine works of horror genius to come out of the industry in a good while.