The 2018 film ‘Incident in a Ghostland’ (alternative title: ‘Ghostland’) follows a mother and her two daughters who get attacked by intruders on their first night in their new home. Though the family overcomes the attack when the mother overpowers the intruders, parts of the disturbing memory linger.
The narrative switches between the perspectives of the two daughters to make for a surreal experience, leaving the audience wondering which one of them is living in reality and which is hallucinating. The film’s ending seems fitting enough, but can you be sure what you see is what really happens? Or is it another one of Beth’s hallucinations? Let’s take a closer look at the ending of ‘Incident in a Ghostland.’ SPOILERS AHEAD.
Incident in a Ghostland Plot Synopsis
The film opens with Beth and Vera in the car with their mother, en route to their new home, which they’ve inherited from their aunt Clarisse. Beth, a budding horror writer, reads out her most recent work to their mother while Vera rolls her eyes in the back seat. It slowly becomes clear that the latter thinks very little of her sister’s literary aspirations and finds Beth’s imagination disgusting.
The squabbling between the sisters continues as they reach their new home, a ramshackle house full of sinister antiques and grotesque dolls. As they unpack, a candy truck that had passed them on the highway earlier parks in front of the house. A gigantic man (Fat Man) and his accomplice (the Candy Truck Woman) then emerge from the truck and brutally attack the girls and their mother. A visceral battle ensues, but Pauline (the mother) eventually stabs the intruders and saves her girls.
We are then taken sixteen years into the future, where Beth is a successful author. However, she continues to have nightmares of the fateful night and soon receives a phone call from her sister Vera saying that she’s being attacked. We then find out that Pauline and Vera still live in the house where the incident happened all those years ago, and Vera has since had a complete mental breakdown.
Beth goes to visit them and is shocked by the state her sister is in. Vera blames Beth for leaving her alone, and things begin to get increasingly surreal. One night, Beth finds Vera handcuffed to the bed and then sees her floating through the air, being savagely beaten by an unseen entity.
Pauline rushes out to call the ambulance, and Beth, left alone in the house with Vera, finally wakes up from her delusion and realizes that she and her sister are still captives of the intruders. Vera then tearfully confirms that their mother is, in fact, dead, and they are still trapped in the house. We then see how Beth really looks — bruised and battered, just like her sister.
Incident in a Ghostland Ending: Do Beth and Vera Die? Is their Mother Pauline Dead?
Beth is then pulled into the reality of being regularly tortured by the Fat Man and the Candy Truck Woman and makes multiply attempts to escape. During one attempt, she manages to bludgeon one of them with her antique typewriter, and she and Vera escape the house and hail a passing State Police patrol vehicle. However, the Candy Truck Woman shows up and kills the officers, and the girls are once again in captivity.
Back in the house, Beth finds herself being strangled by the Fat Man while his accomplice chokes her sister. Just as she thinks she is about to die, a police officer shoots both the intruders. The film’s closing scenes then show the authorities arriving at the house and the two girls being rescued and taken into ambulances on stretchers. Upon being asked by the paramedic what she does, Beth then replies that she writes stories.
So the film’s ending finally gives us (and the girls) a reprieve from the continuous barrage of brutal violence that is inflicted on them. Or does it? Seeing as how we’ve seen Beth fall into delusions before — where she thinks the ordeal is over and that they are safe — the film’s closing scenes could very well be in her mind. Therefore, she and Vera could still be trapped in the house with their tormentors, and Beth could have just escaped into her mind once again.
Even more disturbing is that Vera, who is otherwise very loud, remains absolutely silent when Beth last sees her, which could auger that perhaps Beth’s sister has been killed by the attackers. Since flashes of reality leak into Beth’s hallucinations, she could be seeing her sister’s corpse and imagining that they are being rescued while still being in the room where the Candy Truck Woman is strangling Vera.
Therefore, the film seemingly leaves the decision up to us to decide whether the girls get rescued or not. Though it shows us that they are both saved, it also generates sufficient doubt to make us question what we are seeing. However, in either case, since the hallucinations occur in Beth’s mind, we know for certain that she is alive. If what Beth is seeing is accurate, then Vera is also alive. However, if it is a hallucination, then the girl is likely dead after being choked by the Candy Truck Woman. In all cases, the girls’ mother, Pauline, is dead as she is only seen alive in Beth’s delusions.
Who are the Fat Man and the Candy Truck Woman? What Happens to Them?
As Beth is being taken into an ambulance, she sees the coroner’s team load a massive body into their van, telling us that the Fat Man is dead. The Candy Truck Woman, who is also shot multiple times, is also most likely dead. Once again, however, there is the lingering chance that Beth is hallucinating about getting rescued, in which case her tormentors are both likely alive and still holding the girls captive. Keep in mind that both the Fat Man and the Candy Truck Woman are shown to be dead early on in the film but are then revealed to be alive.
The film excels at holding back information to maintain a feeling of uneasiness and mystery. Most notably, it does this with the antagonists, whose origins and motives are never revealed. Vera describes them to the police simply as “two men in a candy truck,” and nothing more is known about them. However, Beth and Vera are likely not their first victims, as a brief scene at the beginning of the film mentions a news story about a serial killer that murders parents of young girls and holds their daughters captive.
Is Beth a Successful Author? Who is Her Husband?
In her mind, Beth is a very successful author. We are initially led to believe that she goes on to write a number of successful horror novels after surviving the traumatic incident. However, this is revealed to be a part of the vivid hallucination that she has created to escape from the reality of being regularly tortured by her tormentors.
In reality, Beth is still a budding writer who has only written the (unpublished) short stories that she narrates to her mother at the beginning of the film. It becomes clear that her constructed reality is flawed when she has a casual chat with her idol, author H. P. Lovecraft, who compliments her newest book profusely. Lovecraft, who is renowned for his work in the horror and science fiction fantasy genre, passed away in 1937.
Similarly, Beth constructs her family out of things that she sees around her in the house where she is held captive, and her husband is revealed in an old photograph of an unnamed man in the basement. Finally, her most successful novel, which Lovecraft compliments and which is titled ‘Incident in a Ghostland,’ is seemingly a narration of her brutal reality.
Therefore, Beth isn’t a successful author, but the film’s closing scene tells us she is still fixated on her ambition. Despite her traumatic experience, while being rescued, she tells her paramedic that she is a writer. Of course, her statement could also take a very dark connotation if we consider that Beth, by calling herself a writer, is referring to sinking back into her delusion. There is a distinct possibility that she could relapse into her constructed world and spend her life thinking she is a successful author while being completely disconnected from reality.