‘Incident in a Ghostland’ (alternatively titled ‘Ghostland’) is a 2018 psychological horror film that follows a mother and her two daughters as they are brutally attacked in their home by intruders. Against all odds, they survive, only for the memory of the incident to become a recurring nightmare.
The film delves into the astounding effects of mental trauma through visceral depictions of violent torture and its subsequent effect on victims. Though it remains scant on specifics, could some parts of the story have a basis in reality? Let’s take a look at whether ‘Incident in a Ghostland’ is based on a true story.
Is Incident in a Ghostland Based on a True Story?
No, ‘Incident in a Ghostland’ is not based on a true story. The film is written and directed by French screenwriter and director Pascal Laugier and follows many of his signature filmmaking touches that include intricately disturbing sets and unrelenting and violent set-pieces. He has also seemingly employed a number of well-known horror genre tropes in the film and given them his own spin to create a novel experience for audiences.
From the ramshackle abandoned house setting to the collection of creepy dolls and ominous writing on mirrors, the film is chock full of sinister visuals, which are complemented by the visceral violence. However, unlike the director’s 2008 horror film ‘Martyrs’ which he claimed is a study in brutality and violence, ‘Incident in a Ghostland’ centers on the psychological effects of trauma. Through the dual perspectives of the two sisters, the director explores different ways in which they choose to deal with the appalling violence they are subjected to.
With some clever cinematic techniques and by revealing minimal details, the film maintains a sense of surreal mystery that makes viewers unsure of which sister’s perspective is real and which one is hallucinating. The sense of ambiguity that runs through the film can be attributed to Laugier’s love for open endings that leave audiences guessing and theorizing about what actually happened. In an interview, he revealed being heavily influenced by the 1959 fantasy horror show ‘The Twilight Zone,’ which often featured open-ended segments.
‘Incident in a Ghostland’ also seems to acknowledge writers of the horror genre, with the central protagonist being an aspiring writer who moves in and out of a delusion in which she is a famous author. In fact, in one of the film’s later scenes, Beth talks to iconic horror-fantasy author H.P. Lovecraft during one of her hallucinations.
The film also has an overall theme of how creating stories allows one to survive trauma by escaping into a constructed reality, a point which is reinforced in the closing scene when Beth, despite her traumatic experience, obstinately says that she is a writer. Of course, because of the film’s (and its director’s) affinity for the ambiguous, it is left unclear whether Beth means to pursue a career in writing or falls back into her delusion of being a famous author.
‘Incident in a Ghostland’ is a work of fiction that makes exaggerated allusions to real-world phenomena like mental trauma and escapism. Its director, having written and directed multiple fantasy horror feature films like ‘Saint Ange,’ ‘Martyrs,’ and ‘The Tall Man,’ wields his craft confidently and uses well-known horror tropes in unexpected ways to create a truly unsettling experience.
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