Pascal Laugier’s “Martyrs” is notorious for its brutality, rightfully earning its residence on lists of most disturbing horror films. While his most recent offering isn’t at that level of gore and utter depravity, the director’s “Incident in a Ghostland” is an intentionally unpleasant nightmare that will please genre fans — while spooking those who aren’t diehards and want more from their films than jump scares and shudder-inducing torture.
The beginnings of “Incident in a Ghostland” feel like urban legend. A brief run-in with a candy truck on the highway leads to a night of terror for Pauline (Mylène Farmer) and her teenage daughters Beth (Emilia Jones) and Vera (Taylor Hickson) at their new home. After managing to survive the attack by the truck’s occupants (Kevin Power and Rob Archer), Beth returns to the house years in the future to discover her sister is still in the thrall of their shared experience.
Laugier’s script introduces a number of familiar elements in a new way, remixing genre tropes with his own style. There’s real ugliness here, with the creative torture visited on the victims being enough to unsettle all but the most hardened of horror fans. Unfortunately, the ugliness isn’t solely in the on-screen violence. Transphobia and misogyny flow through the film as much as blood, staining what might have been a solid genre effort.
‘Incident in a Ghostland’
Running time: 1 hour, 31 minutes
Playing: Starts June 22, Galaxy Mission Grove, Riverside; also on VOD