0:01:05 The film opens with a photograph of writer H. P. Lovecraft and the quotation:
Freakin’ awesome horror writer. The best. By far.
Elizabeth is the central character of the film, and a good judge of horror writers.
[N.B. Lovecraft is evoked here because the film is stylistically Lovecraftian (isolation, antiquated, madness…)]
[N.B. The Amish boy running across the intro is Malick Laugier, son of director Pascal Laugier.]
0:03:11 A mother (French singer/actress Mylène Farmer as Pauline) is driving across country to relocate with her two daughters Vera (Taylor Hickson) and Elizabeth / Beth (Emilia Jones). In the car, the two girls are bickering as Beth is reading aloud a horror story she wrote and Vera wants her to stop being morbid. She thinks horror stories shouldn’t be aloud.
Pauline: Temps mort, Vera. [Time out, Vera.]
Vera: I don’t speak French.
But she kisses it!
[N.B. The choice of Mylène Farmer as the mum is interesting as the need to have a French mother for the story is not only unnecessary, it’s distracting. It’s almost certainly because director Pascal Laugier (Martyrs) is also French and directed the music video Mylène Farmer: City of Love. In fact, Ms Farmer texted Laugier and asked if he might have a role for her in his next feature film, and he offered her the lead. A role over which she stressed somewhat, as she wasn’t comfortable with her English accent and so had a coach to assist her.]
0:03:32 or 35 A rabid looking sweets truck races up behind the ladies’ station wagon, horns blaring and sirens wailing. According to their signage, they have a Good Ol’ Taste for Kids — and they look hungry.
[N.B. Note the double entendre in the slogan. A “Good Ol’ Taste for Kids” could mean the taste is what the kids enjoy, but it could also mean the truck owners / operators have a taste for children.]
Pauline: Bravo, Vera. Ça c’est vraiment la grande classe. [Way to go, Vera. Very classy.]
Vera: No French!
Vera sounds like the bouncer at an English pub.
0:05:08 During a quick bout of exposition in a convenience store on the way, we learn that the Keller women are moving into dead Aunt Clarice’s old house (Pauline’s sister). With any luck, the film will be half as moving.
0:05:46 Would seem there’s a spate of family murdering and teen torturing in the area. When your new neighbourhood has everything, and you wish it didn’t.
0:06:17 Beth tells Vera about the article.
Beth: It says some guy is breaking into people’s homes, murdering the parents and sparing the daughters. The daughter’s about your age.
Vera: Uh-huh, and…?
Beth: He stays in the house with her, along with the parents’ dead bodies.
Vera: You made that up.
Vera is sounding presidential.
0:06:52 The ladies arrive at their new home after dark.
Vera: Jesus Christ, it’s Rob Zombie’s house.
Would you like some afterthought to go with that foreshadowing?
0:08:06 While exploring the house, the girls find a mirror with a secret button that opens to reveal a jump scare.
[N.B. The house is full of dolls, most of them creepy.]
0:08:58 Beth starts her first period, and I don’t mean in high school.
0:09:58 Outside the house, Pauline talks to Vera about the obvious sibling rivalry between the two sisters. Vera then mentions she found a fictional interview Beth had written in which she (Beth) is a celebrity.
Vera: She made the whole thing up! Like, in it she’s some famous writer and this journalist is asking her all these questions about her books. She needs a reality check.
I had a reality check once but it bounced and I became morally bankrupt.
[N.B. This is foreshadowing to 22:32. It helps determine what’s real and fake in the film.]
0:10:48 The sweets van shows up in the background, unbeknownst to the girls. The situation is about to get sticky.
0:12:56 While her daughters are upstairs, Pauline is at the ground floor on a call with bad reception. Suddenly, a big, oafish brute barrels down the corridor and runs into her like a chance meeting with a semi.
0:13:28 The brute commences smelling a doll’s crotch area. Which smells like every other area if you’re a doll.
0:13:42 The girls stumble upon the scene and run to another room. While we hear the noises of their struggle, we see another, snakier figure emerging from the van and moving towards the house. The more the scarier.
[N.B. We’re perhaps meant to think this is a woman but I saw straight off it was a man dressed in women’s clothing. Another trans psychopath, which isn’t very politically correct in this day and age.]
0:14:32 The brute (Rob Archer as Fat Man) drags the teens into the basement where he sniffs Beth’s netherlands and casts her side as he can smell she’s on her period. She’s aged enough but a little too ripe.
0:14:58 Vera isn’t so lucky. The brute pulls her off camera to keep an R rating.
0:15:46 Beth flees the cellar and runs to the front door but she doesn’t know how to unlock things (WTF!?) so returns to the cellar after ‘the woman’ slaps her. Talk about underground hits.
We just want to play with dolls.
The Woman (Kevin Power as ‘Candy Truck Woman’)
She’s at the top of the stairs, talking to Beth who is on the steps. Before either of them can do anything, Pauline rushes across the kitchen and crashes into the Candy Truck Woman. #CandyCrush
0:17:47 After much banging, breaking and thrashing about, it appears as though Pauline has defeated the Candy Truck Woman. She tells Beth to run away as far as possible, then runs into the cellar when she hears Vera scream. Motherhood is a pain, but so is being beaten by a serial killer.
0:18:47 Pauline then stabs the Fat Man to death and then, after the Candy Truck Woman comes to and joins the fray, Pauline stabs her again as well. Being a mother may well be a pain, but being a Candy Truck Woman is a pain in the neck.
0:18:57 The scene in the cellar and the ensuing stabbing orgy is the end of a nightmare. In a jump forward, Adult Beth (Crystal Reed) falls from her bed screaming, to be consoled by her ginger husband (Adam Hurtig as Beth’s Husband). He tells her it was in the distant past and she calms down, but, to be honest, he’s so handsome that I don’t care.
[N. B. Props to casting agent Carmen Kotyk on finding an Adult Beth who so closely resembles a Young Beth. When I saw this in the cinema, I’d assumed it was the same actress.]
0:20:11 We find Beth in a luxury apartment in Chicago, framed covers of her bestsellers on the wall and a photo of Lovecraft on her desk beside an old typewriter. She looks like Stephen Queen (a female Stephen King, people!).
[N.B. Note how the set seems two dimensional here, like scenery for a play compared to the rich set of the old house. There is a reason for this dichotomy.]
0:22:32 Elizabeth is being interviewed about her latest book on a chat show called ‘Eve’ (think Ellen, but replace ‘gay’ with ‘old’). Her book is entitled Incident in a Ghostland (also an alternate title for this film) and is the story of two teen girls being held captive in an old house. Like my life, this is based on a true story.
[N. B. Their young son sleeps on the sofa while the Elizabeth and her husband watch the replay. The boy is dressed in a harlequin costume which he loves. This will be important later (at 51:55).]
0:23:28 Elizabeth receives a telephone call.
Vera [hysterical]: Beth, please, you have to come back.
Vera: Come back!
Beth : Is mom there with you?
Vera: They’re in the house!
Beth: Vera, listen to me.
Vera: You’re not hearing me, Beth!
Beth: I hear you.
Vera: Don’t leave me alone, Beth!
When your past calls back to haunt you.
0:25:34 Beth returns to the old house to visit her mum and sister, who’s flipped more than McDonald’s burgers.
0:28:08 While mum and Beth catch up, Vera begins shrieking in the cellar. She locks herself in there, but there’s a spare key on the jamb over the door. No place better to hit bottom than a basement…
0:28:32 Adult Vera (Anastasia Phillips) introduces herself with a jump scare out of the closet, which is the best way to come out, should you ask me. She’s more of a wreck than the Titanic on the rocks.
Last week I found her in my room, tied to the radiator. She was screaming like… I had to turn around to make sure no one was there.
Pauline [to Elizabeth, after Vera is down]
Or perhaps she simply doesn’t appreciate being tied to the radiator?
0:33:11 After a jump scare nightmare, Elizabeth wakes up to discover someone has scrawled ‘Help me!!’ in the wardrobe mirror. Judging by the mess the house is in, I’d say it was the maid.
0:33:58 Elizabeth seeks out Vera whom she finds in a pile of neuroses in a corner of the basement.
Vera: Are you going to let me die alone?
Elizabeth: You’re not going to die alone, Vera.
Vera: They’re making me pay when you’re not there. I move and they burn me. I scream and… Please, please, I’m begging you, tell them I’m not a bad girl.
Someone should tell someone something because Vera is more scarred than I was after watching Faces of Death in my early teens.
0:39:38 While wandering about the house alone after dark, Elizabeth comes across Vera handcuffed to the headboard of a bed, and not in the good way.
0:40:28 As soon as Elizabeth leaves the room to locate a key to the chains, the door slams shut, locks itself, and sounds of Vera being beaten echo from the room. Either that or she’s watching Fifty Shades of Grey with the volume up.
0:41:12 While Elizabeth peers through the keyhole to investigate Vera’s sudden silence, a strange figure passes before her, frightening her to bits. However, we are left feeling neither jumped nor scared.
0:42:32 Now Elizabeth witnesses her sister being beaten by a ghost. This is the real phantom menace.
I know why you did that. I know what you want from your sister.
Pauline [to Vera’s crumpled form]
Not a break, her finger already got one.
0:44:34 While searching the house for Vera, Elizabeth finds a jump scare and hears a voice from her past.
Candy Truck Woman: We broke your sister. And now, it’s your turn.
Damn, I hate being broke.
0:44:51 While wandering the house dazed and confused, Elizabeth happens upon Fat Man who lumbers past her in the corridor. It would seem this passage is scary.
0:46:00 Elizabeth is so scared she runs to her room and falls asleep. (I tease, but I’m no different. I do the same when I’m scared except ‘the room’ is ‘the bar’ and ‘asleep’ is ‘down drunk’.) Then she’s kidnapped by another jump scare but that’s not surprising, you can’t swing a nearly dead girl by her hair in this house without hitting a jump scare.
0:47:03 The next morning, a beaten and battered and bruised Elizabeth climbs out of bed. Either she’s a different Elizabeth from Chicago Elizabeth or she partied with English girls the night before.
[N.B. The song Elizabeth awakens to is “Teddy Bears Picnic” as performed by Henry Hall and the BBC Dance Orchestra. Frankly, any song from 1932 sounds creepy af.]
0:49:01 The new and unproved Elizabeth runs through the deserted house looking for her mum, then slows and descends into the cellar where she knows she’ll find Vera.
Elizabeth: What did you do to me?
Vera: Do you understand now, Beth?
Elizabeth: Vera, what did you do to me!?
Vera: They broke me, and now they’re playing with you.
Stop toying with me!
Vera: For once in your life, stop running away. Try to accept reality! Come back!
OMG, if I had a dollar for every time the voices in my head told me this.
0:50:06 Adult Elizabeth now has a new set of flashbacks where her mum dies rather than saves her [see 17:47]. I’m speechless, but not as much as her mum.
Vera [caressing Elizabeth’s battered face]: Are you back? Beth, are you back?
Just like that we learn Elizabeth’s life as a famous writer was a fantasy world she created to free her from her harsh reality in the cellar. Basically, everything from 18:57 onward is a dream sequence, which explains the superficial look of the sets and that Vera’s dialogue was, in fact, sane the whole time and that Beth was the crazy one. It’s like finding out your idiot friend was right all along, and that you were the drunk one.
[N.B. Go back and read the exchange at 23:28 to see how Vera was pleading with Beth to burst the bubble of her fantasy world. And remember the scene in front of the house at 9:58? Vera tells her mum how she caught Beth fake interviewing herself, which is the exact same skill set Beth needed to build a world she could escape into.]
Vera: You were talking to them like they were real.
Tinder for shut-ins.
[N.B. Elizabeth used these images to create her imaginary family. Note the little boy is in a harlequin costume. Remember way back at 22:32 when the parents were discussing how their child never wanted to remove the costume? Now you know why.]
[Beth looks at posters on the wall of Chicago and a soup advert. Chicago is where fantasy Beth lived and the woman in the soup poster is the chat show host. Another example of how Beth appropriated her reality to incorporate it into her fantasy world.]
0:57:14 Candy Truck Woman applies makeup to Beth to make her look like a toy dolly for the Fast Man. Most girls like getting dolled up.
[N.B. Beth sees her dead mother in the reflection of a mirror, and has not decomposed. This helped me understand that girls have been held captive for a number of days. The young actresses portray the girls as children / victims, while the older addresses portray Beth’s imaginary future.]
0:58:47 The Fat Man limps into the room while Beth sneaks a hair pin from a doll and slides it into her own hand. She also obeys her sister’s instructions not to move or make a sound, or it will be worse. Basically, she’s meant to be obscene and not heard.
1:00:22 Fat Man takes a doll and, when it makes a noise, he bends its fingers backwards and lights it on fire with a blow torch. He has burning desires.
1:00:58 He grabs Beth and holds her upside down by her foot, so when she pees herself out of fear, the urine runs down over her face. If you don’t like golden showers, urine trouble.
1:02:58 Beth stabs the brute in the shoulder with her hair pin. It would’ve been a perfect plan if he had some major organs in his shoulder.
1:05:36 Beth renders Fat Man unconscious by hitting him on the head repeatedly with an old fashioned typewriter. Talk about getting the last word in!
1:07:26 Beth hides from Candy Truck Woman in the scary doll wardrobe. [See 8:06.] Is she happy there? Don’t ask, that’s Narnia business!
1:07:41 Predictably, the doll in the closet starts laughing maniacally because it thinks jump scares are hilarious.
1:10:11 Beth collects Vera and the two try to sneak out of the house but walking outside is evidently more difficult for them than it is for me.
1:10:52 The girls finally escape and run through the fields at night, freer than air on a windy day.
1:12:21 As surprising as it may seem in a horror film, a police car actually stops to help them in a field, picking them up like the vegetables they have become.
1:13:40 Nice misdirect, while the male cop runs back to the cruiser to call in the incident, we see headlights of a large vehicle slowly approaching. The tension mounts as we wait for the sweets truck to do something… until it passes and we see it’s a nondescript small lorry and not the candy truck. Well played, Frenchy director, well played.
1:13:48 Then, just as we let our guard down… Bam! Bam! Two bullets tear through the cop and two more through his female partner. We see Candy Truck Woman striding across a field with her gun held straight out before her. She’s taking some pretty cheap shots at those police officers.
1:15:42 The young women are locked in the back of sweets van and returned to the house of horror, where Fat Man awaits the delivery as though they were a meat lovers pizza.
1:16:04 Beth chooses this moment to check out of reality and into her fantasy land where she’s hosting a fancy dress event. She casts the dead police officer as a guest in a dinner jacket. Actually, I think I’d rather be caught dead.
[N.B. Who is James at 1:16:34? The woman taking the tray of hors d’œuvres at 1:16:02 is the store owner from 5:08. The dead female officer makes a cameo at 1:18:47, in a gown.]
1:17:28 H.P. Lovecraft sits beside her on a sofa. He tells her that her novel is a masterpiece and walks away. I don’t know why she’s so flattered, a lot of famous people have complimented my writing in my dreams.
1:18:52 Beth catches a glimpse of her sister running about the room in her nightgown, so follows her out of the room to investigate and finds Vera screaming and pawing at the pane of glass in the door to the upper level. In order to rescue Vera, Beth leaps through the glass door and is captured by the brute. More than her illusions were shattered.
[N.B. While filming this scene, actress Taylor Hickson (Vera) was instructed to beat on the glass so hard that she broke through it, falling forward and cutting her face on the shards. She required 70 stitches and extensive surgery to her face and later sued the production company. Many thought the choice of poster art was in poor choice, considering the accident.]
1:20:31 While the Fat Man is choking her, the doll in the wardrobe suddenly decides to pop out for no apparent reason and begin its maniacal laughter once again (and WTF!?). This distracts the beast enough that Beth can flee and rescue her sister from the Candy Truck Woman. That’ll teach the Fat Man to attack someone coming out of the closet.
1:21:28 During the struggle, a policeman arrives and shoots the Fat Man and the Candy Truck Woman. (The police knew where to look because the police officer who found the girls in the field had called in the incident and said that the girls had escaped the Jourdan house. See 1:13:40) The psychos now contain as much lead as the water in Flint, MI.
1:23:44 The girls are put on stretchers and taken from the house to a waiting ambulance.
1:24:32 From the top window, the ghost of her mum points to an old typewriter on the ground. Thanks mum, but I’ll pick up the rubbish after I get out of the hospital.
- WTF!?’s: 3 haunting ones
- When to Follow: A Saturday night, turn off the lights, put down your phone, and fire up the popcorn film.
- Where’s This Found: A cross between a haunted house ride and a roller coaster, Ghostland combines traditional thrills and chills with some intense twists and turns that will leave you spent and satisfied when the ride is over. 🎡 The film keeps you alert and on the edge of your seat, and not just waiting for the scene of Taylor Hicksons’ disfiguring accident. Ghostland contains some fictional suspense in addition to the real life drama which took place during the filming. 🚑 What’s more, like a modern carnival ride, there is no down time in Ghostland. Every scene is an action scene without a minute wasted on exposition or romance, and what more can you ask for from a horror film? It may not scare you, but this intelligent ghost story will certainly entertain you. Out of a possible 10, I have 7 F’s to give
- What To Feedback: In addition to helping out and letting me know on which character Beth based her fantasy personage James (see 1:16:04), answer this for me…
Left Over WTF (Way Too Funny) Photos
Left over photos
Prints suitable for reposting!
WTF!? do you meme?
What to Follow Up
Bar None Review
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