Monday, November 15, 2021

Prisoners of the Ghostland (2021)

Streaming Service: Shudder
Movie Name/Year: Prisoners of the Ghostland (2021)
Genre: Action, Horror, Thriller
Length: 100 minutes
Rating: Unrated
Production/Distribution: Patriot Pictures, Eleven Arts, Baked Studios, Boos Boos Bang Bang, RLJE Films, Untitled Entertainment, XYZ Films, Bitters End, Umbrella Entertainment, The Searchers, Shudder
Director: Sion Sono
Writers: Aaron Hendry, Reza Sixo Safai
Actors: Nicolas Cage, Sofia Boutella, Bill Moseley, Canon Nawata, Charles Glover, Grace Feeney, Jai West, Jeffrey Rowe, Narisa Suzuki, Nick Cassavetes, Saki Ohwada, Tak Sakaguchi, Takato Yonemoto
IMDb Blurb: A notorious criminal must break an evil curse in order to rescue an abducted girl who has mysteriously disappeared.

Selina’s Point of View:
When you hear that Nicolas Cage, himself, considers a project the “wildest” movie he’s ever made – you know to prepare yourself.
I thought I was ready.
There’s just no real ‘getting ready’ for Prisoners of the Ghostland. It’s what you get when you mix the samurai and western genres, then put them against an apocalyptic Mad Max (1979) kind of setting. Just based on that, it’s nothing I’ve ever seen before. Then you add in Cage at his strangest and a surreal/creepy script, along with performances worthy of portraying the shadiest cults.
No. I was definitely not ready.

Here’s the thing. I know I’ve made it sound incredibly unique, but aside from a couple of minor surprises – the progress of the plot was super basic.
It was like watching actual Martians, with mouths growing in the wrong place, sitting down to eat at a McDonalds. I knew what was going to happen, but I had to know how it managed to get there.
For the most part, I wound up invested, if only because it was visually original. The ending felt off, though. Some characters did things that contradicted decisions they had just made, while others didn’t seem to do anything realistic to what they were. It was poorly thought out. Like they wanted to force a particular conclusion but didn’t know how to get there so they faked it.

It felt like Bran Stark winning the Game of Thrones (2011-2019)
I’ve seen mixed reviews for Prisoners of the Ghostland. Rotten Tomatoes shows that critics loved it and audiences hated it. Normally, I can pick a side, but this time I think they’re both right.
Prisoners of the Ghostland has all the camp, and unintentional humor needed to become a cult film. That said, it is NOT for mainstream audiences. Not in the least. I imagine anyone searching for something more mainstream will turn it off somewhere in the first hour.
Personally, I doubt I’d be part of the cult – but I could understand why someone else would be.
If you want to see for yourself, Prisoners of the Ghostland moves to Shudder, November 19.

Cat’s Point of View:
Bananas. What I just watched was bananas.
I’m having a bit of Deja Vu, I’m afraid. I have found myself in a very similar position as when I tried to find the words to describe my interest in Prisoners of the Ghostland as part of the Top 20 Movies to Look Out For in September 2021 article. The film landed at my #16. In hindsight, with the credits from Prisoners of the Ghostland now in my rearview, I don’t regret putting the film on my list.
My sentiment now echoes what I felt then – “where do I even start with Prisoners of the Ghostland?”

The production effectively captures a post-apocalyptic dystopian world – or at least a forgotten corner of it – where chaos reigns. It appeared to be only loosely held back by what seems like a combination of the code of the Old West, some sort of skewed samurai, and appeal to the carnal nature of man. At least, that applies to the ‘safety’ within Samurai Town. All bets were off in the Ghostland. Outside the ‘protection’ of civilization was much like Mad Max (1979), but with less driving.
The visuals here were gorgeous and bleak. This was definitely a movie where I wish I knew how to read Japanese. I’m dying to know what appeared on some of the signage within the film. It was clear that there was meaning behind everything – regardless of how chaotic things seemed. Beneath the insanity was a distinct story about a journey to redemption and how choices and actions ripple out from us to affect others. It’s actually pretty deep. I was surprised, really, to find such connection beneath everything that was so bonkers, but I’m glad I did.

I could see why Nicolas Cage (Color Out of Space, Willy's Wonderland, Pig) called this the “wildest movie [he’s] ever made.” Wild might even be an understatement.
The fight choreography for the battle-royale style fighting was well done. Tak Sakaguchi (Kingdom, Red Blade, Crazy Samurai Musashi) really stood out with his role. Even if the plot hadn’t singled him out, he still would have grabbed my attention. I haven’t seen his work before, but sword fighting is clearly ‘his thing.’
Prisoners of the Ghostland is one of those movies that dares you to take it too seriously. It’s meant to be a crazy trip that you just have to hold on to your seat and let yourself get swept away with. It’s creepy, dark, violent, grimy, surreal, and even threads in a little sprinkle of comedy here and there. Its very essence makes you look at the world sideways. Things were definitely askew, and gloriously so.
All told, Prisoners of the Ghostland was absolutely crazy but, at the same time, thoroughly entertaining. It isn’t going to be for everyone, however. If you’re a Cage fan, though, you definitely want to experience this one. 

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 64%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 26%
Metascore –53%
Metacritic User Score – 4.1/10
IMDB Score – 4.2/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating – 3.5/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 4/5

Trust the Dice: Parental Advisory Rating: R
Movie Trailer:

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