The 2018 film ‘Incident in a Ghostland’ (alternate title: ‘Ghostland’) follows a mother and her two daughters who are attacked by intruders on their first night in their new home. Although the family overcomes the attack when the mother dominates the intruders, unsettling parts of the memory persist.
The narrative switches between the two girls’ perspectives to create a surreal experience, leaving audiences to wonder which of them is living in reality and which is hallucinating. The ending of the movie seems appropriate enough, but can you be sure what you are seeing is what is actually happening? Or is this another of Beth’s hallucinations? Let’s take a closer look at the end of “Incident in a Ghostland”. SPOILERS TO COME.
Synopsis of the incident in a Ghostland plot
The film opens with Beth and Vera in the car with their mother, on their way to their new home, inherited from their aunt Clarisse. Beth, an aspiring horror writer, reads her most recent work to their mother while Vera rolls her eyes in the backseat. It gradually becomes clear that the latter thinks very little of her sister’s literary aspirations and finds Beth’s imagination disgusting.
The feud between the sisters continues as they reach their new home, a dilapidated house full of grim antiques and grotesque dolls. As they were unpacking their luggage, a candy truck that had passed them on the highway earlier pulls up in front of the house. A gigantic man (Fat Man) and his accomplice (the Candy Truck Woman) then get out of the truck and brutally attack the girls and their mother. A visceral battle ensues, but Pauline (the mother) ends up stabbing the intruders and rescues her daughters.
We are then taken sixteen years into the future, where Beth is a bestselling author. However, she continues to have nightmares of the Fateful Night and soon receives a phone call from her sister Vera saying that she is under attack. We then find out that Pauline and Vera are still living in the house where the incident happened all those years ago, and that Vera has since suffered a nervous breakdown.
Beth goes to visit them and is shocked at the state of her sister. Vera blames Beth for leaving her alone, and things start to get more and more surreal. One night, Beth finds Vera handcuffed to the bed, then sees her floating in the air, savagely beaten by an invisible entity.
Pauline rushes 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 captive to the intruders. Vera then confirms in tears that their mother is indeed dead and that they are still trapped in the house. Then we see what Beth really looks like – bruised and beaten, just like her sister.
Incident in a Ghostland ending: Do Beth and Vera die? Is their mother Pauline dead?
Beth is then drawn into the reality of being regularly tortured by the Fat Man and the Candy Truck Woman and multiplies the attempts to escape. During an attempt, she manages to club 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 captive again.
Back in the house, Beth finds herself strangled by the fat man while her accomplice suffocates her sister. While she thinks she is about to die, a police officer shoots the two intruders. The film’s closing scenes then show the authorities arriving at the house and the two girls rescued and taken in ambulances on stretchers. When the paramedic asks her what she’s doing, Beth responds as she writes stories.
So the end of the film finally gives us (and the girls) a respite from the continued barrage of brutal violence inflicted on them. Or does he do it? Given that we’ve seen Beth fall into delusions before – where she thinks the ordeal is over and they’re safe – the film’s final scenes could very well be on her mind. Therefore, she and Vera could still be trapped in the house with their tormentors, and Beth could have escaped into her mind again.
What’s even more disturbing is that Vera, who is otherwise very loud, remains absolutely silent when Beth sees her for the last time, which could foreshadow that Beth’s sister may have been killed by the assailants. As flashes of reality seep into Beth’s hallucinations, she could see her sister’s corpse and imagine that they are rescued while still being in the room where the Candy Truck Woman is strangling Vera.
Therefore, the film apparently leaves the decision to us whether the girls are saved or not. While this shows us that they are both saved, it also generates enough doubt to make us question what we are seeing. However, in either case, since the hallucinations are occurring in Beth’s mind, we know for sure that she is alive. If what Beth sees is correct, then Vera is alive as well. However, if it is a hallucination, the girl probably died after being strangled by the Candy Truck Woman. Either way, the girls’ mother, Pauline, died because she was only seen alive in Beth’s delusions.
Who are the Fat Man and the Candy Truck Woman? What is happening to them?
As Beth is taken in an ambulance, she sees the coroner’s team loading a massive body into their van, telling us the fat man is dead. The Candy Truck Woman, who was also shot several times, is also most likely dead. Again, however, there is a lingering chance that Beth will hallucinate about being saved, in which case her tormentors are likely alive and still holding the girls captive. Keep in mind that the Fat Man and the Candy Truck Woman died at the start of the movie, but then turn out to be alive.
The film excels at withholding information to maintain a sense of unease and mystery. Most notably, he does so with the antagonists, whose origins and motives are never revealed. Vera describes them to the police as simply “two men in a candy truck”, and nothing more is known about them. However, Beth and Vera are probably not their first victims, as a brief scene at the start of the film mentions a report about a serial killer who murders the parents of young girls and keeps their daughters captive.
Is Beth a bestselling author? Who is her husband?
To her mind, Beth is a bestselling author. We are first led to believe that she continues to write a number of bestselling horror novels after surviving the traumatic incident. However, this turns out to be part of the vivid hallucination she created to escape the reality of being regularly tortured by her tormentors.
In fact, Beth is still an aspiring writer who only wrote the (unpublished) short stories she tells her mother at the start of the film. It becomes clear that her constructed reality is flawed when she has an informal conversation with her idol, author HP Lovecraft, who profusely compliments her latest book. Lovecraft, who is renowned for his work in the horror and sci-fi fantasy genre, died in 1937.
Likewise, Beth builds her family from things she sees around her in the house where she is being held captive, and her husband is revealed in an old photograph of an unnamed man in the basement. Finally, his most successful novel, which Lovecraft compliments and which is titled “Incident in a Ghostland”, is apparently a narration of his brutal reality.
Therefore, Beth is not a bestselling author, but the film’s closing scene tells us that she is still obsessed with her ambition. Despite her traumatic experience, during her rescue, she tells her paramedic that she is a writer. Of course, her statement could also take on a very dark connotation when you consider that Beth, in calling herself a writer, is referring to relapsing into her delirium. It is quite possible that she falls back into her constructed world and spends her life thinking that she is a bestselling author while being completely disconnected from reality.
Read more: Is the incident in a ghost country based on a true story?