Written by Aaron Hendry and Reza Sixo Safai and directed by Sion Sono, Prisoners of the Ghostland can only be described as completely nuts. The film is something of an acid trip within a surreal painting. It’s something that only makes sense when directed by someone like Sion Sono and here the direction is on point. The story is all over the place and it makes sense like it’s only possible in this kind of film. There’s some of everything here from song numbers to samurai to Nic Cage’s butt. This all makes sense in the end, so it’s the kind of film that is worth sticking with it for all the nonsense and all the insanity. Of course, this is something that is definitely going to be hit or miss, or rather adore or loathe. For those who love insane films not afraid to go for broke, this is it, this is film to see this fall.
Now, back to Nic Cage who ends up butt naked. Yeah, that’s right, but don’t let that influence your wanting to see the film. It’s only a little moment among all the insanity here. His performance here is pretty good, not full-blown gonzo Cage but also not restrained Cage, it’s the right in the middle Cage with moments of insanity that works well when he’s allowed to do his thing, like he is here. Also playing a bit of a bunkers character is Bill Moseley as The Governor. Think his turn in the 2001 Maniac remake sequel mixed in with a touch of Otis and a whole lot of insane leader. He’s great here and fun to watch. Also great, but sadly not given nearly enough screentime is Tak Sakaguchi as a henchman who may have more to him than meets the eye. His sword work is fantastic, his acting is good, but this is no Crazy Samurai Musashi for him unfortunately. Playing the damsel needing saving is Sofia Boutella who is great in terms of acting and who should have been truly let loose here, there is so much more this talented lady can put on the screen, why make her a pretty much basic damsel in distress.
The cinematography by Sôhei Tanikawa gives the film quite the look. Things go from brothel to badlands and everything in between and the look of the film remains connected throughout with images that make it all make sense. The style here is in-your-face and does not shy away from the insanity at any point, so it’s fun to watch and appreciated when the images let the viewers see the action properly. The way things are shot here show that they were not afraid of what they were putting on screens.
Prisoners of the Ghostland is a film that just goes for broke and achieves something really special in that it all works when put together. Heads poking out of a wall to sing? Sure, why not. A suit with explosives that can blow up the hero’s privates? Again, why not. A long battle including sword fighting by one of the best? Sure! This movie is all over the place content and genre-wise and it shouldn’t leave any viewer cold. Some will adore it, some will straight up hate it, but none will be bored by it. It’s nuts, it’s filled with everything (really) and it works so well. With everything going on and the kitchen sink thrown in there, something had to stick and surprisingly, it’s the great majority of it. It’s a fun movie that is worth seeking out and watching with a bunch of rowdy friends.