Horror Movie Review: Prisoners of the Ghostland (2021)

Prisoners of the Ghostland is a neo-noir Western action-horror film that was directed by Sion Sono, releasing in 2021. Starring Nicholas Cage, the film revolves around a notorious criminal who is sent to rescue the governor’s adopted granddaughter. She has disappeared into a dark region called Ghostland.

The synopsis for this film would be quite complicated to write out so rather than do that I’ll just summarise and get on to my thoughts about it.

Prisoners of the Ghostland is set in the treacherous frontier city of Samurai Town. One day, a ruthless bank robber is sprung from jail by a wealthy warlord known as The Governor. He wants the robber, known as Hero to save his adopted granddaughter, Bernice who has gone missing. The Governor offers Hero his freedom in exchange for retrieving her. However, to ensure Hero doesn’t attempt to flee he is strapped into a leather suit that will self-destruct within three days. The explosives are positioned in strategic places such as; arms, legs and testicles. Also, if Hero attempts to harm a woman in any way, the individual bombs will detonate. After some stalling for time, Hero sets off on a journey to find the young woman and his own path to redemption.Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Prisoners of the Ghostland is a mess. I don’t say this very often as I’m a massive fan of the man. Unfortunately, I feel Nicolas Cage is one of the worst things about this film. His delivery throughout is terrible and his character makes little sense. He plays the whole thing very straight faced and I just felt that it didn’t work at all. There’s a scene near the end where Nicolas Cage is wearing a weird helmet, he’s fighting a bunch of samurai cowboys and he has a sword for an arm, I was blown away by how uninteresting it all was.

Another issue with the film is the other characters and the plot as a whole. Nobody is developed at all or has their story fleshed out in any way. The world itself is super wacky which is fine but it’s barely explained. It’s very frustrating because Prisoners of the Ghostland is such a visually interesting film. You can see and feel the amount of effort that has gone into it all. The people that perform in the background, chanting and dancing are giving it their all. The sets, props and costumes are great, it’s just such a shame that it can’t all come together in a more effective way. It all feels so nonsensical that it’s unwatchable at times. The near incoherent story frustrated me even further. There’s so many metaphors being thrown at you but it’s so deeply hidden within such strangeness that they just fail to resonate.

There’s moments of entertainment for sure but they’re fleeting at best.

While watching Prisoners of the Ghostland I couldn’t help but think of Big Trouble in Little China, a similar film. It’s equally as over the top as this but it executes it far better. I think it works so well there due to Kurt Russell and his charisma in the role. The way he appropriately reacts to certain moments make it work. It’s the complete opposite with Cage and his performance. He drags it down and it’s possible if someone else had been cast it could have been improved upon. Instead, we get a film that I found hard to finish.

Prisoners of the Ghostland
  • The Final Score - 3/10
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