Prisoners of the Ghostland

Prisoners of the Ghostland ★★★½

Sono has this thing he does... I'm not using the right words exactly, but, he does this thing where he ramps up and embellishes that particularly Japanese almost kabuki style of melodrama in order to satirize his own culture and society. It almost looks like he's making fun of the style itself but really I think he's leaning into it to make larger, usually rather cynical observations. Despite my love for Sono, I've said before I find him a bit self involved and self important at times, so I'm a bit muted to that part of his approach beyond viewing it as informing and shaping his overall worlds and stories he creates in his movies. Anyway, I think in addition to the 19 or so genres he...not blends... salads together in this film he directly transposes this very Japanese thing onto a (in both senses of the word) Western film and that approach comes off really odd and disingenuous in an English language American context. Honestly, I think, even without necessarily consciously knowing it, that's the most frustrating element of this film for Western viewers. It makes the film seem muted and slow in parts where it's really not and makes the script come across far more...well, goofy, than I think it really is. I mean, Cage is a strike against a film for me, not a bonus, and even I think he was under utilized here. Sono was a bit over ambitious in this film, being his first film produced for the West, and it's kind of like a curry dish...if you get excited and throw too much of all the different spices into the bowl, you don't get a strong, delicious, overpowering curry, you just get something that tastes blech and unpalatable. Apparently he originally wanted to make this film in Mexico but a heart attack and then I think COVID did those plans in. He should pull a Haneke and just remake the film in Mexico in a few years, fine tuning the points he really wants to make.

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