Japan in a film, or series can always be an attractive motive. I’m sure that, if you think back, you would remember at least one film you liked which was set in Japan. The Last Samurai? Silence? The Grudge? Ringu? There’s a lot of decent stuff out there. So when I noticed the name of Nicolas Cage attached to one on Shudder, it got my immediate interest because with Cage you just never know what sort of character you are going to get: you can get a down to earth serious academic of CIA training force in Snowden, or you can get a full blown alcoholic on an almost unrealistic looking mission in Leaving Las Vegas, or you can get Cage playing an actual person who struggles to write a screenplay adaptation in Adaptation; basically the range can be from weirdos to heroes to spirits (Ghost Rider).
Prisoners of the Ghostland, in my opinion, is the definition of bizarre. It starts off with a post apocalyptic Japanese village with people who have gathered for some kind of a show. At the same time, guys that look like an embodiment of the stereotype of Texan are there at the center of everything. Turns out the role of Nicolas Cage is that of a criminal offered freedom if he manages to find, and bring back a woman who’s a fugitive. The weird mix of everything: people of different ethnic backgrounds, costumes, features of different time periods, and behaviour of the mob; is quite provocative and challenging to the viewer – we either are in the mood to watch bizarre jollity, or we switch to something else.
I decided to stay with bizarre jollity, even though I have to say my mood wasn’t exact fit for it as the film really required not only a compliance accepting the eccentric mix of things and people on screen, but also to be able to go into more depths idea wise than I was willing to do. However if you want to have a meditation with things on screen the meaning of which isn’t readily available, then this is as good a film for that purpose as any. For instance, two guys (one of them being Nick Cassavetes whom I didn’t recognise) are going for a bank heist in a Japanese village, which strangely has got buildings like those in Wild West westerns. (Don’t ask me what’s that I’ve just written; that question is not for me to answer.) Or people being covered by pieces of mannequins, which altogether might, or might not be related to the art of Kintsugi in some way. This art is what’s used by people who seem to be living in villages that look like they are from the world of Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. I guess these little examples are enough for you to get the idea about what is that Nicolas Cage has managed to get himself into this time. I could make an assumption here that the experience on set certainly wasn’t a boring one for the guy, but honestly, after watching this flick to the end I’m inclined to think that half the time he didn’t even have an idea how it is all going to end up looking on cinema or tv screens – the final result, for better or worse, might have been surprising.
I'm not sure why this film ended up with an exclusive premiere on Shudder last month because Shudder is traditionally a horror streaming platform, so I'm making a guess and two here: 1) because the film is that weird and challenging an experience that no other platform saw it fitting in, 2) because it's Nicolas Cage starring in a film that's set in as eccentric post apocalyptic world as it could possibly get. The product of creative imagination that's full of ideas, but bordering with dull and overdone.
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