Prisoners of the Ghostland Plot Synopsis
Prisoners of the Ghostland begins with three or four disparate scenes all stitched together at the beginning. Persevere through this though and the film does become clearer.
Our setting is the frontier city of Samurai Town, run by a particularly nasty warlord called The Governor.
A ruthless bank robber known as Hero is recruited for a rescue mission off the back of a bank robbery gone wrong.
The Governor gives Hero three days to bring his granddaughter Bernice back (five if he can get Bernice to say her name before the allotted time runs out) Oh, and Hero is strapped with an explosive suit for good measure too.
As Hero steps out, he bites off more than he can chew in the wilderness, running into bandits and facing the horrifying truth of what happened to him in the past.
What is the Ghostland?
According to the Governor’s goons, outside of Samurai Town lays a stretch of highway where evil reigns. Whoever speeds along this stretch of road mysteriously crashes into Ghostland. This explains what happened to Bernice (more on that in a minute) and how Hero manages to find her.
With 5 days to try and bring Bernice back, Hero finds himself in the clutches of Ghostland. Their leader, Enoch, claims that it’s impossible to escape.
What happened in Ghostland?
During the 50 minute mark of the movie, we dive a little deeper into the history of this land. Now, according to these prophets there was a catastrophic wreck on Mile 244. A massive reactor helped to supply power to the land, hiding the horrifying truth deep below. The officials in charge had stored boiling toxic waste under the earth.
Unfortunately a tanker crashed on the highway, striking deadly convicted men and covering them with scalding atomic waste in the process. This fire crept into the soil and ended up polluting the earth. The ensuing result of this also saw the whole city burst into flames.
What happened during the bank robbery?
The very first scene of the movie depicts our Hero and his sidekick, Psycho, attempting to rob Bleufleur National Bank. Through a series of rapid quick cuts, it seems like Hero killed a number of people in the process, including a small child standing before a gumball machine.
The truth is that Psycho was the one who pulled the trigger after coming to blows with Hero over not killing the small child. After Psycho loses control, killing everyone inside, Hero high-tailed it away and left his buddy alone to face the wrath of the police.
With Psycho arrested, this man actually happened to be one of the convicted prisoners whom the tanker collided with on the highway during the earlier tale of Ghostland’s history.
Who is Bernice?
When Hero finds Bernice in the Ghostland, she’s unable to talk. As the pair grow closer and Hero manages to give Bernice thee courage to find her voice, we learn more of what happened to her in the past.
It turns out Bernice isn’t actually the Governor’s granddaughter but just a prisoner of his reign, like so many others before her.
With Bernice’s life on the line, Hero thwarts the threat of Psycho and his goons, who show up in Ghostland. With the truth finally uncovered, Hero sets his sights on stopping the Governor once and for all.
Who kills The Governor?
Bernice and Hero arrive back at Samurai Town, where Bernice’s sister Susie shows up. She takes charge of a machine gun and opens fire on the Governor’s personal samurai. However, during combat she ends up shot.
Hero makes quick work of the other soldiers though, setting up a final showdown between Hero and The Governor’s most loyal hitman, Yasujiro.
Hero dispatches Yasuiro while Bernice gains her revenge and shoots the Governor, ending his dictatorial reign.
How does Prisoners of the Ghostland end?
With the threat thwarted and The Governor dead, a child dressed as a crow hurries to Ghosttown, revealing the old man has died.
Time starts again but as soon as the second hand strikes 12, the watchtower explodes into a fiery inferno.
As the film bows out, Hero, Bernice and Susie are seated at a bus-stop while the rest of the townsfolk continue with their busywork.
From a distance, Hero notices an artificial blue butterfly in a gift shop which reminds him of Ghostland.
This is significant because earlier in the film we learn that those from Ghostland believe that anyone who touches a blue butterfly will die.
However, butterflies are usually depicted as symbols of change and metamorphosis, which seems to be the true meaning here. This is reinforced through Hero’s final line: “Samurai Town is gonna be a beautiful place one day.”
Prisoners of the Ghostland symbolism
The film is packed with visual cues, motifs and lots of symbolism so let’s tuck into some of these here. There are a lot of different interpretations one could draw from this movie, with its bright colour palette, imaginative ideas and symbolism and we’d love to hear your thoughts on this one, so do comment below.
Given the movie is set in Japan, the whole idea of nuclear waste and an explosion leans heavily toward influences of Fukishima and what could have transpired from the fallout from that.
Much like the Fallout game series, this could well be a re-imagining of how humanity has had to deal with this, although geographically it’s difficult to work out how that feeds into the larger world.
The other big recurring motif comes in the form of balls. Whether it be those from the gumball machine or more literally depicted by the explosive device attached to Hero’s groin, this generally reinforces courage in life – and also resilience too.
It could well be that these balls are representing Hero’s courage in overcoming the demons of his past and being able to move past that. Or quite literally showing that he “has the balls” to go on this quest to bring Bernice back.
Prisoners of the Ghostland certainly has a lot of artistic choices and it’s partly why the film is such a fascinating one to examine.
Read More: Prisoners of the Ghostland Review
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