Spoilers follow ...
- The Ghoul review by NP
It’s strange: I can go through a phase of watching horror films that actually debilitate because of their lack of originality. They tell the same variations of stories, featuring a gang of deeply unpleasant people being stalked by something horrible, or a house giving up its dark secrets to the latest happily married non-entities to have moved in. It sometimes makes me wonder why I love horror so much, when the limitations film-makers impose upon themselves result in such mediocrity.
And then, I can watch a run of utter gems. Often low budget, these are films with something original to say, or at least an original way of presenting an established idea. ‘The Ghoul’ is one such refreshing example – at times I fought to follow the narrative because I didn’t want to lose the thread of interest being weaved around events.
“Fancy a cuppa? Normal or some sort of gay tea? We’ve got the lot.” Says Doctor Morland (Geoffrey McGivern) cheerily, welcoming depressive Chris (Tom Meeten, who has a look of Neil Gaiman about him) into his home, the unorthodox place where Chris’s demons are to be confronted. Meeten plays Chris brilliantly, and through the writing/directing, Gareth Tunley really conveys to us the unending depths of despair he suffers as everybody around him leaves or betrays him. Meeten is immediately engaging and has our sympathies with each new heartbreak – the most callous of all is in the casual abuse dished out by Kathleen (Alice Lowe). All the cast (including Naimh Cusack and Paul Kaye) are excellent, in fact.
There are lots of shaky panoramic views of a twilight metropolis: a travelogue of a silhouette city. It’s interesting that among the credits, the excellent Ben Wheatley (Director of ‘High Rise’, ‘A Field in England’ as well as a couple of Doctor Who stories from 2014) features as executive producer. The sprinkling of such city-scape imagery contrasts with Chris’s isolated torment as the demons continue to grow.
It would be too easy to dismiss this as another ‘were the demons real, or all in his head’ essay. ‘The Ghoul’ has so much more going for it than that. A labyrinthine modern day Lovecraft parable that only disappoints at the end - *because* it ends. The journey is more powerful than the destination, perhaps? Either way, I’ll be watching this again more than once, but not so much so that I know each line before it’s spoken; I don’t want to lose the disturbing, frightening atmosphere. A brilliant film - highly recommended.
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