The Ghoul is a new low budget British film from actor/writer and first time director Gareth Tunley. The movie is executive produced and very clearly influenced by Ben Wheatley who Tunley acted for in Down Terrace and Kill List and it showcases London in a way that celebrates the skyline but doesn’t sugarcoat what goes on at street level. Beyond this everything else is widely open to interpretation.
The plot might centre around a police officer who in the course of investigating a double murder goes undercover as a manic depressive in an effort to get information from a suspicious psychologist. Alternatively it might be about a manic depressive who goes to see a suspicious psychologist and fantasises about being an undercover police officer. It seems that there is a dangerous supernatural element to events or it could be that those involved are simply passionate but harmless spiritualists. You might look at it as a bold debut from a significant new voice in UK film making or you might just think it’s a shoestring grim-Brit version of Shutter Island. Really it’s up to you.
The Ghoul, either titled after people that cruise crime scenes fascinated by the macabre or a metaphorical name for one man’s crippling mental illness, is unarguably skilfully made and deeply atmospheric but its merits are also up for debate. It might be your cup of tea or it might not. Personally I found the story’s ambiguities frustrating. It’s not that I’m against a good head scratcher; I loved Denis Villeneuve’s Enemy, but I thought this was a little underwritten and unsatisfying. I don’t think you should rush to the cinema to see it. Then again maybe you should.
The Ripley Factor:
The Ghoul has good performances from Alice Lowe and Niamh Cusack but I thought they were both wasted, probably. They are a little sidelined, possibly.
Is this one for the kids?