Ghoul, The (2016) - Dread Central
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Ghoul, The (2016)



The Ghoul

The GhoulStarring Tom Meeten, Alice Lowe, Rufus Jones, Niamh Cusack

Directed by Gareth Tunley

Screened at Mayhem 2016

Investigating the murder of two people in mysterious circumstances, homicide detective Chris (Meeten) goes undercover as a depressed, unemployed alcoholic recluse to infiltrate the offices of psychotherapist Helen Fisher (Cusack) and her enigmatic partner Morland (Geoffrey McGivern).

Following a lead, he comes into contact with the seemingly paranoid, but notably sociopathic, Michael Coulson (Jones) – who begins to lead him down a dark path with his suspicions as to just what Fisher and Morland are up to when it comes to their patients.

As Chris’ cognition becomes increasingly fractured, he finds solace in criminal psychologist Kathleen (Lowe) – who helps him define his dejected alter ego – but the tender moments they share may not be enough to keep Chris’ feet on the ground as The Ghoul smoothly unfolds its mind-bending drama. Is Chris dropping off the deep end and losing touch – slipping far too deep into his assumed role – or is something else entirely at play here?

Defined as a cinematic Möbius strip by writer/director Gareth Tunley, The Ghoul is a tightly focused, and incredibly proficient, home-grown brain twister. The skill with which Tunley takes his narrative off the edge of the cliff (and back on again) is remarkable – what initially appears to be a low-key police procedural ever so gradually phasing into an entirely different kind of experience.

Part of this success is the powerfully grounded performance by lead Meeten, who gives absolutely nothing away as he slips in and out of his character’s assumed roles – it all feels so straightforward, but then is anything but; one moment a legitimate police investigation, the next a head scratching dip into duality. Just what is real? Isn’t what we’ve just seen reflective of what has come before (and perhaps what is to come, still)? Many of these questions slip by on first viewing – picking uncomfortably at you on a subconscious level – through a combination of admirable performances and adroit filmmaking that both serve to immerse and beckon.

Though it can occasionally find itself bogged down by its overly melancholy presentation and measured pacing, this undeniable sense of class across the board ensures The Ghoul is rarely less than engaging. The supporting cast are superb, including British cult darling Alice Lowe with her unusually straight-laced and nuanced performance as Kathleen, along with McGivern’s shrewd Morland – a man who oozes both intelligence and, potentially, malevolence.

Some may be disappointed with the lack of definitive answers come The Ghoul’s finale – but given broader thought, that’s exactly the point. Here is a narrative experiment that collapses, folds, blends and wraps around itself, daring you to pinpoint where the beginning(s), end(s), and truth(s) truly lie.

It may be confusing. It may, ultimately, be lacking a definitive message or deep insight into the nature of identity – but that doesn’t prevent The Ghoul being a thoroughly enthralling low budget achievement.

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