Just like its title, The Ghoul, despite all its intricate twists and clever ideas, is a completely dumbfounding piece of cinema for even the most seasoned cinema goers to get their head around without inducing the mother of all headaches.
This British psychological thriller dares to be different; it pushes the boundaries from what the typical narrative one would expect from the genre, mixing a murderous investigation with a devilish fantastical reality, which, on paper, has a real originality you want to root for. However, in reality, this mind-bending trip of confusion leaves you constantly in a fog of bewilderment.
The story centres on Chris (Tom Meeten), a police detective investigating a double murder. Shacked up in a hovel of a tiny flat, dishevelled and looking like he needs a good night’s sleep, Chris goes deep undercover to unearth key information on the case. Taking on the role as a patient, he visits a psychotherapist he believes is treating the suspect, but as things progress he is soon referred to another therapist who can help him unravel his ‘problems’, from this point on we are immersed into the dark world of occult, where things are quite what they seemed on the surface and the whole story takes a turn darting back and forth, questioning what’s reality and what’s fantasy.
And that’s the biggest problem here, the line between both sides of the narrative is so thin it loses its structure. Yes, it’s meant to raise questions from the audience, but when its viewer doesn’t have a clue what is unfolding for most of its hour and twenty five minutes it becomes a major chore, exhausting to the point of exasperation, trying to be exuberantly clever in its script is its downfall.
As Chris’s sessions progress, he becomes acquainted with another one of his therapist’s patient, bipolar sufferer Coulson (Rufus Jones), who believes there is something not right about the therapist they have been seeing, believing something more sinister lurks beneath the facade of the so called therapist and his unconventional ways of healing the mentally disturbed.
Kill List’s Gareth Tunley makes his feature film debut as director with The Ghoul and it’s an ambitious one; known better for his comedic turns, he has opted for the serious classic noir tones to give the nuanced atmosphere and unveils a killer twist in its finale which makes this feel somewhat incomplete and out of place in anything other than a TV show. Meeten does exceptionally well with the material he has to work with giving a powerfully charged and masterful performance, while Prevenge’s Alice Lowe can do no wrong in her supporting role as Chris’s friend and sometimes lover.
Tunley’s intricate kaleidoscopic labyrinth of a psychological thriller may have been just a bit too ambitious for a low budget outing, losing its focus in such a complex plot, the phrase ‘less is more’ ultimately springs to mind.
The Ghoul is in cinemas August 4th