After a double murder, where two victims died in mysterious circumstances, a homicide detective, Chris (Tom Meetan), goes undercover as a patient to investigate a psychotherapist. However, his therapy, cover life and real life start to spill in to each other as he starts to uncover the truth.
The Ghoul has a fairly simple premise that lends itself to strong potential. However, though it doesn’t squander this potential, it doesn’t really live up to it as the film goes off in a different direction. The plot synopsis is almost superfluous as after the first fifteen minutes it becomes clear that it’s not really about that at all. Instead of being a murder mystery, it’s a twisting drama about mental illness, with an occult theme running through the background, where it’s up to you as to what is real and what isn’t.
You can feel the presence of Ben Wheatley hanging over this film. He’s a producer on it and writer/director Gareth Tunley appeared in both Kill List and Down Terrace. It stars Wheatley alumni Dan Skinner and yet to be recognised National Treasure Alice Lowe. But more than that it’s got the stylistic and atmospheric feel of a film like Kill List. As well as the occult connections, it feels like something weird is happening around our protagonist, we just can’t see it. It’s also got that feeling of slowly creeping dread, bolstered by the unsettling score. You feel claustrophobic as the cinematography beats you with oppressive shots of grimy London and its dilapidated tower blocks and leafless trees.
The film never tries to punch above its obviously slim budget, and is all the better for it. By keeping itself contained it draws deeply in to the human drama and characters, and is carried along by the strong performances from its cast, including a mesmerising, scene stealing cameo from Paul Kaye. These are what make the film compelling, and much less the mystery that the plot keeps hinting at.
Gareth Tunley’s first feature film is an interesting and strong calling card. It struggles to find its feet at times, but it’s enough to make you look forward to what he’ll do next in a hopefully exciting and fruitful film career.
THE GHOUL / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: GARETH TUNLEY / STARRING: TOM MEETAN, DAN SKINNER, ALICE LOWE / RELEASE DATE: 4TH AUGUST