The Ghoul is a low-budget film from Gareth Tunley, who comes from the same scene as Ben Wheatley and Alice Lowe. This group of interesting young filmmakers sprang up from alternative comedy circuit and short-lived Channel 4 TV shows like Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace. Tunley appeared in Wheatley’s first two features, Down Terrace and Kill List, and was encouraged by Wheatley to try to make a feature-length film. Wheatley is the film’s executive producer. It reminds me a lot of Wheatley’s earlier films, in the sense that Tunley is playing around with genre and kind of shows that you don’t need a lot of money to make a feature. Their films also exhibit this strange crossbreeding between social realism and surrealism at times, which for me never quite works—they are such opposites that it’s nearly impossible to merge the two successfully.
The plot itself is slightly reminiscent of Samuel Fuller’s masterpiece Shock Corridor, with Tom Meetan playing a homicide detective who undergoes psychoanalysis to investigate whether a therapist is responsible for a murder. In the course of the film he starts losing his sanity, and the lines between reality and fantasy blur. The story builds towards an extraordinary psychedelic climax reminiscent of David Lynch’s Lost Highway.
The film’s elements never quite gelled for me, but I admire Tunley’s ambition. Meetan is very fine in the lead role, which was a departure for him since he is known mainly for comedic work (Wheatley also tends to use comedic actors a lot). Alice Lowe is slightly wasted, but she was busy working on Prevenge as well, which is much better. Basically, the film’s narrative doesn’t really add up (this is something Lynch doesn’t do…) and it’s all a bit too ambiguous for the sake of it, which is something I’m noticing more and more in low-budget indie films. I think the absurd over-praising of Martha Marcy May Marlene has a lot to do with this recent trend.
But even though it didn’t quite work for me, I respect the film asa worthy effort and an interesting watch. I feel very much the same about Wheatley’s first two features. Gareth Tunley is certainly a director to look out for in the future, and I eagerly await what he does next—and I can just imagine what he would do with a real budget.
The disc includes an excellent documentary about the making of the film and gives a lot of backstory on the cast and crew. It’s actually better than the film to be honest. One of Tunley’s short films is also included, as is a commentary track.