The Ghoul is the debut feature of actor-turned-director Gareth Tunley, who’s starred in the likes of Down Terrace and Kill List both by Ben Wheatley, and there are impressive and notable sparks of Wheatley’s unique darkness piercing through the narrative of this unsettling but intensely curious thriller.
The film stars Tom Meeten as homicide detective Chris, a man who appears to be slightly out of the loop of everyday policing but has suggestively a keen eye for obscure cases. After a strange double murder case, where the victims appear to have kept moving after being repeatedly shot, Chris goes deep undercover to investigate a psychotherapist who may be linked to events. After tracking down the only connection they can connect, the property manager of the house, they discover his flat is full of suspicious details including names, diagrams and evidence of drug use.
The Ghoul is by no means your ‘straight down the middle’ piece of cinema; it’s a spiralling, inquisitive thriller that really captivates. While it occasionally reflects the aforementioned Wheatley’s work, it’s important to say that Tunley creates his own little universe. When many gritty or psychological thrillers try to play characters off each other, especially in British drama, this is all about the well-being and possible loss of mind of Meeten’s lead character. The absolute truth is, without diving into spoilers, you start to question his entire role and this keeps you on the edge of wanting to work out what’s actually occurring.
The subtle use of sound and score by Waen Shepherd is also impressive. There can be a tendency to drown out intense moments but here in lo-fi it’s achieved with all the right timing. More specifically, the electronically-scored sequences reminded me of Danny Boyle’s debut Shallow Grave and as Chris is suffering intense pressure inside of himself to get results, it reminded me of being pushed to the limits of your own mind, much like Christopher Eccleston’s David is in Boyle’s superb debut.
Alongside an ensemble cast that includes Alice Lowe, Dan Renton Skinner, Paul Kaye, Geoffrey McGiven, Niamh Cusack, and Rufus Jones, it’s Tom Meeten’s Chris who we focus on throughout. His performance is captivating and although we’ll learn of strange happenings in the narrative, his commitment to the highs and lows is remarkable as you never quite know which way his emotions will go next. The Ghoul will have you wanting to discuss so much subsequently and that can only be a positive as Gareth Tunley has created an intense and visceral vision that’s both complex and exceptional.
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*My review from LFF 2016 was originally published on The Hollywood News.com