While most murders may be committed by someone who knows the victim personally, when the police have no immediate leads to follow up the probability of the successful apprehension and conviction of a suspect drops significantly. A double murder where none of the evidence adds up, both victims casually strolling towards their deaths despite multiple gunshot wounds, former detective Chris is asked to look into the case, pursuing leads apparently tangential for lack of anything solid.
Playing a hunch, Chris looks into the past of Michael Coulson (Rufus Jones), the managing agent of the house where the killing took place, finding out that there have been previous police investigations into his activites but no convictions. Knowing that he undergoes regular sessions with psychotherapist Helen Fisher (Niamh Cusack), Chris goes undercover and sets himself up as a patient hoping to gain insight into Coulson and access to his medical records.
Coached by Kathleen (Prevenge‘s Alice Lowe), a friend who blows hot and cold with each encounter, in order to convince Doctor Fisher and gain her trust Chris will have to offer more truth than might be wise, and so begins the trip down the rabbit hole of his own troubles.
A murder case that makes no sense, an unwise friendship with the very suspect he is investigating, and a meeting with Fisher’s own former therapist, Doctor Alexander Morland (The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy‘s Geoff McGivern), a man whose belief in the occult seems at odds with his profession, who if anyone can Chris trust?
Described as a psychological thriller, feature debut of writer/director Gareth Tunley The Ghoul is a sparse and brittle observation of personalities and psychoses where very little can be taken at face value and nobody can really be trusted to present who they really are, and with Ben Wheatley serving as executive producer there is a similar feeling of off-kilter menace to his thriller Kill List.
Achieved for a micro-budget and set in a cold London of grey skies and empty streets, Chris (Sightseers‘ Tom Meeten) is soaked in booze and eats noodles straight from the saucepan in his dingy bedsit, the merging hints of the supernatural apparently at odds with the near kitchen sink realism of the rest of film it raises the question of whether Chris is genuinely slipping into madness or if it is the viewer who has been misled from the start.
With more than a hint of the duality of David Lynch‘s Lost Highway or Mulholland Drive, the plot squirms around the impossible space of Morland’s Klein Bottle, Coulson capturing it in his apparently throwaway comment, “We’re all in Hell, we just can’t remember how we got here.”
With many of the cast having become friends from performing together in the Edinburgh Fringe, discussed at length in the accompanying documentary which explains the long germination and threadbare production of the project, their shared background in stand-up comedy would not indicate their dramatic versatility, though Tunley’s macabre and similarly themed previous short collaboration with Meeten, The Baron, also included on the disc, is more overtly stylised in terms of both horror and comedy but fortunately requires less analysis.
The Ghoul is released on Blu-ray and DVD on 4th September by Arrow Films and Video