Movie Review: 2017 SPOOKY MOVIE INTER'L FILM FEST Selection - THE GHOUL

THE GHOUL: When a pair of psychotherapists is found murdered, a police detective goes undercover as a depression suffer to find out what killed them. Tom Meeten stars as Chris, a London police detective who is assigned to investigate the murder scene of two psychotherapists. As Chris’ partner, Tommy, played by Paul Kaye, describes the scene, he explains to Chris that an intruder broke into a house and fired a gun at almost point-blank range. But the catch is, while the intruder hit both people, the shots didn’t kill them. Learning that the two people who were shot were psychotherapists, Chris creates a profile with his friend, Kathleen, played by Alice Lowe, and the two decide that Chris should go undercover to talk to a psychotherapist, Dr. Fisher, who is somehow connected to the case.

This is where it becomes confusing, Chris tells Fisher, played by Niamh Cusack, that he likes to pretend he’s a police detective and follow people around. We then see Chris watching Kathleen who suddenly seems to be married to Tommy. Tommy is also no longer a police officer, but is instead a sales person for a British based liquor company. Chris then starts to follow a fellow patient from Dr. Fisher’s office named Coulson, played by Rufus Jones.

Coulson confronts Chris about following him around and the two become friends. Not long after Fisher tells Chris she must stop seeing him because she has health problems and sends him to another psychotherapist named Morland. When Chris arrives at Morland’s office/ home, we find out that it’s the same place as the crime scene from the beginning of the movie. Coulson as comments on how Morland, played by Geoffrey McGivern, seems obsessed with magic because of all the strange books and art work around Morland’s office. Not long after, Coulson has a breakdown and becomes delusional. He explains to Chris that Morland has a plan to create his own universe and is using his patients as part of it.

Nevertheless. Chris continues to see Morland, confiding in him that he feels like there is something living inside of him that is hollowing Chris out. Chris calls it ‘The Ghoul.’

Director Gareth Tunley’s visual style reminds me of Michael Mann’s visual style during his time running Miami Vice in the 80’s, very bright lights against powerful dark backdrops coupled with high-speed dolly motions. In a way this works for this movie as it shows London as a city in flux between its mystic past and high-tech future. But the story is all over the place.

At one point during a party Coulson throws, Chris is confronted by a friend of Coulson’s who somehow knows Chris is an undercover cop and tells Chris that the police did something to Chris himself so he’s no longer certain if he is a police officer or not. One can’t help but be reminded of Philip K. Dick’s classic sci-fi novel, A Scanner Darkly, where an undercover police man loses all sense of reality and realizes he’s spying on himself.

And that’s the problem with this movie. We’re not sure of everything. It’s one thing to weave a plot that keeps the audience guessing until the very end. It’s another for the story to be all over the place without a satisfying conclusion. In some ways, Tunley seems to be drawing on David Lynch’s cerebral style of storytelling. In both instances, the audience is forced into the uncomfortable situation of trying to fill in the gaps on their own. This is not very satisfying and leaves the viewer wanting a resolution that feels denied. While Meeten turns in a compelling performance, The Ghoul is itself not that compelling.

Overall review: C

See THE GHOUL at the 2017 Spooky Movie International Film Festival on Saturday, October 7th, at 1:30pm EST.

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