The Ghoul (2016)

Executive produced by Ben Wheatley, The Ghoul is a teasingly self-aware psychological thriller.

Vicious Circle

by Alexa Dalby

The Ghoul

CAUTION: Here be spoilers

It’s is a cleverly convoluted tale that coils tightly around itself. A homicide detective is summoned to London from the north of England to be shown round a strange domestic double-murder scene. He’s Chris (Tom Meeten), dishevelled, moody and apparently troubled. At the scene there’s a clue that points to someone named Coulson (a jovial Rufus Jones), who is bi-polar and undergoing psychotherapy with Fisher (serious and concerned Niamh Cusack), who seems to be somehow linked to the case, so Chris goes undercover to here as a patient to try and track him down.

But is Chris a detective pretending to be depressed or an obsessive misfit who is being treated for depression and who thinks he’s a detective? His only contacts seem to be his old university friend Kathleen (low-key Alice Lowe) and her husband Jim (Dan Renton Skinner) but even they seem to have their own problems and to be losing patience with him for some reason.

Fisher transfers Chris to the care of a colleague, Morland (Geoffrey McGivern), an unconventional, verbose eccentric, whose consulting room is stuffed with arcane objects and symbols of the occult that could contain clues to the film’s meaning. There’s a Mobius strip that Morland demonstrates to Chris, a Klein bottle, a drawing of an ourobouros – all of them things where the inside becomes the outside until they come full circle.

In writer/director Gareth Tunley’s intricately written film, as seen through its central character’s unreliable, possibly disintegrating, perspective is anyone who they appear to be? Events are open to contradictory reinterpretations. In fact, do they really happen? It doesn’t really fit into any genre – partly shot like a police procedural, partly breaking out into poetic wide shots of the London skyline, partly a study of descent into delusion with a sense of reality being slightly skewed, a growing discordance expressed by Waen Shepherd’s moody score. The cast also includes Paul Kaye, Rachel Stubbings and Sean Reynard and it’s an ambitious, intriguing feature debut for Tunley.

The Ghoul premiered at the London Film Festival, screened at the East End Film Festival and is released on 4 August 2017 in the UK.

Join the discussion