A film with a Ben Wheatley production credit needs little introduction. The Ghoul is gritty, bleak and VERY British, a film that surpasses Wheatley’s usual blood shed and dark comedy and instead leaves us with a provocative, cerebral and Lynchian experience.
Gareth Tunley is usually a cast member in Wheatley’s films (e.g Down Terrace, Kill List and Sightseers) however now we see him in the director’s chair with his feature The Ghoul. He adopts his collaborator’s motif’s and general tone, however there is something mystical and intelligent that lies underneath.
The Ghoul follows Chris (Tom Meeten, another regular cast-member of Wheatley’s productions), a man who ‘Walter Mitty’s’ about being a Policeman in London, a city he has recently moved to from up North. Confined to his single room on a threatening council estate, Chris battles mental health issues with only his archetypal geezer friend’s occasional visits to keep him from falling into darkness. As Chris takes it upon himself to see a therapist, his inner workings unravel to the audience – his affection for his friend’s girlfriend Kathleen (completing the Wheatley Collaborator bingo card is Alice Lowe, taking a distinctly non-comedic turn as the object of his affections) and his belief that he is alone. What unfolds is seemingly a simple story, until layer upon layer of subtle twists and revelations via the enigmatic Coulson, the eccentric Dr Morland and a (charismatic as always) Paul Kaye cameo as Tommy Parnell, nudge you towards a much larger, more esoteric picture.
Tunley’s film is a prime example of modern day Indie filmmaking done well. The unsettling opening sequence echoes both Lost Highway and Locke whilst the soundscape and soundtrack evoke Nine Inch Nails and Low-era Bowie & Eno. His effective use (or absence of) of light reflects his character’s mental state, obscuring backgrounds to connect you to Chris’ thought process. The location’s simplicity make the film thoroughly relatable, no matter how far Chris’ mental state spins off its axis, whilst the cinematography captures the mundanity of city living, placing Chris as a silhouette of light amongst a cage of buildings.
Star of Wheatley’s High Rise, Tom Hiddleston, once said, “I love it when you go to see something, and you enter as an individual and you leave as a group, because you all been bound together by the same experience”. You might well struggle to describe this film to friends who haven’t seen it, but should you end up discussing it with a fellow audience member, you might find you came to startling different conclusions having both seem the same film. You’ll both have experienced a psychological rollercoaster ride, that’s for sure!Book now