By Michael McNulty
Gareth Tunley’s debut feature, The Ghoul, is a brooding, atmospheric psychological thriller. Blending a dreamlike, occult narrative with suburban noir, Tunely, a Ben Wheatley regular, has made a film that feels part Kill List, with a smattering of Taxi Driver and a Lynch-ian twist.
Chris (Tom Meeten), a homicide detective, is called down to London to investigate a mysterious double murder. The two killed are said, by forensic experts, to have continued to approach their killer after having sustained fatal shots to the head and chest. Without giving too much away, Chris must go undercover as a psychotherapy patient to investigate a suspect and the lines between fantasy and reality become blurred.
This is a slow burn thriller and Tunely confidently leads the film down a path of twists and turns, whilst maintaining an ever increasing sense of dread and menace. The plot’s structure mirrors Chris’s fracturing state of mind and although there is perhaps too much head tilted anguished floor gazing and muted screams, he puts in a solid, complex performance alongside Alice Lowe and Rufus Jones.
The film is not without its faults. At times the music is overbearing, unnecessarily adding drama to scenes that carry enough intensity to exist by themselves and the performance by Geoffery McGivern as Alex Morland, Chris’s psychotherapist, is played with the eagerness of a television actor who’s landed a part in a feature film.
In short, The Ghoul is an impressive first film that merits attention and welcomes in an ambitious director with promising talent.