The Ghoul (2016) Blu-ray Review

Reality Bends In This 2016 British Thriller

The line between nightmare and reality begin to blur for a London detective investigating a strange murder in The Ghoul. The British mind-bender is the debut film for writer and director Gareth Tunley. The cast features Tom Meeten (Sightseers), Alice Lowe (Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace) and Dan Renton Skinner (Notes on Blindness).

Detective Chris (Tom Meeten) is investigating a strange double murder where the victims appeared to move forward repeatedly as they were getting shot. With the aid of a friend’s wife, Chris goes undercover to find out more about the primary suspect in the murders, Michael Coulson. His investigation will lead Chris undercover to the mysterious Alexander Morland (Geoff McGivern). Morland is an eccentric psychotherapist that believes in the occult and other esoteric fields. Chris goes undercover as a patient seeking help for depression. Morland’s unusual beliefs make Chris start questioning what is really going on in this investigation.

The line between fantasy and reality begins to blur for Chris as he gets deeper and deeper into pretending he’s depressed as a cover for his investigation. Chris starts wondering if Morland has sinister powers that affect reality.

The Ghoul almost demands a second viewing, but it may not be worth a second viewing


This duality in his reality is best exemplified by Kathleen (Alice Lowe), a woman that Chris has feelings for and becomes the central topic of his therapy sessions. She’s introduced as a police profiler working with Chris investigating the murder. As The Ghoul’s messy narrative moves along, you aren’t sure if that is the actual truth or Chris is delusional. He may even be living in a different reality due to experiments by Morland. It employs one of the cheaper cinema tricks in my book, the unreliable narrator.

The Ghoul defies genre classification as a moody psychological thriller with some minor horror elements. The biggest problem is its central character, Chris. The dialogue given to Chris is limited at times, possibly an intentional decision that limits our ability to understand the character. The opening act doesn’t do a great job of introducing his personality before the paranoia and delusions start creeping in. Everything starts making more sense as the movie settles down but it’s probably already lost some viewers by that point. Tom Meeten does everything he can with the role but the script badly underwrites his leading role.

The indie British thriller will definitely find a following with its moody story and twisting narrative. The Ghoul almost demands a second viewing, but it may not be worth a second viewing. This isn’t great filmmaking but a worthy first attempt at something different by first-time director Gareth Tunley. The basic narrative concept is intriguing but ultimately lacks the necessary story and character refinement. It is derivative of films such as Sam Fuller’s Shock Corridor.

Video

The 2016 indie production was made on the cheap, so keep that in mind when contemplating its picture quality. The British movie was shot on digital cameras. It has moody, dark cinematography that enters into psychedelic imagery in a few pivotal moments.

All things considered, its 1080P video has decent definition and clarity. Some lapses in darker scenes invite slightly crushed black levels and poor shadow delineation. Close-ups and daylight exteriors have sharper, tighter resolution filled with more visible detail.

The 85-minute main feature is encoded in AVC on a BD-50. Despite receiving a BD-50, the encode could be better in a couple of spots. Some minor banding intrudes on the otherwise artifact-free HD video. The 2.35:1 presentation shows no glaring problems in the digital transfer, provided directly to Arrow Video by the filmmakers.

No one is going to be knocked out by The Ghoul’s average video quality but the psychological thriller definitely deserves a Blu-ray release.

Audio

The Ghoul’s 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack is largely dialogue-driven with modest surround activity. The most notable aspect of the film’s sound is Waen Shepherd’s moody score. Some minor ambient sweep helps fill the entire 5.1 soundstage but almost everything is directed from the front channels.

Audio fidelity is pristine as expected for a modern production but the British actors occasionally use thick accents as they mumble their words. In a couple of instances I had to use the optional English subtitles to decipher what they were saying.

The optional English SDH subtitles play in a white font, always inside the 2.35:1 video presentation.

Extras

The 2016 British film receives a handful of special features that go into some depth on the movie’s production. That includes heavy participation from writer/director Gareth Tunley and lead actor Tom Meeten, among other cast and crew members.

First pressings of this Blu-ray edition include a booklet with writing on the film by Adam Scovell, author of Folk Horror: Hours Dreadful and Things Strange. The Blu-ray is coded for Region A and Region B, as Arrow Video has released The Ghoul in both the U.S. and U.K.

Audio Commentary – Writer and first-time director Gareth Tunley, actor/producer Tom Meeten, and producer Jack Guttman discuss the film’s production background in this casual, informative discussion.

In the Loop: The Making Of The Ghoul (36:17 in HD) – A well-crafted documentary interviewing key members of the cast and crew in fairly honest terms. Participants include Gareth Tunley, Tom Meeten, Alice Lowe, Geoff McGivern, Niamh Cusack, Rufus Jones, Dan Skinner, Ben Pritchard, Jack Guttmann and Waen Shepherd. This indie project came together under the guidance of a small handful of people and we learn its genesis.

The Baron (09:27 in HD) – A 2013 short film with optional commentary by its director Gareth Tunley and writer Tom Meeten.

Theatrical Trailer (01:34 in HD)

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review as a pre-production screener. This has not influenced DoBlu’s editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

The unaltered images below are directly from the Blu-ray. For additional screenshots from The Ghoul, early access to all screens (plus the 7,000+ already in our library), exclusive UHD reviews, and more, support us on Patreon.