GHOUL Review


Film Pulse Score

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Release Date: March 20, 2015 (Limited and VOD)
Director: Petr Jákl
MPAA Rating: NR

Few specific genres of cinema allow for the creativity and innumerable unique possibilities in film in the same way as horror. Even fewer have entertained audiences for generations. Tales of fear – that strange, tingling sensation we get from watching the dread unfold and the excitement of watching what is twisted or beyond our perception toy with the human mind – offer the opportunity for something truly transcendent.

But it is also true that horror is the one genre that most often falls into boring trends. These rip-offs made in the wake of far more exciting films like slashers, home invasions, meta horror and, most recently, found footage – a subgenre that seems as if it may never die. While films such as The Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield have worked wonders on audience members, like most recent entries into the found-footage canon, Ghoul borrows heavily from these films but adds up to little more than a stinking carcass with parts far stronger than the whole.

The setup is almost directly derived from the previously mentioned modern horror classic The Blair Witch Project, wherein an American film crew hears about a famous urban legend and decides to document strange occurrences. (In Ghoul, it is for a prospective TV series, and the setting is Ukraine because that’s completely different.) The crew sets up at a location that they are led to by mysterious locals, one of whom is apparently psychic or supernaturally gifted. She offers to assist the crew by serving as their translator (though the film switches between her translations and subtitles for no apparent reason and/or Very Convenient Plot Device).

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Most of the setup is told through dull exposition, with such little ambiguity or fear that it has no real effect on the audience. In the place of mounting tension, there is inert, nonsensical drama with bickering and laughable gross-out horror. The final scene, which cribs even more heavily from Blair Witch’s arsenal, is misguided and idiotic. The cardinal sin committed in horror is to show and tell far TOO much. The film is also plagued by extremely poor production values, including a sound design that sometimes renders dialogue nearly incomprehensible.

Ghoul, or a Paranormal Cannibal/Witch Holocaust, is the same dreck we’ve come to expect from the found-footage genre. While horror will always have life, and someone will find a way to resuscitate this dying film trend, Ghoul makes a compelling case for finding a fresher direction, rather than reassembling the grace notes of vastly superior films.


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