Friday, September 15, 2017

In the loop: Gareth Tunley's compelling puzzler, THE GHOUL, arrives on Blu-ray/DVD

A knockout -- even if it may leave you more puzzled going out than you were going in -- THE GHOUL, a movie written and directed by Gareth Tunley so consistently genre-jumping that it's probably sui generis, proves a kind of enigmatic mystery-thriller with over/undertones of everything from the occult to a master class in psychology. Think Repulsion meets... oh, hell, comparisons are pretty useless here. Just watch and wonder. And enjoy. Whatever your opinion at film's end, you'll be hooked throughout and thoroughly enjoying yourself, TrustMovies suspects.

The name most bandied about in the film's advertising is that of Ben Wheatley, who acted as executive producer. And why not -- since his is the most famous of anyone connected with the movie? Yet this is quite unfair, as the movie is better than literally anything Mr. Wheatley has so far accomplished. If any justice remains in the movie world, we shall be hearing from Mr. Tunley (shown at left) again and again.

What this filmmaker has done is to give us the movie equivalent of a Möbius strip or an M.C. Escher drawing. And yet The Ghoul is no mere stunt (or if it is, it's one of the better stunts in film history). It is also a living breathing, beautifully conceived, executed, written, directed and acted tale of... what?

That is the question that will dog you as you watch. The possible answers are plenteous, with character dissolution and/or the take-over of one person's mind and actions by another the most prominent. Our leading man, Chris, played by the unforgettable Tom Meeten (shown above and below) is the film's central character, and he is on-screen for practically the entire movie. Mr. Meeten possesses a face and a body that manage to be, by turns, dowdy, handsome, plain, sexy, riven, graceful, graceless, and always compelling.

The movie is Chris's journey, and Meeten makes it -- thanks to camerawork (Benjamin Pritchard) that consistently finds the right subject and view and editing (which seems to be divided amongst several folk) that couples all this with precision and speed -- something from which you cannot avert your gaze. As writer and director, the filmmaker provides smart detail after detail in the foreground, background, and via the strange and varied cast of supporting characters that makes that journey utterly riveting.

The plot make perfect sense. For awhile. From the opening scene, in which we learn of a bizarre double murder to the penultimate one that provides a kind of climax that explains (and yet maybe doesn't) all that has gone before, Mr. Tunley is able in something like 85 minutes to bring us full circle and yet keep us going even farther (afield).

Along the way we meet a would-be girlfriend (Alice Lowe, two photos up), a bizarre best friend (James Eyers, above), a therapy companion (Rufus Jones, below, right), and especially a couple of very strange but interesting therapists (beautifully brought to life by Niamh Cusack and Geoffrey McGivern) who, together, bring the movie its most unsettling blend of kind, charming compassion and utter manipulation.

There is even an oddball character (Paul Kaye, below) whose entire job in the movie, it seems, is simply to tell a most interesting and funny shaggy-dog story. What drives the film forward (and may simultaneously drive you nuts) is how believable everything seems. Until it is clear that -- yes? no! -- something quite else is wrong here. Still, we and Chris persevere until we've reached... ummm, you'll see. What you'll make of it all is up for grabs.

On the Blu-ray disc's Special Features is a delightful short film featuring the director and much of his cast -- all of who, it tuns out, are comedians known for their character-driven, stand-up comedy routines. Considering that The Ghoul may be one of the most dour, dark creations ever to hit video, this seems particularly intriguing. It's like that clown who so wants to play Hamlet (and then does it damned well) -- times ten.

From Arrow Video and released here in the USA via MVD Entertainment, The Ghoul arrived on Blu-ray (in a fine transfer) and DVD last week, and is available now for purchase and/or (I hope) rental. For folk who demand something different, compelling and lots of fun, this one's a don't-miss deal.

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