Sunday, 8 October 2017
The Ghoul (2017)
The blurb on the DVD of The Ghoul decrees that it is 'The latest standout addition to a thriving new wave of British cinema' and it's a claim I completely agree with because, just as our society seems to be in the grip of replicating the excesses of the '70s and '80s, so too does it appear that we are culturally in an exciting position of rediscovering just what it was that previously made the British film industry of such an era so special and unique. The kitchen sink social realism movement has recently been beautifully revived by the likes of Clio Barnard and Andrea Arnold, whilst the more experimental, cultish edge of yesteryear has also been born again, and perhaps surprisingly so, by a comedy contingent that consists of the likes of the film's debut director/writer Gareth Tunley, Alice Lowe (who stars here and was previously responsible for Sightseers and Prevenge) and a director who not only paid his dues with sitcoms such as BBC3's Ideal, but who went on to become the current enfant terrible of British cinema and who serves as the executive producer of this effort, Ben Wheatley.
Like the Möbius strip that is often alluded to in the film, The Ghoul deals with its narrative and the nature of an identity crisis in a similar manner to Nic Roeg's Performance, which is again referred to in the film's blurb. In exploring the nature of identity, The Ghoul focuses specifically on psychoanalysis and it intriguingly suggests, in a rather sinister manner, the notion of a therapist's secret desire to live on in the traumatised mind of their patients. As someone who has sat in both chairs in the counselling process (in that I have had counselling and I have trained as a counsellor) I can totally relate to the idea that a therapist remains in the mind of a service user long after their relationship concludes thanks to the coping strategies they instill into them to combat their depression and anxiety. Obviously, we believe that's a good thing, but the narrative of The Ghoul allows even someone with my experience to consider this from a left field perspective that our hero is in the process of something which may indeed be detrimental.
Obviously Performance is a film that looms large over The Ghoul, but the film equally pays homage to a number of head scratchers and chillers from this period, including with Mike Hodges' Get Carter with its almost mythical references to 'Up North' and composer Waen Shepherd's title track which alludes to Roy Budd's iconic score. For me, British cinema is in really good health so it's rather ironic that some critics, including the Grauniad's wob-eyed idiot Peter Bradshaw utterly failed to get the point of it.
And I haven't even mentioned the impressive cast! Tunley assembles a plethora of comic talent from his time on the Edinburgh Fringe circuit, including Tom Meeten who is brilliant and suitably ambiguous as Chris, our tortured lead and Alice Lowe as the woman he carries a potentially dangerous torch for. Meanwhile, as with Wheatley's High-Rise and also the poignant Notes on Blindness, Dan Skinner once again proves he is far more than Vic and Bob's comic sidekick, Angelos Epithemiou in his role as both Meeten's friend/colleague and Lowe's partner. Niamh Cusack and Geoff McGivern co-star as the ambiguous psychotherapists, with McGivern - the original (and inspiration for) Ford Prefect in The HitchHikers Guide to the Galaxy and currently stealing the show in Mitchell and Webb's new sitcom Back - especially impressing in what is a particularly elusive and deeply charismatic role, whilst Rufus Jones and Paul Kaye provide admirable and intriguing support in secondary roles.