What is it all about?
Backpackers go into the woods with a camera in hand and start being picked off one by one by a ghostly figure. Is this the long awaited Blair Witch sequel? Nope! Its a film that clearly wants to be like the original……its like 1999 all over again!
The Film Trailer:
The Hughes Verdict!
Apparently Ghoul arrives in the UK on DVD having beaten box office records in the country of Czech Republic. It has had the highest opening weekend of any horror in history and is the most highest grossing horror film in the last five years, Wow! That is some statement there, especially when you think that the likes of Insidious and The Conjuring have been released over those years.
So no pressure on Ghoul to be this ground breaking horror that will have me hiding underneath the blanket, scared witless at the ghoulish (sorry couldn’t help myself) happenings on show.
Where do I start? OK! how about the highly original plot on show that had me thinking “Damn I’ve never seen the likes of this before”. How is this for originality? A gang of students decide to venture in the woods, holding a camcorder so the world can see their trip, and to film a documentary, only to discover the place they are staying in, is in fact haunted and the only thing that will be left of they existence to the world will be a found footage tape!
Never heard of that before? Oh wait you have!
Yes its another week so another found footage horror hits the HCF Office and once more we have to bare witness to the same blueprint that countless of other films have done in the past! This time the whiff of The Blair Witch Project is all over this film, from the woods, to some night shots, we even have a Heather Donohue wannabe as the lead, which begs the question…..if this has become such a massive horror hit, has the Czechs ever seen or heard of the 1999 classic film? They better do otherwise they will be confused when the third film hits their shores in a month.
To be fair to Ghoul, out of all the films of this nature, this is a much more superior one to what we have become used to. The film is expertly shot by director Petr Jakl and the subject matter on hand is in fact more scarier than the actual hauntings on show. Jakl uses the infamous case of Andrei Chikatilo who if you don’t know was a cannibal who murdered and ate dozens of people way back in the 30’s, during the time when Josef Stalin brought famine into the country that starved to death millions of people.
The subject matter along with grainy footage from that era and interviews with local people who actually lived through that dreadful time brings an authentic and haunting feel to the first half of Ghoul that can only be admired. Not many Found Footage films these days put in so much effort and to be fair, I was engrossed by the subject matter and did feel a bit uneasy when the crew go off into a deep dark place.
The reason for their trek into the woods is to arrive at a local farmhouse to interview a man named Boris who was once convicted for murdering and eating a friend in the very place they are entering. Boris has agreed to an interview and along with a local witch Katarina (Alina Golovlyova), whose warnings of “DO NOT ENTER….GO HOME….YOU NOT SAFE….BLAH BLAH”…..fall on deaf ears.
Obviously its on the first night that things go a bit strange. Boris is creepy enough as it is, but with cameras all set up around the house, weird shit starts to happen and for you to get the most enjoyment out of this film, it be best if I leave it there.
By now the blueprint of Found Footage is engrained into your horror brain so even if you have not yet watched the trailer, don’t click on the link above, just go straight into the film and hopefully it will suck you in and make you forget that its the 1000th time and counting that you have seen events like this happen.
Again though I have to give credit where its due, the camera angle on show at times is sublime and there are moments of genuine creepiness that had me jump once or twice. The “attic” shots are brilliantly done and there is an air of dread that a film like this needs if it stands any chance of being at least a tiny bit watchable.
There is nothing better in horror than the destination where the crew finds themselves as it evokes memories of such films like Blair and The Evil Dead and Jakl wisely uses it to maximum effect, while the characters led by Jenny (Jennifer Armour) are not annoying like you expect them to be,
Yes you can question the dumb decision to go to that place, but once they realise that something is amiss, they do try to leave but find that some things are just not willing to let you go so quickly.
The struggle I had with Ghoul and maybe like many others watching is if you can stomach the same old peril once more. Using a real life case as a backdrop is quite clever and adding a few scenes of menace helps the horror juice flow, but once more as the action moved up a notch and the film entered its final third act, I found my mind wandering as boredom began to settle in.
That is no fault of the director or the cast who give it their all, but this genre is already on its last breath from the repetitiveness over recent years.
Found Footage fanatics will get a lot out of Ghoul’s offerings and are more than welcome to add a star below, but for horror fans who are seeing the likes of The Witch and IT Follows as the new wave of the genre, will watch, sigh and move on, hoping that the film that started this wave in 1999 can end it by offering a new slant and direction when its second sequel hits soon…..