Atmospherics play an indispensable part in creating the eerie feeling which makes the audience uncomfortable whilst creating a sense of inevitability to the narrative. Take movies from every era, be it The Birds, The Shining or the recent 10 Cloverfield Lane, the claustrophobia, dark alleys and surrealistic musical cues create the necessary setting where the story can spin the yarn. Patrick Graham’s Ghoul is similarly gloomy and set at an intentionally ambiguous time to create a dystopian feel. Although the communal undertone is left unexplored for the most part, but one cannot but imply this tension which runs secondary to the main one, that of the evil spirit, Ghoul.
Ghoul is movie-turned-series which explores one of the lesser known evils from the Arabic mythologies. A Ghoul is a spirit which can be summoned with a ritual and it’s supernatural powers include taking the form of the human it devours and also manipulating people using their deep seeded secrets and guilts. Manav Kaul plays Colonel Sunil Dacunha, the leader of the small group of interrogators who ‘break’ criminals and terrorists in a dark, leaky secluded facility before sending them to the law enforcement organisations. Radhika Apte plays a new recruit who joins the interrogation team and displays resoluteness in her duties, yet has to face scrutiny from her team members, specially the fantastic Ratnabali Bhattacharjee as Laxmi. The series dives into the narrative swiftly as the head of a radical terrorist group Ali Saeed is captured and sent to the interrogation center. Although the show is about what happens thereafter, it also tries to provide backstories to each of the leads. Apte’s Nida Rahim is layered and her conflicts are captured well. Her unflinching patriotism is shown in the first half while she fights off both the demon and the doubting superiors, while the climax brings out the tenacity of a women forced into a corner and one who questions the very establishment which she vowed to serve.
Netflix must be commended for producing more and more quality original Indian content. Their second successive collaboration with Anurag Kashyap and Vikramadtiya Motwane’s Phantom Films after the highly successful Sacred Games has already created a buzz and the subject matter will undoubtedly bring in a lot of international audience too. However, the series feels like an afterthought as the rights to the original movie were acquired post the production started and Netflix felt that a series drives more word of mouth and lowers the risk compared to a horror movie in India. Horror as a genre in India is almost unchartered territory with the older movies mostly reduced to funny references and the newer ones like 1920, Pari do not get the cash registers ringing.
Ghoul stops short of being a great series due to the uneven narrative. Director Graham himself mentioned that what started as a movie was changed to a series to accommodate backstories and more character development. However, at 2 hours and 16 minutes, most of the characters are left a shade underdeveloped. Also the final revelation and climatic sequences seem to arrive abruptly. Patrick Graham talks about the language barrier he had to work against on set. If it hindered the creative process is simply hindsight, but Ghoul could have done with some polishing in the story department. For example, the climax where everyone starts doubting each other to be the devil, is played out and ended within minutes. The best horror stories are those which allow the audience to spend some time unscrambling the pieces.
Despite few inconsistencies, Ghoul is a thoroughly satisfying watch and one which will keep you engaged throughout. With only a few jump-scare moments, this series stands to appeal to the more refined users who want the rendering to create the sense of fear rather than few cheap camera tricks. We are definitely waiting for the second season which is hinted right at the end.
gobblpoint—Watch it for some gritty performances and for being a good series in the unexplored horror genre to come out of India.