MOVIE REVIEW: Ghoul (2015)

Ghoul is not the worse way to spend 86 minutes. Not exactly the most flattering way to begin a movie, but when it comes to ‘found footage’ that’s the best I can muster. I feel like I’m going through found footage fatigue. What horror fan amongst us hasn’t run out of fucks to give when it comes to this played out sub genre. I understand it is a cheap and effective way for a film maker to convey a story (especially in the horror genre) and it’s proven time and time again that it can be profitable.  It’s just too bad that most film makers stick by the numbers and don’t really try to stretch within the subgenre. Case in point: Ghoul. Not exactly breaking the mold, but not an awful movie either. Too bad what it is an almost paint by numbers Blair Witch knock-off. And here we go…

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Three college aged film makers head to Ukraine to make a documentary about the cannibalism epidemic that swept through the country in 1932 during a famine. Looking to interview one of the last survivors, the trio are lured to the middle of nowhere (first red flag!) to interview the guy. When will these crazy kids learn that you should leave cannibals in the middle of woods alone! Anyway our trio end up in at the cannibals house with said cannibal no where in site.But the kids where smart enough to bring escorts which consist of a hot female translator, a drunk middle-aged guy and of course a physic (because when making a film about cannibalism how isn’t a spiritual medium going to come in handy?). Good thing their escorts are present and know just what to do: Drink lots of vodka and play with a Oujia board! Shockingly enough, the gang unleashes the spirit of cannibal Andrei Chikatilo (AKA: The Red Ripper, who is a real life serial killer who tortured, raped and ate 52+ women) and I would love to tell you flesh-eating, ghost shenanigans ensue, but it’s more like standard and boring found footage conventions slowly unfold…

The story of real life serial killer Andrei Chikatiole and the Ukraine famine of 1932 (which lead to widespread  cannibalism throughout the country) are insanely disturbing events in Ukraine history and would make for compelling launch pads for genre movies. Ghoul uses both of these to help launch the plot, but doesn’t fully utilize these and only uses then as catalysts for a feeble possession/haunted house story. Seems like a waste to not delve into these stories and really fill out the onscreen antagonist more. I would have loved to seen more about Chikatiole and that craziness. I guess that’s what Wikipedia is for. And yes, I believe 100% of everything that I read on Wikipedia. If I didn’t I would have never known that Obama is really a space alien sent here to convert us all to Scientology.

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For a movie about cannibals we get almost zero onscreen human on human mastication. And honestly you kinda, sorta need a human being ingesting another human being to have cannibalism. I’m not a scientist, but I’m 93% sure that is a must to be accurately labeled a cannibal. We get a lot of talk about it, but the way the movie plays out is like talking about the worlds greatest pizza, showing pictures of people enjoying eating it and even promising that we will all have a slice soon. Then when it’s time to eat we get a plate full of hamburgers. The hamburgers are fine and do their job of sustaining you, but they ain’t that pizza! Just seems like a really weird way to go about a movie.

Not everything about Ghoul is terrible. Honestly, the movie is far from terrible. The acting here is solid and helps cover up the predictable found footage conventions we all know by heart. I caught myself rooting for the characters on more than one occasion and almost caring what happens to them. The use of actual footage of Chikatiole is really creepy and adds a certain layer of realism that grabs you by the collar and drags you into story.  It’s a move film makers have used in the past, but never have I seen anything as off-putting and skin crawling as that.

Ghoul had a lot of factors working in it’s favor: real life cannibalism, serial killers and a country with a horrific and heartbreaking history. Couple this with some top-notch actors and you got the makings of a great movie. Too bad they went with a tired and predictable approach that slowly unfolds to nothing but a slightly more exciting Blair Witch. BUT I will say that writer/director Petr Jakl seems to have an eye for interesting and engaging stories. Here’s to hoping next time he goes with a more original approach.

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