The Ghoul – Review

Filmmakers must hate it. Marketing must love it.

There’s a lot of feelings surrounding cinematic comparisons, especially when  they are screaming all over the posters and marketing materials.

Dark twisted thrillers? “This year’s American Psycho!”

Feel good film? “The most fun you’ll have since Bridget Jones!”

Crime films with a weird element? “Its just like Memento!” 

It’s exhausting having your own work lumped in with others but at the same time it gets folk through the door. Especially when you’ve tried hard to distance yourself, wishing that the film would be enough stumbling on its own feet. And, worse, if your audience has hefty expectations, then you are bound to disappoint.

So let’s be honest here: The Ghoul is definitely like Memento. But is it any good?

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The British psychological thriller revolves around Chris, a detective investigating the murder of a couple who seemingly carried on walking after being shot multiple times. Tracking down the suspects home, he discovers a batch of clues that leads him to a psychotherapist. Going undercover as a patient, his trip into his own psyche is going to uncover dark secrets about himself….

There’s a lot of good happening with The Ghoul such as lead Tom Meeton excelling as a man struggle with his own mind. In his catatonic and disjointed states Meeton develops this hauntingly real character who is figuring out his emotions whilst similarly trying to solve a murder mystery. From our perspective, he is a trustworthy police officer with a few issues but as the movie progresses, you find that he not a solid protagonist and the shift in states is greatly done through the character. Alice Lowe appears as a romantic interest and she does well enough within the narrative but isn’t used as often as she should’ve been.

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But my God, the storyline is a jumble for so many different elements that I’m actually struggling to figure out what the hell was going on. Directed by Ben Wheatley alum Gareth Tunley (with some clear interpretations of Kill List,), this jumble of elements really jars in places. Are you trying to be a meditation on mental illness and how easily manipulated victims are? Why are you throwing in these elements of Was there actually a murder? (Woops, kind of a spoiler.) All these moments deform the overall enjoyment of the film as you wonder…why? What is the substance we should be focusing on here?

Perhaps the lack of clarity and focus on ambiguity helps some film fellows interpret the film and I am certainly not knocking unravelling vagueness of movies such as these. But with The Ghoul, it seems to lack the meat to carry on the delicious unravelling mystery and that is really where it falters. It’s disappointing because with a  clearer meaning, the movie could’ve exceeded.

The Ghoul is out 4th August 

The Birth of a Nation – Review

There has been a long history of Western civilisations absolutely bastardising other races in the name of greed. It’s a fact that we cannot deny and while we aren’t the generation that stole people from other countries and abused them into slavery, we should never forget that happened and that our ancestors should be ashamed. After all, there are still generations alive that are living with segregation spawned from slavery and there are people alive today that run rampant with racism.

Our white cultures need to recognise anti-black sentiments still around that root themselves in slavery and should use that to shape a better future where all races are equal.

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With that in mind, when movies come around such as The Birth of a Nation, they highlight the history we should never forget. And against movies such as 12 Years a Slave, Nate Parker’s rebellious flick was swamped with a lot of hype that, sadly, it cannot entirely match.

Directed, written, and staring Parker, the film revolves around Nathaniel Turner who was an educated slave who became the plantations preacher, serving sermons to other farms and slave groups in order to inspire them with the good word of the Lord. However, after seeing the conditions that other black people are living in, Turner’s patience becomes anger righteous anger as he gathers up a rebellious force to fight back.

The Birth of a Nation has some terrific acting in it, particularly from Parker himself who is able to capture quieter moments of pain and suffering as well as the hope he has within his faith to endure and eventually rebel. Other leads such as Gabrielle Union and Colman Domingo each portray the trials and suffering of these horrific events. These serve as haunting at staunch reminders of the absolute terror white people inflicted on slaves.

The subject matter and therefore the images and scenes within the film are harrowing. The absolute torment and abuse inflicted on slaves was completely unjust. Parker isn’t afraid to showcase these bloody bruises and open wounds, juxtaposing them with wide-eyed fantasy and alluring dream sequences.

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As searing and visceral as the aforementioned elements are, the film suffers from a lack of narrative cohesiveness and choppy editing. There is a lot of build up and it leaps massively from time period to time period without a natural development. It’s hard to quantify exactly why the story falls apart, leaving you wanting for a more gripping tale. Perhaps it’s because the scenes don’t have an engaging build-up and are loosely threaded together or perhaps it’s the constant Christian verses that are meant to denote the change in Nate that – to be honest – are off-putting if you don’t follow the religion, making it secular to those with experience in the Bible.

On top of this, women aren’t given great or embellished roles. They are pawns, extra levels of suffering for the men. They are beaten and raped but have no agency or personality to prop up their husbands or sons. Comparatively to Patsy in 12 Years A Slave who has her own strength amongst he pain, the women are shallow characters with no greater purpose and are ultimately left behind in the film.

The Birth of a Nation is also victim to hype, where the quality of the content doesn’t match the ferocity of acclaim that came before hand. It also brings to question whether we should, instead, focus our energies away from slavery and invest in other black stories such as Moonlight, Queen of Katwe, and A United Kingdom.

While Parker’s undeniably powerful film may have unpolished elements, it certainly brings a lot of questions and thoughts to the surface.

The Birth of a Nation is out on DVD & Blu-Ray now!