Found Footage films are probably the most divisive sub genre of horror films. Just as many people love them as hate them. But no matter what your opinion of them they are here to stay. Some are great and keep the genre moving and some are just so stupid that they set it back so far, you wonder if it can ever recover from such inept stupidity....
Ghoul, is a film that just doesn't know what it wants to be. It begins with our gang of handycam GoPro documentarists heading of to the Ukraine in search of the truth about the Soviet Union's most violent serial killer, Andrei Chikatilo ( a real life serial killing cannibal). It's not long until they are lured into the dark part of the forest and like all stupid filmmakers get lost and fall victim to some evil entity lurking behind the bathroom cabinet.
So why does this film get it so wrong? Apart form the stupidity of the film, which we will get too soon, the biggest problem is the film doesn't know what it wants to be.
It starts of as a search for cannibals, then becomes a haunted house story, then becomes a something lurking in the woods and a look there is something lurking in the tunnels beneath house. It feels as though the filmmakers don't know what they want the film to be and have decided beta test lots of different films. Such is the mess of this film I wouldn't have been surprised if Scrappy Doo made an appearance halfway through it. There is no natural flow to these transitions and the changes in tone and direction just jar, and make you wish you were watching three separate films. There is no sense that the writer and director are trying to take you an journey filled with plot twists, it has the feeling as though they are just throwing everything into it and hoping that something works, sadly it doesn't Ghoul is a disjointed mess.
What doesn't help is the way in which the characters act, the start of the film is wasted with the cast arguing amongst themselves about how to go about making their film. This part of the film just feels as though it goes on and on. Which results in you hoping that every single one of them meets a quick and horrible death.
Films don't need likeable characters to work, but what they need is for you the viewer to connect with them in some way, wishing them dead for being annoying whinny brats is not a great way to hang the rest of the film on. Performance wise the leads do manage to make the most of the film, the acting is solid if not great, and at least their reactions feel real.
But let's get back to the films stupidity. You have to give all films a certain free ride in terms of logic and understand that certain rules can be broken so long as it fits into the films universe. For example look at Star Wars, we all know that there is no sound in space, not even if we can hear you scream, just imagine watching Star Wars without all the sounds of space battles. We forgive this as it fits into the films own universe. However, with found footage films, they exist in our universe and therefore,unless it is due to some supernatural intervention, it is bound by our rules.
So when you are in a cabin in the woods getting attacked by disgruntled spirits and you find that all the power has gone off. Yet for some reason you can still get an internet connection on your laptop which is draining power faster than your patience for this film why the hell don't you Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat or even go the old fashioned way and send a email.
Or how about when one of you has clearly gone mental and the only light you have in dark cabin is the one on the end of your camera. You would just keep it pointed on her, and not keep moving to to the person you are talking to, yes? You do realise that something bad is going to happen? Not the first time you do it, probably not the second time, more likely the third time and without a doubt the forth time you move the light from her.
And can someone explain to me how anyone had the time to put subtitles on the film for all the locals, please someone? If I am being targeted by a crazy ghost the last thing i would be doing is adding subtitles to my documentary. I understand the makers are from that region, but you have to make the film feel real, so just make up a cannibal from an English speaking nation, it's not as though Andrei is pivotal to the plot, hell he doesn't even make an appearance until well into the second half of the film.
Ghoul offers nothing new to the genre, it is neither creepy or scary and relies or far too many well signalled jump scares, rather than any sense of foreboding doom . If you really do have to go into the woods today for a found footage film then go and watch Blair Witch or Digging Up the Marrow.