Let’s get it out of the way – Ghoul would find it extremely difficult to secure a theatre release in India. It’s not about the gruesome and gory action series, but the very concept of the series. Now that that’s out of the way, here’s our review of Ghoul, the Netflix horror miniseries that’s a collaboration between Blumhouse Productions and Phantom Films.
Indian horror makers are forever looking for horror stories that are beyond and above the witches and wronged soul stories that were staple of Indian horror back in the seventies, eighties and nineties. Ghoul has such a refreshing concept that it immediately wins brownie points.
Ghoul is set in a dystopian future, in a country where every intellectual and minority is an alleged terrorist. The army has clamped down and people are being picked up for interrogation. Young, new, army recruit Nida has a father who still fights for freedoms of all kinds – even those that are guaranteed in the constitution. Unswayed by her daughterly duty, Nida hands over her father to the authorities, and that’s when all hell breaks loose.
You cannot ignore the political undertones in the series. If you follow news, you will raise your brow at terms like ‘wapsi’, ‘intellectuals’, etc. In that manner, Phantom Films should be lauded for the kind of concepts they are peddling. In an era when more and more Bollywood celebrities are bending backwards to appease the powers that be, Ghoul stands out as a blunt, brash ‘can be’ scenario. With Ghoul, India has finally got its Orwell’s 1984. This is the kind of cinema that we need.
Ghoul is many things, including a fresh primer for a whole new generation about what made genocides and holocausts a reality – that everyone believed they were ‘just doing their jobs’.
But once the political undertones are done away with, we finally come to the horror element. To start off, Ghoul isn’t the meandering, eerie horror series that we are so accustomed to, with franchises like The Conjuring and Annabelle even the Scream series setting the pace. Most of the gruesome action is heavily choreographed and happens off camera. Basically, the horror sequences are shot as a fight sequence in a Bollywood film would be.
What’s Wow: The performances are top class. Radhika Apte gives one of her best performances. Manav Kaul gets into the skin of his character and depicts a headstrong but flawed character impeccably. Ratnabali Bhattacharjee plays a tough as nails cop and does justice to her character. the screenplay is one of the best we have seen in recent times too. The dull, dreary look of the series adds just the right ambience to the series.
What’s Blah: Ghoul is an excellent series to watch at one go, but you cannot peg into a truly horror series, because of the concept and the execution. As noted earlier, the deaths are finished off very quickly and don’t really create a shudder for the audience. Also, the political message aspect of the series gets a bit drone-y by the end of it all and a bit of an overkill. The Schindler’s Listisque scene that showed spectacles instead of gold gave a little Over The Top feeling.
Parting Shot: Ghoul is a great addition to the Indian streaming and Indian horror scene.
Cast and Crew
Cast: Radhika Apte, Manav Kaul, Ratnabali Bhattacharjee, Mahesh Balraj
Created by: Patrick Graham
Producers: Jasom Blum, Anurag Kashyap, Ryan Turek, Vikramaditya Motwane, Michael Hoga, Killian Kerwin, John Penotti, Suraj Gohill
Ghoul is now streaming on Netflix.