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Marina Antunes [Celluloid 03.19.15] Czech Republic horror

You've definitely seen the set-up of Ghoul before but you've never seen it quite like this and what's better, you probably haven't seen it be this effective in years.

The last found footage movie that got us all excited around here was Barry Levinson's The Bay (review) and though Ghoul is a completely different beast, something about the trailer suggested that this would be better than the rest and indeed, it does not disappoint.

Co-written and directed by actor-turned-director Petr Jákl, Ghoul starts with the typical trope of kids with cameras going somewhere. In this case, we have a group of American documentary filmmakers who head to the Ukraine to interview survivors of the great famine, some of whom resorted to cannibalism when faced with the tough choice of survival. The team's goal: to shoot a pilot for a documentary show about cannibalism in different parts of the world.

Ghoul rises above most of its counterparts from early on. Part of its appeal is that it's set in an unfamiliar location with an unfamiliar language and Jákl uses that to his advantage, using locals and traditions that infuse the movie with a reality that isn't always present. The opening twenty minutes of Ghoul really feel like behind-the-scenes footage of a documentary and the opening goes a long way to set the stage for the rest of the movie.

The trip starts to get complicated when their guide demands more money and stuck in a country they don't know, the crew feels trapped by the man who eventually abandons them in the middle of nowhere with a woman who claims to be a medium. It's here that Ghoul enters the supernatural realm but what keeps the movie from going off the rails is that it doesn't simply rely on jump scares but instead focuses on building tension and then delivering subtle, and occasionally gruesome, reveals that slowly work their terrifying magic.

It's been a while since a horror movie has been at all effective but Ghoul successfully delivers some epic scares and though it does get into crazy territory in the final few minutes, the final scene is still terrifying. Part of it is the gruesome monster make-up and effects and part of it is that by this point, we actually have some feeling for the characters with whom we've spent the last tense hour.

The found footage of Ghoul is well shot and effectively edited to maximize scares without being annoying. There's a dynamic feel to the footage and the scenes shot in the dark outdoors are particularly effective. Add into the mix solid performances and you've got yourself an effective horror movie that trumps any preconceptions one might have about a tired genre.

It's not re-inventing the wheel but with so many terrible found footage movies being made every year, it's nice to find one that trumps expectations and Ghoul definitely does that. Not only is it a great entry into the sub-genre, it's a solid horror movie that delivers the goods well into the ridiculous final scene.

Ghoul opens in LA and NY on March 20. Look for this one expanding in the coming months. Definitely one to check out with a crowd.

Recommended Release: The Bay

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