“The Ghoul” (1975)
Studio: Tyburn Film Productions Limited
Starring: Peter Cushing, John Hurt, Veronica Carlson, Alexandra Bastedo, Ian McCulloch
Directed by: Freddie Francis
Running Time: 80 min.
Synopsis: A woman finds a mysterious castle in the foggy hills of England and finds terror inside.
The best way to describe The Ghoul is a poor man’s Hammer horror film. It has a story, setting, and actors a Hammer film would have, but it lacks in executing the story well the way Hammer Films do. There were many other studios or distributors in Great Britain throughout the late 60’s and 70’s that copied the style of Hammer Films. Some of these companies did a good job in making a Hammer style film, but others did not. The company that put out The Ghoul was one of the ones that did not pull it off the way Hammer did, but it did try.
The film takes place in the 1930’s somewhere in England. A couple, after a long night of partying drives up to the hills where their car runs out of gas during a terrible fog. The boyfriend leaves his girl, Daphne (Veronica Carlson) in the car, while he tries to find gas. Daphne gets tired of waiting and ventures off. She happens to see a castle up on a hill and tries to seek help there, but is warned by a strange man by the name of Tom (played by a young John Hurt) not go in there. Daphne does not listen and attempts to go to the castle. Tom knocks her out by throwing a rock at her head. She awakens in Tom’s shack and he explains to her why he did what he did and he could not let anyone up to the castle. Daphne is able to get away and runs into the owner of the castle, Dr. Lawrence (Peter Cushing). Daphne tries to explain to him about the strange man chasing her, but he is no longer in sight. The doctor is kind to her and lets her inside the castle and tries to help her, well, so he says. Daphne is in for a surprise to what lurks inside the old castle.
The movie starts off very promising with a party at a mansion then a group of rich kids decide to have a race in their fancy cars and then they get stuck in the fog with Peter Cushing at a creepy old castle. It is a perfect setting for a great gothic horror film of that time. Then the film starts dragging on and on and becoming very boring. Now I do not like films that just rush into things. I want to see some suspense, but for this film, there is mostly boring elements instead of suspenseful ones. There are a few good suspenseful moments throughout the film, but not enough.
Peter Cushing does a great job as always and Veronica Carlson plays her part very well. Also these two actors are Hammer alumni’s, so they know how to pull off great performances in a gothic horror movie. Ian McCulloch, who is best known for his role in Lucio Fulci’s Zombi 2, has a supporting role in this film, but still is a stand out in the film. John Hurt does a good job as well, but I think he was a little bit underused in the movie.
The performances in the film were watchable, but the story’s pace is what made this film not work. There was one part in the film I had a problem with, which was when Daphne escapes from Tom and she runs into the doctor, it looks as if Tom was never there chasing after her (through the doctor’s eyes that is) and then later on the doctor mentions Tom on how he is going to see to her car and even later on Tom comes into the castle and walks into the same room where the doctor and Daphne are and there is no big reaction from Daphne that the guy that hit on the head with a rock and hide her in his shack is standing right there. I don’t get it? He frightened her in the beginning then hours later she just brushes it off like he never did anything to her.
SPOILER ALERT: I hate to give away the ending or key plot elements, but I have to point this out. The film kind of takes a note from Psycho in the fact that the lead actress Carlson gets killed off halfway through. I did not see that coming because she was the main character, but when I saw it I thought of Psycho. Another big letdown was the ending and the revealing of The Ghoul. There is some kind of monster that is locked up in a room and they let it loose when they have a victim for it to kill and then eat. Daphne was the first victim to this creature in the movie. You are thinking that it some type of deformed creature, but when they finally show it at the end it is just some bald Indian dude that is not deformed at all. He may have a few bloody scars, but that is it. The Ghoul was not a frightening monster that you thought he was going to be.
I would say overall The Ghoul is a decent film. Its good points are the great cast and the eerie atmosphere throughout the film. The bad points were the execution and pacing of the story and the really lame ghoul at the end. So, check it out if you like British gothic horror that is kind of like a Hammer film, but not in quality.