20 April 2001 | DIRKSCHNEIDER
Good film,spoiled a bit by glib stereotypes.
I enjoyed "The Ghoul" in the main,but felt that it pandered to some annoying stereotypes.Firstly,and most obviously I think,is that of India,or of the East in general being a home of sinister pagan beliefs and of rituals that engender evil.Now,I am aware that the film is set during the British Raj,and it would be perfectly fine if the characters in the film were to hold ignorant and arrogant views about Hinduism as being basically a kind of devil-worship,views which the character played by Peter Cushing(a former clergyman who stayed for a considerable time in India,where he encountered local religion in which he says he found only depravity) does indeed hold;but,the film was set in that age,not made during it,and these frankly racist attitudes are reinforced,as in the film it is made pretty evident that the source of the main unhappiness that has beset the household is India and Indian ways.Indeed,even the eponymous character,whenever he appears,is donning Indian clothes,when he is actually English. Another stereotype which is perpetuated is a class one.The character played by John Hurt is a scruffy ex-soldier(although it is suggested at one particular point that he had been a deserter) who murders people,abducts women,beats them and attempts to rape them.By his strong West Country accent,the fact that he was a private,and other peoples' manner towards him,it is obvious that he is a pleb.The upper-class characters on the other hand,are better-looking,more self-confident,and( particularly the character played by Peter Cushing and the character of the ex-army officer),generally nobler. Again,I have no objection to the behaviour of the upper-class characters towards the working-class ones,as that is plausible,but I feel that the film itself is confirming the idea of upper-class British people as some sort of superior beings. John Hurt,in my opinion,steals the show here,as I feel that he imbues in his character a depth which none of the other characters even remotely has.In fact, it is him that actually rescues the film from being farce. There are perhaps some who regard this film as an intentional parody of period horror;the amount of stock items is huge:"the numerous variations of
don't go there"",the stereotypical rural bobby and his "you don't want to go
down there" warning,the dark family secret,the woman who reminds a character
of his dead wife,the big house in the middlle of nowhere,and many more.If this were a parody,then what I have stated above about stereotypes pandered to in the film would probably be nullified.However,I don't believe that in general this film was intended as satire. I am,nevertheless a sucker for this kind of thing,the more clichéed the better,and despite the irritating elements,I still found the film well-paced and very entertaining.Also,John Hurt was very good.