Ghoul review: Netflix’s Sacred Video games follow-up is even braver, frightening in unforeseen ways

Ghoul review: Netflix's holy Video games pursue is even braver.

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Ghoul review: Radhika Apte plays a guilt-ridden soldier in Netflix’s Sacred Game titles follow-up.(Netflix)
Solid – Radhika Apte, Manav Kaul
Rating – 3.5/5
One controversy is scarcely over and we must plan another. The opening few minutes of Ghoul, Netflix’s latest Indian original, unleash some of the bravest filmmaking you’ll see this year – in simple fact, the entire first tv show is brimming with confrontational carelessness – and I mean this as the best compliment. To put it in perspective, if you thought the Rajiv Gandhi collection in Sacred Game titles was delightfully irresponsible – especially now, especially here – hold out till you watch Ghoul.

But notice how obscure all this seems – and intentionally so. Not once is the united states identified – even though show is in Hindi (and Urdu?), and features a ensemble of Indian celebrities – rather than once could it be overtly acknowledged that the persecuted are only Muslims.

Watch the Ghoul truck here

Through images and icons, and through the violent rhetoric we’ve become all too familiar with – words like ‘anti countrywide’ and ‘terrorist’ – Ghoul reveals itself to be a surprisingly strong show. It is not only a critique of modern India – nor is it only a cautionary tale of where we may be going – but it is just a takedown, it’s a slap in the facial skin, it is humiliation before 130 million paying members.

Believe me, I was just as shocked when you are. For the longest time – perhaps properly, considering how easily activated some of us are – no one had said anything about Ghoul’s directed politics; the trailers had positioned it as a supernatural horror program, produced through an exciting collaboration between Blumhouse and Phantom, two companies with extremely similar philosophies. Nonetheless it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to describe Ghoul as a lesser cousin to 1 of Blumhouse’s biggest recent success stories: Get Away.

Like Jordan Peele’s Oscar earning film, Ghoul uses genre tropes to comment on muddy issues that mainstream cinema mostly avoids – for different reasons, ranging from commercial potential to politics retaliation.

But to view an old Muslim intellectual being stopped, profiled, and harassed, brings back again familiar thoughts – just the color of your skin has changed. And that’s the wonder of science-fiction and horror – these genres tap into our deepest anxieties, they expose our prospect of bad, and in doing this, transcend edges. Ghoul is terrifying, yes, but also for completely different reasons than you’d anticipated.

Like Fahrenheit 451, we see Muslim books being burned, their religious artefacts are declared contraband, and their voices clamped down with cries of ‘sedition!’ Everyone from student leaders to college or university professors to intellectuals – because remember, just like in the Armenian genocide, it’s always the intellectuals that are silenced first – is considered into custody, ‘reconditioned’ till they declare their undying allegiance to the government, failing which they’re delivered to what are fundamentally concentration camps.

Manav Kaul as Colonel Sunil Dacunha in Netflix’s Ghoul.
Among these camps is run by Colonel Sunil Dacunha (played out by Manav Kaul). His uniform has colours of Hugo Employer’ SS apparel – perhaps mostly of the subtleties of the essentially ham-fisted allegory. They certainly have their own version of Inglourious Basterds’ Keep Jew, replicated in Ghoul by a sizable Punjabi man called Foulad Singh, who clangs his way through the facility’s halls, his terrifying reputation preceding him.

Nida’s religion makes her a traitor in the sight of her people, and a pariah in the eye of the (largely) Hindu troops at the center. This is interesting dramatic territory, ripe for exploration and bursting with alternatives.

It is unlucky then that Ghoul usually abandons this fantastic set-up towards a far more by-the-numbers horror story in episodes two and three, inspired by the insipid Conjuring movies probably. Watched at once – which must not be difficult – the episodes feel arbitrarily separated and not completely episodic. This may be because Ghoul was originally intended to be considered a feature film, but was later recut into a miniseries for Netflix. That’s my think.

Radhika Apte has had a hat-trick of Netflix visits.
Regardless, after the supernatural events you truly enrolled in crawl out of the shadows, the story’s subtext is buried alive. As Nida makes new discoveries about Ali Saeed’s true id, I was beat by the disappointing realisation that acquired director Patrick Graham chosen a lane and caught up to it, the story would’ve played out better. But as it stands, there isn’t nearly enough mystical lore to activate the audience in the horror elements, the emotional thrills are oddly limited by a 20-minute patch in occurrence two, and the politics are typically forgotten until an admittedly well-conceived and psychological conclusion.

The elements are all there – a blazingly original idea, Jay Oza’s claustrophobic and atmospheric visuals, and a strong, simmering performance by Netflix’s favorite Indian child, Radhika Apte – but Ghoul, the show, much like its namesake demon, suffers from an identity problems.

It does, however, end with the recommendation that there surely is more to come. Tackled well, perhaps this could turn into our very own version of Handmaid’s Story or the Purge?

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