If you’ve ever watched something you only half-understood, you’ve felt what I did watching “Ghoul.” The three-episode miniseries was somewhere between scathing Indian social commentary and a slasher. I can’t speak to the effectiveness, as I don’t live in the society I think was being critiqued.
Though the series added confusion to my life, it was undoubtedly horror. The first scene made my skin crawl, and I didn’t understand the necessity of it until the crazy twist at the end of the final episode. Don’t laugh when I say I didn’t see it coming at all — for me, it seemed unthinkable.
That first episode was fast for those first five minutes, then slowed way down as it settled into the story. I understand the need for exposition, but I felt a little cheated. “Ghoul" gave me an opening that dug its hooks deep into me before saying it’s time to cool off and learn more about nothing obviously related to the wild thing you just saw.
After my initial bewilderment, I was introduced to Shahnawas Rahim, a professor who fits nicely in a predictable-revolutionary-intellectual archetype, and his daughter, Nida. He teaches subjects the government explicitly disapproves of, and is arrested for it because of Nida. She’s young, and eager to serve her country.
Nida had the nerve to blindside me at least twice an episode. Just look to her if you seek an example of a radical character change in a short amount of time. She goes from struggling with morality and finding who to believe, to being decisive and sure, but some things happen along the way. Bloody things. There was way more blood in this than I thought there would be.
The big complicating factor is Ali Saeed, and Nida’s brand new job as an interrogator in the facility he’s brought to. Things stop adding up, and before you can even brace yourself for what’s coming, you get what? Long division. Do me a favor and picture a winky face at the end of this paragraph.
There are several interrogation scenes with Ali Saeed, but I’d like to talk about the one during which someone wanted me to believe a hardened colonel would say “spill the beans” to a hardened rebel. Absolutely not. I’ll suspend my disbelief for a lot of other things, but I refuse to accept that. Try again next time.
I’d also like to talk about the interrogator with the handlebar mustache. The drama of his entrance was such that I was nervous about it before anyone had said anything concrete about him. I don’t need to tell you what kind of energy this guy had.
I’ll admit the ghoul-specific content doesn’t really kick into high gear until the last episode, which is all tension and crisis. It’s actually kind of scary. Nida’s different, the stakes are different and we know things we never thought we needed to know. We’ve reached the final five minutes of “Paranormal Activity.”
I recommend that you round up the gang, turn out the lights and dive into “Ghoul.” Everything’s better with friends.