The Ghoul
UK VHS cover
Directed byFreddie Francis
Written byAnthony Hinds
Produced byKevin Francis
StarringPeter Cushing
John Hurt
Veronica Carlson
CinematographyJohn Wilcox
Edited byHenry Richardson
Music byHarry Robertson
Production
company
Tyburn Film Productions
Distributed byRank Film Distributors
Release date
  • May 1975 (1975-05) (UK)
Running time
93 minutes (Uncut theatrical release). 88 min/80 min (2002 DVD unauthorized release)
CountryUnited Kingdom
LanguageEnglish

The Ghoul (U.S. titles: Night Of The Ghoul and The Thing In The Attic) is a 1975 British horror film directed by Freddie Francis and starring Peter Cushing, John Hurt, Alexandra Bastedo, Veronica Carlson, Gwen Watford, Don Henderson and Ian McCulloch. Francis made the film as a favour for his son, who produced it for Tyburn Film Productions.[1]

Plot

It’s the 1920s. Daphne wanders the dark house; she hears someone whispering her name. “Daphne help me,” it hisses. She goes up the stairs to the locked door at the top of the stairway. She goes inside and finds a man hanging from a meat hook through the neck. Then they turn on the lights and we see that it’s a special effect for a party. Then they all go downstairs and dance.

Daphne wants to drive to the beach, and her boyfriend Geoffrey has a nice car, so they get ready to go. The host comes out and explains that it’s 200 miles to the beach. They challenge the host, Billy, to a race instead. They’re going to race both cars to “Land’s End.” Billy is going with Daphne, and Geoffrey is going with Angela.

They get out the cranks and finally get the cars to start. It’s all very Gatsby-esque. Daphne drives like a maniac, and everyone else tries to keep their dinners down. Geoffrey finally pulls over so that Angela can puke, and the others finally pull ahead. It suddenly gets foggy, and then Billy and Daphne run out of gas.

Billy takes the empty gas can to go look for a place to fill up while Daphne takes a nap. She gets up and goes for a walk, where she’s followed by a creepy man. She runs to a big house with a gate, but the man says not to go up there. She goes in anyway. Tom throws a rock and knocks her out.

Daphne wakes up in the Tom’s trapping cabin. He’s not very nice and smacks her around. She gives him the knee and then runs away straight into an old man. He invites her inside that old house behind the gate. He asks her where she left the car and has creepy servant Ayah prepare a room for her. He says sometimes the fog persists for days. He’s Doctor Lawrence, and he talks about his dead wife.

In the kitchen we see Ayah throwing out Tom, who’s hanging around causing trouble. Lawrence plays violin for Daphne. Lawrence explains that Tom is his gardener, and he sends Tom out looking for Billy, who should probably be returning to the car soon. Tom finds Billy asleep in the car and pushes it over a cliff. Tom laughs and takes dead-Billy’s cigarette case.

Daphne finds a chapel in the house, and Ayah gets agitated to find her there. Lawrence tells that he spent many years in India, and brought Ayah back with him. He used to be a clergyman, but something “vile and obscene” happened over there that caused his wife to kill herself and his son was corrupted.

Tom returns and claims that Billy left a note that he’s gone home. Daphne takes a bath, and someone watches from a hidden place. She comes downstairs and finds Lawrence praying asking to, “release me from my vow.” That night, after Daphne has gone to bed, Ayah goes upstairs and unlocks a door. Someone with bloody feet comes out and heads straight for Daphne’s room. He stabs her repeatedly.

Later, Tom watches in awe as Ayah cuts up the body for food preparation. When she leaves the room, he steals a piece of Daphne’s body, which he stashes in his cabin. Doctor Lawrence cries in the chapel. He knows what happened. Elsewhere, Geoffrey and Angela are called in by the police to identify Billy’s body. They ask about Daphne, but they didn’t find her body. The policeman takes them to the wreck, and Geoffrey wants to search the area. Angela can’t drive, but she tries and nearly runs over Tom before running off the road.

This time, Angela wakes up in Tom’s cabin. Geoffrey comes back to where he left the car and finds the wreck, but not Angela. Geoffrey finds the house and goes inside. Lawrence and Ayah find him and demand to know why he’s in their house. Lawrence lies that Daphne had been there just a few hours ago but has gone to town by bus. Lawrence says he suspects that Angela took the bus as well. Geoffrey leaves, not satisfied.

Tom tells Lawrence that Angela knows too much. Tom drags Angela to the big house. Elsewhere, Geoffrey’s car is stuck, so he hasn’t really left yet. Geoffrey chases Tom through the swamp and gets stuck in quicksand, but soon, so does Tom. Geoffrey gets out and uses this to his advantage, interrogating Tom before he sinks. He reveals that there’s something in the house that eats human flesh.

Geoffrey confronts Dr. Lawrence about the lies he’s been told. Lawrence catches Ayah doing some kind of “evil rite” and stops her. Geoffrey runs upstairs, but Lawrence cries out “Leave him to me. He’ll kill you!” Geoffrey opens the door upstairs and gets a knife in the forehead.

Ayah pulls the knife out of Geoffrey and gets cooking. Tom, who apparently got out of the quicksand, goes to see Angela. “You’ve got to be nice to me now,” he threatens. She whacks him over the head as “The Ghoul” walks in. The green, bald, blurry man stabs Tom to death and closes in on Angela until Lawrence shoots him several times.

As Angela runs away, Lawrence shoots himself.

Cast

Production

It was the second film produced by Tyburn Film Productions,[2] shot on location at Pinewood Studios, Iver Heath, Buckinghamshire, England from 4 March 1974.[3] According to Veronica Carlson[citation needed], Francis made Cushing do multiple takes during the scene where he talks about his love for his late wife. Having recently lost his own wife, this caused Cushing great distress and reduced him and some of the crew to tears.

Reception

Geoff Brown of The Monthly Film Bulletin wrote: "It comes as a slight surprise to find that Freddie Francis hasn't directed a film called The Ghoul before, but this connoisseur of creeping flesh, deadly bees, skulls and psychopaths now repairs the omission for Tyburn, with his son Kevin acting as producer. To whet our appetite, a dictionary definition is thrust upon the screen ("Ghoul. A person of revolting inhuman tastes"), but for half of the movie Francis keeps his exemplar well out of sight; then he starts to appear from the waist downwards, two blood-stained legs walking around in sandals; in the final minutes the whole body lurches into view, but the mild frisson of horror proves hardly worth the wait. ... only John Hurt injects more than a fraction of life into his character and dialogue, and the clichés quickly dominate: Peter Cushing brings out his violin for a soothing spot of the classics, the local copper mutters veiled warnings before trundling off on his bike, and thick fog swirls round the exterior sets at the drop of a cannister."[4]

Variety praised the "assured acting" and "impressive set decoration" but called the film "far too tame for its own good," with a script that "moves from A to Z without generating much excitement and surprise in between."[5]

TV Guide gave the film two stars out of four, writing that "Cushing and other familiar Hammer faces give this the old college try, but Francis' dull direction--endless shots of Henderson's legs creeping down the stairs--makes the cause hopeless."[6]

The Radio Times Guide to Films gave the film 2/5 stars, writing: "A nice feeling for the 1920s period atmosphere and a crazed performance from John Hurt give this fractured slow-mover a few extra kicks."[7]

Leslie Halliwell said: "The build-up is too slow, the revelation too nasty, and the whole thing is a shameless rip-off of the structure of Psycho."[8]

References

  1. ^ "Interview with Freddie Francis". British Entertainment History Project. 1993–1994.
  2. ^ Flint, David (2 October 2013). "Tyburn Films: A short-lived British horror production company". MOVIES and MANIA.
  3. ^ Jonathan Rigby, English Gothic: A Century of Horror Cinema, Reynolds & Hearn 2000
  4. ^ "The Ghoul". The Monthly Film Bulletin. 42 (492): 155. 1 January 1975 – via ProQuest.
  5. ^ "The Ghoul". Variety: 19. 11 June 1975.
  6. ^ "The Ghoul". TV Guide. Retrieved 10 October 2018.
  7. ^ Radio Times Guide to Films (18th ed.). London: Immediate Media Company. 2017. p. 363. ISBN 9780992936440.
  8. ^ Halliwell, Leslie (1989). Halliwell's Film Guide (7th ed.). London: Paladin. p. 399. ISBN 0586088946.