Friday, October 12, 2018

The Halloween List: Ghoul & Erased

Previously: Thelma, Annihilation, and The Endless

We're taking a brief break from movies today to spotlight two Horror miniseries. One is from India, about terrors occult and governmental. The other is an anime that brings terror into Time Travel. Need something to binge this Saturday?

Ghoul (2018)

In a dystopic future, India has divided into multiple states, some secular, and some religious, cracking down with strict censorship rules. It’s all intended to reduce terrorism and general violence. It has all failed, and the fascistic government continues burning children’s books and searching random civilians to send to black site prisons. Ghoul takes place at one of those black site prisons, where the latest prisoner and interrogation subject has more than knowledge. He’s possessed by a demon that wanted to get in.

It feels like an overdue topic for Horror, which prides itself on grasping reality’s sharp edges. Black sites are real nightmares, scarier than any serial killer. The prospect of the torture crew that runs such a place being mentally toyed with and haunted by an invasive presence could carry its own movie. The tensest scenes are brilliantly constructed, like a power outage during which one worker tries to see around a torture chamber with the minuscule illumination of a blow torch. The show has ample tricks to fill up its few episodes, building to an ending that had my little group cheering.

Ghoul makes good on the catharsis of putting torturers in their place, and brings in the compelling narrative of Nida (played by Radhika Apte), a woman who serves the government and unintentionally sent her father to this very black site. He’s since gone missing, and she’s been assigned to serve, while also looking out for where he went. Answering that mystery intersects with what the ghoul wants. Any search is about to be thrown off by paranormal activity, but that’s what we ordered, isn’t it?

At three episodes, each about 45 minutes long, Ghoul is easy to watch in a single sitting. It’s surprising that it was originally a web series, as the quality of cinematography and writing is above the par of anything in that space that I’ve ever seen. It’s easily up to snuff with the average Netflix show, although the shorter run time makes it tighter. With two cliffhangers and a conclusion, it begs to be watched in a single sitting, especially since it keeps wrapping back reveals from plot points as early as its opening minute.

This is a great miniseries that went criminally overlooked when Netflix gave it a September release. Since then, Netflix has been pushing Maniac and The Haunting of Hill House instead. But Ghoul is well-acted, well-paced, and just gets more fun as it goes along. It definitely belongs in some October watch lists.

Erased (2016)

Erased is like Quantum Leap going after a serial killer. Satoru grew up in a neighborhood that was plagued by a serial killer, causing the grim disappearances of several of his classmates. He grew up into a twenty-something failure, working at a pizzeria with middling life prospects, with the unspoken question of whether it wouldn’t have been better if another child had survived. Yeah; the show is extremely Japanese. Satoru’s saving grace is that sometimes he goes five minutes back in time, always with the chance to fix something that went wrong for others.

But Satoru has a chance encounter with what seems to be the same serial killer who plagued his childhood. After a terrible turn of events, Satoru becomes a suspect for the new murders and has nowhere to go.

Nowhere except the past.

Rather than five minutes, Satoru is suddenly plunged all the way back to his childhood. With no one but other children who might listen to him, he has to try to track down who the killer was, to stop them and potentially save his childhood friends, as well as the people who will die in the future. 

Here the show mixes bits of Horror and Detective genres; the middle portion particularly feels like a more sincere Detective Conan, with more heart, bloodier stakes, and a greater appreciation for the suffering of the vulnerable. Uncovering what links the victims means seeing inside of lives that were normally shrouded. Satoru never knew about isolation, absent parents, or abuse. These are things he might want to fix, but they could distract from saving lives.

It’s a tenuous balance that allows the show to fall into sterling pacing. It always has another victory, tragedy, or great reveal to drop on you right before the credits hit. The endings of its arcs tie together so that it never has to rely on cheap cliffhangers. It’s all about the struggle and progression, creating one of the most thrilling Horror anime I’ve ever watched. I’m skimping on details because discovery in the show is so clutch.

At twenty minutes per episode, it’s an easy show to binge this weekend or over  a single Halloween evening.

Come back Monday for Unfriended: Dark Web, Office, and Calibre

1 comment:

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