“Ghoul” trails the fictional American crew of an ill-conceived television pilot about 20th century cannibalism. As the troupe arrives in Ukraine to investigate remnants of the 1930s Holodomor, a real-life mass extermination by famine during which cannibalism was rampant, the real-life Ukrainian serial killer Andrei Chikatilo becomes the film’s Blair Witch.
The TV crew commissions a shady fixer, Valeriy (Vladimir Nevedrov), to set up an interview with cannibal suspect Boris (Yuriy Zabrodskyj). After testing a makeshift Ouija hidden under the tablecloth, psychic Inna (Inna Belikova) announces that they are stranded in a haunted house.
This Czech production, co-written and directed by Petr Jákl, could pass for American not only because of its largely English-speaking cast but also because of the Hollywood gimmicks the film employs. Since the release of “The Blair Witch Project” in 1999, the media landscape has changed considerably with the proliferation of reality television, YouTube and smartphones. For the found-footage approach not to seem like such as cliché, it has to evolve with technology and the times, as seen in a recent episode of “Modern Family.”
It doesn’t help that the main characters in “Ghoul” are aspiring filmmakers who can’t seem to differentiate documentary from home movie, broadcast news or reality television. Similarly, “Ghoul” can’t decide whether it should be about cannibals, serial killers, ghosts or demons. The found footage trivializes rather than reflects the horrific events that serve as the film’s basis.
MPAA rating: None.
Running time: 1 hour, 26 minutes.
Playing: At AMC Puente Hills 20, city of Industry.