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Ishika Motawane/Netflix

Netflix import ‘Ghoul’ is powerful horror inspired by Arab folklore

The miniseries riffs on guilt, false patriotism, and John Carpenter.


David Wharton


Posted on Aug 28, 2018   Updated on May 21, 2021, 7:47 am CDT

In the Netflix import Ghoul, Nida (Radhika Apte), a loyal young interrogator working for the Indian government, is assigned to a covert facility where suspected terrorists and anti-government activists are held and questioned. The assignment has a number of personal elements for Nida. Her Muslim background forces her to confront bigotry, suspicion, and even accusations of terrorist sympathies from her fellow soldiers. Worse, she soon confirms that the facility is where her father was sent—but he’s nowhere to found. Soon, Nida’s difficulties become far more complicated as one prisoner begins to manifest seemingly supernatural abilities, powers that may be tied to Arabic folklore and Nida’s own festering sense of guilt.

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Ghoul was written by Patrick Graham, a British writer/director working in the Hindi film and television industry, and co-produced by American horror staple Jason Blum of Blumhouse Productions (Get Out, Insidious). Graham found inspiration for the story in a dream, and while it was originally conceptualized as a film, Graham eventually restructured it as a three-part miniseries and it caught the eye of Netflix.

ghoul review
Ishika Motawane/Netflix

While there are a number of Western players involved, Ghoul is nevertheless very much an Indian film, steeped in local ethnic and political struggles and specifically targeted to criticize blind loyalty to the Indian government and its policies. However, given that much of what it has to say involves condemnations of patriotism as a force for quieting dissent and suppressing individuals who don’t tow the party line, it’s safe to say there are plenty of themes that will feel relevant for many American viewers in particular.

Radhika Apte shines in the lead role, delivering a nuanced performance that encompasses regret, terror, paranoia, and determination throughout the course of the story, all leading up to a bonkers third act wherein Apte gets to go full Ripley and cock a shotgun for dramatic effect before getting down to business. The rest of the cast is similarly solid, and it’s worth switching over to the original Hindi audio track simply to get the full feel of their performances. (Netflix defaults to an English dubbed track in the U.S.)

Graham’s screenplay begins with a burn slow enough that some viewers may start to lose interest if they’re expecting full-bore horror right from the start, but Ghoul is worth sticking out. The three-part structure of the miniseries lends itself well to this escalating tension, with the first act playing out much like a traditional drama or thriller for the most part, then part two amping up the sense of unreality before part three leans into the scares and gore. Things wrap up with a thoroughly satisfying ending that proves worth the wait.

With only three 45-minute episodes, Ghoul is a bite-sized horror treat that blends Thing-style paranoia and terror with a very personal story of one woman coming to terms with her choices and the price her loved ones paid for them. If you’re a horror fan, don’t let the subtitles scare you—let Ghoul do that itself.

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*First Published: Aug 28, 2018, 7:10 am CDT