Burdening the emotional fallout for her act of governmental loyalty, Nida harnesses most of the dramatic weight in the series. She commands the screen, remaining its most electrifying force, and watching the horror play out through her eyes as a suspected heretic raises the stakes, bringing the fear and claustrophobic tension of the setting -- a labyrinthine maximum-security prison where the windows are blacked out and classical music is constantly playing over the loudspeakers -- to the surface.
Horror movies have become more nuanced lately, and Ghoul, while still a thrilling watch, is anything but. It’d be silly to call the ghoul a metaphor for guilt; it’s a literal guilt monster. The final episode’s title -- "Finish the Task, Reveal Their Guilt, Eat Their Flesh" -- rather succinctly summarizes this one’s schtick. The ghoul unearths dark secrets among the characters, throwing the interrogation center into violent chaos as they come to light. Given its lack of subtlety and very straightforward mythology -- spelled out by an aging prisoner with one eye -- Ghoul feels like a throwback monster movie, old-school in its approach, a zombie story with a modernized look but old tropes and story structures.
Ghoul remains judicious in its jump-scares but gratuitous in its violence, some of its scenes verging on torture porn. It wants to unsettle more than it wants to terrify, and it’s mostly successful, playing with sound and lighting in its scarier moments to intensify the the creepiness. The monster itself looks nightmarish but strays from ever being too campy by reigning in any lingering reveals. Its sallow face hovering behind an unknowing Nida evokes the most disturbing shot from Insidious, one of the best monster movies of the past decade. But that’s the thing: Ghoul struggles to stand on its own, and while it doesn’t feel like it’s merely cribbing other works, it still comes off as derivative.