DVD Review: Ghoul

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Image Entertainment, still heavily into the direct to video horror scene, shipped out another slice of their growing horror pie called “Ghoul”, and this one certainly looks like it might prove unique. Looks, however, have deceived before and in both directions, so let’s check out what’s on tap for us tonight.

“Ghoul” takes us back to 1984, an era when Reaganomics were just getting started, really, when the horrors of the Carter Administration seemed like a nightmare receding before the first spray of dawn. But for 12 year old Timmy and his best friends, a whole new kind of nightmare is about to land. A teenage couple out for a night of passion amidst the gravestones of the local cemetery goes missing, and a local legend seems less like a legend and more like cold, stark reality. But are three 12 year olds enough to tackle the horror of a bloodthirsty ghoul? Or will the ghoul’s reign of terror continue unchecked, minus a few snoopy kids?

Interestingly, this is a Chiller Films release, which marks only the second such release I’ve ever heard of. The first was the movie version of Steve Niles’ comic series “Remains”, and now we have the movie version of the Brian Keene novel “Ghoul”. While “Remains” did all right, “Ghoul” would not fare anywhere near so well.

When the first three minutes of “Ghoul” can introduce me to the absolutely shoddiest animated series I’ve ever seen–I’ve seen cartoons from the eighties, folks, and they did not look like this talking dog monstrosity put before us, so don’t chalk this one up to “eighties cartoons were that bad”–I figured something was up. And things wouldn’t get much better from there. Is there something going on in this town? Is there one member of everyone’s family that’s a boozy wreck? Is years of ghoul urine sneaking into the town’s water supply and making the occasional warped chromosome?

Frankly, this is a lot more…graphic…than I ever expected a television movie to be. But then again, it’s really not very graphic at all. It’s kind of an implied graphic nature that makes it unusually strong stuff, and yet, at the same time, it’s almost like it’s trying too hard. Yet at the same time, it also does a pretty poor job of actually reaching a conclusion. It’s set up some very powerful plot points, yet it doesn’t do much to resolve them. The swings are pretty impressive, but the follow-through is minimal. Sadly, terribly minimal.

Special features here will be oddly lacking, with a behind the scenes featurette being the only extra in the pack. Once again, the hearing impaired are snubbed, with no provisions made for subtitling, and that’s never good news.

“Ghoul” is an interesting enough idea, but the execution is pretty deeply lacking. It’s a shame, too; there’s nothing like a good monster story to put a perk in a long cold night. But sadly, this is nothing like one.

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  • Shawn Kotzen

    I watched this piece of trash and am still mad, and it’s several days later. I read the book and loved it (Keene is one of my faves), but the movie was ghoul-awful… SPOLIER AL…. ah who cares… In the book the ghoul is really a supernatural creature and not a stupid, trapped miner/sexual deviant and there is no fat kid with a Long Island accent who’s mother touches him – that’s the first thing. The second is… ahhh, I don’t have time for this. What a rip-off. What a sham. Ghoul isone step below Troll 2, without the fun.

    • Steve Anderson

      Ah, you’re preaching to the choir. That was about how I felt the first time I saw John Carpenter’s Vampires. It was nothing like Vampire$, and frankly, it was a shame. Allen Steakley can do some great stuff, and so can John Carpenter, but the two together just did not work. Still, I don’t think Ghoul was Troll 2-grade bad, but when you’ve read the book, it’s got some extra significance.

      • Steve Anderson

        Apologies; I meant John Steakley.