When I say the sentence: “It’s a SyFy Original movie” does your stomach lurch? Do you immediately recognize the campy, low quality, schlockfest that you’ll be in for should you watch anything brought out by them? Well that same feeling of disappointing dread can now be applied to Chiller Films. Or at least anything that I’ve so far seen by them. Who are Chiller Films? Well they make made for TV movies for the Chiller cable TV station which is the more horror-centric sister station to SyFy. Yep, they are basically one in the same, and sadly that is very evident in this movie which is also sadly the first film adaptation of one of horror author Brian Keene’s books.
Now when I got this new DVD from Image Entertainment in for review I had nothing but the best of intentions towards it. I had no idea that it was Chiller Films production. Furthermore, not only have I read and enjoyed novels by Brian Keene, but I never got around to reading this one, so I was looking forward to watching it. I really was not prejudging this movie in any way. Then things started going downhill right from the start with the horrible cover art showing us a close up of the ghoul. You know, to make sure there was no suspense or mystery behind the titular creature whatsoever. Also, dear lord but did that ghoul look cheesy as hell. Sure, the makeup might win first prize at your next Halloween costume party, but it looked miles away from what should be in an actual movie. Even one made for TV.
Then I got another punch in the gut when the Chiller Films logo came on the screen.
And when the actual movie began to play, I all but wanted to cry.
First let’s get something out of the way. I’ve heard some folks say that Mr. Kneene is a poor man’s Stephen King. I always thought that was a bit harsh, as his stories are good enough to stand on their own and are not simple pastiches. It is obvious to me that he idolizes the longtime fear master, but then what horror fan doesn’t? However this movie is pretty much a Stephen King story, as told by someone’s whose buddy watched a King movie once and then told him about it and now that guy is telling you about it second hand while drunk. Sure there are some differences. I mean, instead of a tale of friendship, plucky kids, facing one’s fears, and growing up in the 1950s, here you get a tale of friendship, plucky kids, facing one’s fears, and growing up in the 1980s. Hmmm, maybe that wasn’t the best example of the differences. I mean it’s not like this movie has a complete bastard of a charter that is so over the top as to be cartoonish? Oh wait … Okay, but does everything here have that small town feel? Okay, does the story often go into the deep dark secrets of that town unnecessarily? Oh well at least here there’s not certifiably crazy Christians, so that’s something. Quickly, let’s move on.
The story of Ghoul focuses on three kids who are friends. There’s the “average” one from the normal family that you’re supposed to relate to, the one from a bad family who gets daily beatings from his scene-chewing father, and the overweight misfit one who gets molested by his mother. Yes, you read that correctly. This movie shoehorns in some icky unpleasantness that really doesn’t add a whole lot to the story and is just there to make us go ewwww, I guess. Whatever, the kids will soon cross paths with the local legend, the titular ghoul.
For those of you that don’t know, ghouls usually eat corpses, and this one seems at first to be cut from the same cloth as it lives in a series of tunnels underneath the local graveyard. The same graveyard where the trio of boys often go to play in. However, not content to just munch on corpses, this ghoul likes to venture out of his warren to attack people all slasher movie style with nets, knives, and even camouflaged ghillie suits. Hmmm, there seems to be more to this ghoul than meets the eye. Well of course there is and naturally it will be up to the three kids to save the town from the murderous monster. And really, the story is as cut and dry as that. Oh there is perhaps one surprise at the end, but it’s handled so poorly in this movie that all it caused was laughs and not gasps. Maybe it was handled better in the book, if the book has the same ending as this movie, but here it was rather ridiculous.
Combine this lackluster story with unbelievable characters, acting that ranges from TV typical to cringe inducing horrible, poor special effects, by the numbers (at best) direction, a shoehorned setting as nothing here feels like it’s actually in the 1980s, and a distinctly made for television look to everything and you have a movie that lives up to the moniker: a SyFY … oh, excuse me, a Chiller Films original.
Befitting a movie of this caliber, Image Entertainment has chosen to release it only on DVD and then only with a single special feature, a rather so-so behind the scenes featurette. That’s it, that’s all you get here. But really, all the special features in the world could not make this turkey of a film any more worth purchasing. No, Ghoul isn’t offensively bad, it’s just bland as unadorned white bread and about as tasty. As such, I can’t recommend this movie to anyone.