Television Review: Ghoul
· Gregory M. Wilson
· Nolan Gould
· Jacob Bila
· Trevor Harker
· CJ Wilson
· Catherine Mary Stewart
· Dane Rhodes
· Catherine Curtain
· Barry Corbin
· Tim Bell
· Mattie Liptak
· Zack Rand
· Veronica Hampson
· Andrea Frankle
· Official Website
· Official Channel Website
by Dennis Russo
Published: April 8, 2012
Ghoul is the second all new original movie by the Chiller channel and will air Friday Night April 13th at 9pm Est. It is based on a novel by acclaimed writer Brian Keene and stars Modern Family's Nolan Gould (interesting that a movie called Ghoul would star someone named Gould). It centers around 12 year old Timmy Graco (Gould) and his 2 friends Barry Smeltzer (Trevor Harker) and Doug Kelser (Jacob Bila) who live in a small town and have a clubhouse underground instead of up in a tree.
When 2 young lovers disappear, the friends learn of the "legend" of a ghoul that supposedly haunts the cemetery that they play in, and start to wonder if the Ghoul could be real.
Watching the opening scenes I felt a nice mood of uneasiness that one would hope to expect to feel when watching a movie with the title of "Ghoul." However all was lost as soon as the actors started speaking their lines. I have not seen such stale delivery of lines since Dudley Manlove (Eros) in 1956's "Plan 9 From Outer Space."
As the movie progressed, I realized the children were doing a much better job of acting than the grownups. So much so I began to think maybe it is not all of the actors' fault; perhaps it is the dialog they are given to speak. I found this to be true in some instances, as some of the worst acting offenders in the movie actually gave some pretty believable delivery.
The more I watched the movie, the more I became confused about what was going on. The movie at no time seemed scary to me, and I felt the plot was poorly developed. Many scenes were almost childlike in their construction. In one scene, Timmy (Gould) is out tending to a garden with his grandfather (Barry Corbin). His friend Doug (Bila) comes riding by on his bicycle and asks him to come with him to their clubhouse. Timmy says he can't because he has to help his grandfather. His Grandfather seeing that Timmy wants to go, tells Timmy he can go (coughing unconvincingly, twice, in the middle of the sentence), and that he can finish because he needs the exercise. They go, and after just a short time we hear Timmy's mother Elizabeth Graco (Catherine Mary Stewart) calling for him. Not to give away any spoilers, but she's looking for him to tell him that his grandfather has died. (Guess the cough was fatal). One of the many things I did not understand was: If he died, how did she know where to look for him, since he was the only one who knew where he went and she did not know about the clubhouse? This sort of discontinuity is rampant throughout the movie. We are not treated to a lot of "we are here now and this is how we got here"
In fact we are not given a lot of back-fill to make any conclusion about who the Ghoul might be, other than a short past reenactment of an accident in which we get an account of what a miner saw and the firt possibility of what the Ghoul might look like.
The physical motions/emotions of the actors was so bad at times that at no point was I ever scared of what was going to happen next, because I was laughing inside at them. At one point Timmy (Gould) was crying (it almost looked like the director was off camera telling him to look sad and almost cry) at his grandfather's wake; he had the same look on his face through several scenes, both in the funeral parlor at at the grave site. It was so artificial looking, I laughed as the scenes changed and he didn't. I will say this though: to his credit, at least he showed emotion; no one else in any of those scenes showed any sign of sadness.
Other discontinuities existed in three other characters, supposedly bullies. Ronnie (Zack Rand), Steve (Mattie Liptak), and Sammie (Veronica Hampson) just appear in a scene. We can tell that they don't like our heroes, and they know of their hidden club house, but they don't know where it is. Who they are and just why they don't like them we are never told. We really don't know if they are good kids or bad kids, really, although Sammie -- a tomboy -- has the typical open plaid shirt over a t-shirt with hat worn backwards to make her look "tough."
In another scene the boys are attacked by a big dog (looks like a Rottweiler) for no apparent reason. The dog is referred to a short time earlier as attacking Doug and grabbing him by his pant leg, and this time he comes after all three. Barry (Harker) rises up and repeatedly strikes the dog with a shovel; while not ever really seeing the dog hit, the amount of whimpering the dog is doing is quite upsetting for this dog lover. He struck the dog so many times you'd think it was dead, but instead we see it limping away. We are never told why the dog attacks them. Was it a "hell hound," a pet of the Ghoul? Was it just a stray? Barry's father is seen screaming aloud drunkenly that he's not paid enough for what he's asked to do (obviously shouting out to the Ghoul who is paying him in jewelry off of dead people who were buried), but paid for what? Does he allow the Ghoul to eat dead bodies? I was never able to find out. We see a scene, shortly after the first attack of the ghoul, of a woman walking in a bedroom from the shoulders down in a nightgown holding a knife and a bottle of alcohol. Could this be the Ghoul? We see her climb into bed with Doug! We are never told.
We are treated to a little back story on the home life of Timmy's friends Doug and Barry. As it turns out, Barry's dad, Clark Smeltzer (Dane Rhodes) is the cemetery's caretaker, and as the movie develops, he becomes an integral part of the storyline (what there is of it). He is also an alcoholic (we sort of learn why in the second of the two back story vignettes in the movie) and a physically abusive husband and father. Doug, it turns out has a father who left him (although he still feels he's coming back) and a mother who sexually abuses him at night because she needs a man. (This explains why she climbed into bed with him earlier but really... in a made for TV movie!?)
There are a couple of other attacks by the Ghoul, but nothing done in a way that I would consider gruesome, scary or horrific.
Some of the lines Timmy (Gould) has to recite are borderline unbelievable and reminiscent of lines I've heard in "Plan 9." (I know I keep referring back to this movie, but I just see so many similarities between the two). In one such instance, he tells his friends that they have to kill the Ghoul and that the comics he reads explain how to kill them because they are based on real things that have happened.
I'm not wanting to "spill the beans" too much on the little bit of suspense that actually happens in the movie. Let's just say that the ending was anti-climatic compared to what we have come to expect in films of this nature.
I really did have high hopes for this movie, but ultimately it fell flat. The overall feeling that I got was that it was thrown together quickly without a lot of thought given to how good the screenplay or finished product was. It was just too inconsistent, too poorly composed, too anti-climactic, with too many loose ends... too non-horror for me. Perhaps it would have been a better product if it was made to be a two-parter that would have allowed for more character development and plot design. As it is, I am reminded of an old saying that goes something like; "Just because you can doesn't always mean you should." And in this case, they shouldn't have.