Ghoul (2012): A Disturbing Goonies-Like After-School Special

Yell! Magazine’s review of Ghoul:

Any horror lit nerds in the house? Well, I’m one. Generally speaking, book-to-movie adaptations catch my eye – especially when they’re not very well known. Ghoul is based on a book of the same name by Bram Stoker-Award-recipient Brian Keene, who usually has quite a flair for zombie lit. His more recognizable tomes are The Rising and City of the Dead, but Ghoul presents us with a little more than zombie fiction, in both print and on reel.

Ghoul 2012 Picture

The opening credits are arguably the most gripping aspect of this film. Savor them while they last, because it’s going to be a while before you get any more stimulation. School is out and summer’s just begun. Timmy Graco (Modern Family‘s Nolan Gould) and his two best friends — chubby kid Doug (Jacob Bila, who looks like the chubby kid from Modern Family, but isn’t), and creepy child labor-law pushin’/grave-digging Barry (Trevor Harker) — are about to have the summer of their lives. The boys have built a conveniently cemetery-located secret underground clubhouse that they call the dugout and they’re planning on being like the far more dysfunctional version of the Goonies, which might be the best way to sum up this movie – but let’s keep going, just for shits and grins.

Ghoul (2012) Picture

Our protagonists are plagued with your average childhood problems: Doug is morbidly obese, they get chased by stray dogs, the creepy friend has the abusive town drunk for a father… you know, kid stuff. And Timmy (our central character), well his problem seems to be that his dad expects him to do his chores — and his shitty friends. More to the point, Timmy’s cool old grandpa dies within the movie’s first 15 minutes. Grandpa’s death should have set the tone for the rest of the movie, but just like the opening credits, it’s one of the rare and short-lived plot-advancing things that happens.

However, good news for Timmy: Grandpa’s death means fewer chores. Hurray! Two local teenagers go missing, “Beware the ghoul” is written on one of the headstones in the cemetery, and thus our story begins.

Alright, I’m gonna be straight with you guys: I didn’t know what the hell this movie was about when I sat down to watch it. I really only knew that it had been a book by Brian Keene — and for some reason that was enough to pique my interest despite having only read one of Keene’s books (to my shame, it wasn’t either book listed above). I have to say that I was a little disappointed because based on my one reading experience I’d had with Keene, I really expected more out of this movie. What I got was something that was undoubtedly way better in print than on film.

Ghoul 2012

In terms of the movie adaptation, I feel like this was one of those plot-driven movies that tried to push boundaries and got a little off the mark. Spoiler alerts! Somewhere along the line, shit got real for our child characters. Barry gets the snot beat out of him by his loving father and Doug admits to Timmy that his alcoholic mother molests him on a nightly basis. You start to wonder, “Timmy, how are you attracting these screwed up friends? Do you murder cats under the front porch?”

I think that the point that was being driven home is that humans are really the monsters. We have a good deal of small-town mythology mixed in with these little plot points and ultimately it gets somewhat confusing in the middle — you’ll have long moments of stagnant nothing in Ghoul, and then something will happen, and… Really, it should have been a mini-series to explain things a little better.

The Verdict: [rating:1.5]

Ghoul may have tried a little too hard to be a coming-of-age horror story. I feel like it should be an after-school special for the deeply disturbed. And the movie ends on a strangely heartwarming note. Breaking taboos certainly isn’t Ghoul‘s strong suit.

Ghoul 2012

I’ll point out, however, that the child actors in act their little rumps off. They’re way better than a good deal of the adult actors, and if they’re lucky, they’ll either get out of show biz while they’re still cute or Ghoul will become a blip on their “embarrassing movies I did to break into the business as a child” radar. If they’re even luckier, they can all avoid the necessary cocaine/alcohol binges and rehab.

The blood and gore in Ghoul isn’t strong or gripping; it’s more like it’s there because it has to be there, and for no other reason — just like sex in a fundamentalist Christian relationship, only being had for the reason of procreation, and in the missionary position to boot. Too far?

The three things that all of us can take away from Ghoul are: 1. Small towns are effed up, no matter what. 2. Two out of three kids have abusive parents. 3. Slow-moving plots are worse than slow-moving zombies.

Ghoul (2012) Poster large
Yell! Rating (x/5 Skulls):
Year Released:
13 April 2012
Gregory Wilson
Nolan Gould, Andrea Frankle, Chelsea Bruland, Brett Lapeyrouse, Glen Warner, Teresa Alvarez, Crystal Rivers, Tim Bell, and Mattie Liptak
Drama, Horror, Thriller
Official URL:

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