Brian Keene’s Ghoul is not it. Based on his 2007 paperback and new to DVD, the misleading movie is another of the Chiller cable channel’s in-house films, none of which have impressed me thus far, but continue to get a little bit better with each outing.
What this nice-looking effort has going for it is revealed from frame one: 1980s nostalgia. Set at the start of summer ’84, the movie is awash instantly in reverence for comic books, Saturday-morning cartoons, sugary cereals, Atari cartridges, FM-radio hits and other golden relics of days gone by. The protagonist is even named Timmy, for God’s sake, and he’s played by Modern Family tween Nolan Gould.
Mourning his dead grandfather (old pro Barry Corbin, in and out in a heartbeat, so to speak), Timmy welcomes the distraction of the deep, stinky holes he and his pals find in the ground of the local cemetery. Could these be related to the recent rash of unexplained disappearances in town, attributed to the mythical creature of the title? Of course!
And thus kicks in a hurried blend of elements of The Goonies, Stephen King’s It and, sadly, a soapy subplot that worked better on the page. As Timmy and friends learn, perhaps it’s the monsters in real life who prove more frightening — a topic I’m afraid comes across as comedic with a youthful cast unable to deliver it with conviction.
Gould may be a face recognizable to millions, but he demonstrates no range beyond his weekly TV gig as dumbo Luke Dunphy; the other members of the would-be Monster Squad fare worse. It sinks the filmmakers’ attempts at seriousness, rendering Ghoul as limp as a three-day-old helium balloon.
Read the conveniently reissued book instead. —Rod Lott
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