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Ghoul School

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Release Date: 
Screen Entertainment
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Directed by: 
Timothy O' Raw
Nancy Sirianni
Anthony Scavone
Bottom Line: 

 Bad movies can be fun. Take the works of Ed Wood for instance; despite being incompetent in almost every respect, they've continued to draw an audience who've learned to love them in spite of their shoddiness and the general inept stupidity they often display. Wood's work was never meant to be funny; what makes his movies so hilarious is the total sincerity and po-faced earnestness that went into the making of efforts such as "Glenn or Glenda". This is the secret of the "so-bad-it's-good" effect. Unfortunately, when a poorly made film is actually attempting to be funny, the effect seems to work in reverse, and the results are often excruciatingly dull! Comedy is always a difficult genre to pull off successfully -- so when a badly made film tries and fails to be amusing its faults are only highlighted all the more. This is the case with "Ghoul School" -- an independently made horror comedy that falls well short on almost every count. It was actually made back in 1990; where it has been hidden during the intervening fifteen years and why it has resurfaced now is anyone's guess. One can only hope that director Timothy O' Raw has since learned from his (now) very public mistakes!
O' Raw's debut effort seems to have been inspired by Lamberto Bava's "Demons" and its sequels. These outrageous Italian gore flicks, produced by Dario Argento, displayed a typically Italian disregard for logic or intricacies of plot but were nevertheless, quite entertaining in their brash comic nastiness and have become quite popular over the years. Instead of a cinema or a tower block being used as the confined setting for a plague of ghoulish nastiness, as they were in the first two "Demons" films, O' Raw tries to create a similar scenario in an American high school instead, only with a greater emphasis on comedy. The story sees two criminals holding a school janitor prisoner because he is supposed to know the location of some treasure. In the process of trying to extract the information from him, they accidentally release some toxic waste into the school swimming pool -- thereby turning the swim team (who are training after school hours) into a bunch of blue-skinned flesh eating ghouls!
Why the school janitor has a supply of ghoul-making liquid stored in a drum which feeds directly into the school water supply is never adequately explained, but there is little attention paid to story development in this film despite it using up nearly half of its meager 70 minute run time before it actually gets the ghouls into action. It's hard to imagine how a film could have any more padding than this one: establishing shots seem to go on for an eternity, slowing the pace down to a snails pace; pointless scenes are included which don't appear to have anything to do with the rest of the film, such as a strange sequence (which goes on for about five minutes) in which someone tells a series of bad jokes to a radio DJ; a rock band visiting the school for a gig is shown rehearsing an entire song for about three minutes! This being as bad a film as it is, they are all miming incredibly badly as well! The school basket ball team are shown practising shots for ages by which time the audience is struggling to stay awake! This film will give you the longest 70 minutes of your life!
Once the swim team ghouls go into action, the story concentrates on two high school nerds (played by people who look about ten years too old to be at school) who, after finding a ghoul nibbling on an arm in a toilet cubicle, attempt to rescue the rock band who are trapped in the rehearsal room and escape from the deserted building with them. The acting is uniformly awful across the board. The worst offender is the guy playing the school principle, who is quite clearly reading his lines from a sheet of paper on the desk in front of him most of the time. This would be fine, if not for the fact that he doesn't appear able to read properly anyway! Gore scenes and fight scenes are all very badly staged; continuity is all over the place (the only funny scene in the film is unintentional: a character who is crawling down an air vent drops a cigarette behind her, and when we cut back to her about five minutes later, the cigarette is still in almost the same spot, giving the impression that she has only managed to crawl a few inches during that time!); and to top it all, the film doesn't even have a proper ending! The viewer is required to use their imagination to work out what is supposed to be happening in the final frames; luckily, the director's intentions are so lacking in imagination that this isn't too difficult to figure out. But the real downfall of the film is that it remains resolutely unfunny throughout and is a total chore to sit through. The 1 skull rating is simply for the fact that anybody actually made the effort and turned up to make the film!
The transfer and audio quality of this disc befit the standard of the film itself -- lousy! The transfer looks like it comes from a VHS and is very blurry with visible scan lines running across the image for the entire length of the film. The mono audio track is muffled and sometimes almost inaudible! The disc is bare bones apart from some trailers for other Screen Entertainment titles. "Ghoul School" is a dismal effort all round and is so uneventful that it is probably not memorable enough to even feature on anyone's worst movies list!

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