Judge David Johnson is never too cool for Ghoul.
Nightmares do come true.
Based on the novel by author Brian Keene, Ghoul is absolutely not what you think. I'll tell you what I thought, when I first laid eyes on the disc cover…Hey, it's The Monster Squad! Three young kids, walking with a purpose, a diabolical monster in the background, and one of the kids appears to be brandishing some sort of makeshift weapon, which he may or may not use on said ghoul. Yes?
No, no, no, no, no, no, no.
At first glance, Ghoul may appear to be a supernatural thriller, but the terrors it spins are far more grounded—and far more discomforting. Timmy (Nolan Gould, Modern Family), Doug (Jacob Bila), and Barry (Trevor Harker) are best friends who stumble upon a disturbing local legend. As the story goes, somewhere beneath the cemetery a ghoul dwells, preying upon passersby unlucky enough to traipse too close. When a young couple goes missing, the whispers start again.
But there are worse monsters out there than urban legends. Each and every day, Doug and Barry endure awful, awful experiences in their homes, as these boys fend off physical and sexual abuse at the hands of their parents. These real-world demons eventually lead the boys onto a path that intersects with the rumored supernatural demon—and it just get worse from there.
Oof…This movie is brutal. And not in a bad way. In the "this is brutal to watch because the subject matter is so unsettling" kind of way. Kudos to director Gregory M. Wilson for feinting one way and going in a completely different direction. Here I was ready for a light-hearted horror romp and instead I get cold-cocked by real world drama.
It's the three boys that deliver the film, each turning in earnest and heart-breaking performances. Though they manage to track down a modicum of empowerment, don't bank on a cheery dénouement. That's not how Ghoul rolls. Its message is crystal-clear: there are real monsters who, walk the Earth and they're not of the made-up fantasy variety.
I'm going to cut this review short, because if any of this sounds interesting I'd be doing you a disservice by expounding more upon it. Just know that Ghoul is relentless in it is harshness and carries that through to its shocking finale. Do no proceed any further, if you'd like to power down your DVD player with the faintest hint of a smile on your face.
Standard-issue DVD: a clean standard def 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, Dolby 5.1 Surround, English closed captioning subtitles, and a behind-the-scenes featurette.
Not Guilty. Also, not a ton of fun.
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Studio: Image Entertainment
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