Judge Paul Pritchard doesn't appreciate little green men chasing voluptuous teens through the woods. That's his job.
He Wants You…Badly.
"No child shall be safe, when the sun rises on Samhain."
Facts of the Case
Goblin opens in the town of Hollowglen on October 31st, 1831. When a deformed baby is tossed into a fire as part of a bizarre ritual, its mother, the town witch no less, curses those that have wronged her. For no sooner has she uttered her words, then from the fires rises a murderous goblin to seek revenge for the sins of the townsfolk by killing them and their young offspring.
Jump forward to the present day, and Neil Perkins (Gil Bellows, The Shawshank Redemption) and his family arrive in Hollowgen to set up home there. Their arrival, which conveniently coincides with the anniversary of the Goblin's murderous rampage, is met with much concern by the townsfolk—particularly due to them having a baby amongst their flock. Soon the goblin returns for his annual visit, and Nick and his family quickly discover that he has his sights set on their youngest.
A limited budget needn't mean a limited imagination, yet Goblin is a film hamstrung by a distinct lack of invention which, it seems, is a direct result of a lack of funds. For when Goblin isn't focusing on the eponymous beastie, it flounders for ways to flesh out its running time. So, in the place of real scares and a memorable screen bogeyman, we get to spend the first half of the film enjoying the Perkins' family's problems play out on screen. Having seen her father remarry, and being not best pleased with it, we get a good 45 minutes of "You're not my real mom" whining from teenage daughter Nikki, whilst stepdaughter Cammy (Erin Boyes) sets out to earn a reputation with the town's male population. Occasionally—usually just about in time to remind the viewer that they are actually watching a horror movie—the film remembers to bring up the curse, usually by replaying the film's opening sequence whilst one of the yokels recounts the tale.
The most obvious failing of Goblin is writer Raul Inglis' decision to turn what could have been a vaguely interesting supernatural tale into a teen slasher movie. Make no mistake: despite the paranormal element to the film, there's nothing fantastical about the onscreen events. If it weren't for the occasional shot of the goblin's face (a poorly rendered CGI creation if ever I saw one), it could be pretty much anyone underneath the black cowl he wears (to cover the shoddy special effects?) while chasing teen girls through the woods. Perhaps a more focused villain—i.e., one who stuck to his baby killing purpose—would have been more effective? The film's emphasis on gore over atmosphere is a huge and ultimately fatal mistake. I appreciate a good dollop of gore as much as the next man (as long as he likes gore by the barrel full), but a horror movie—particularly a low-budget release—should, nay must, put an emphasis on creating a foreboding air of menace. Even if Inglis, and director Jeffery Scott Lando must insist on turning in a slasher movie, they need look no further than titles such as Halloween and The Strangers to see how to create genuine terror with little money or effects work. Too often events are played out in broad daylight, when everyone knows that effective use of shadows and the unseen are key to raising tension levels. Put simply, there is nothing even remotely frightening about Goblin, which lacks even cheap jump scares to quicken the viewer's pulse.
Adding insult to injury is the fact that, bar a couple of town misfits, nobody appears to put much stock into the story of the curse—despite the Goblin's killing sprees being an annual event. Some of this reluctance to accept the legend is explained away in a twist (of sorts) during the film's final act, but this proves just as limp and unsatisfying as what has come before.
Finding the positives in a film like Goblin isn't easy. The cast are uniformly poor, with even the seasoned Bellows failing to rise above the mediocrity, while even those who are just looking to Goblin for a few cheap thrills will be left sorely disappointed. Despite a Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky-style bout of skull crushing, the kills are uninspired, and much like everything else the film has to offer—including the deathly dull mythos surrounding the goblin—you're left wondering whether the time and resource put into the film couldn't have been put to better use elsewhere. With all that said, Goblin isn't a completely horrible movie. It's a one-star stinker for sure, but it is at least just about watchable, and shot with some degree of competence with a coherent plot. Not much of an upside I know.
No extras are included on the DVD, unsurprisingly, while the movie is presented in a solid 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer, which is complemented by a 5.1 soundtrack that makes good use of the rear speakers.
For those familiar with other titles from the Syfy Original Movies stable, Goblin should offer few surprises, being a similarly uninspired effort. It is a cheap, cliché-ridden slice of genre cinema that drags from start to finish, and though that may suit late-night cable TV, it has no place in your DVD collection.
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