AS SEEN ON SCI FI
So proclaims a sticker on the cellophane wrapping for Ghouls.
I've been a DVD Talk reviewer for close to a year now, and I've been sent enough Sci Fi Channel movies in that time to feel like I could review them in my sleep. Sci Fi Channel movies usually fall into one of two types. Sometimes, they're in the camp with the old adage "it's so bad, it's good." You know the kind: the typical Saturday afternoon low budget creature feature fun. Other times, they're just bad. Period. End of story.
Ghouls doesn't just fall into this latter category - it drops from a great height and lands awkwardly with a resounding thud. Ghouls is by far the most atrocious dreck from Sci Fi that I've been mailed to review. And brother, it wins the horse race over such cinematic assaults as Bone Eater, Flu Birds, and Mammoth.
Man. Where do I even begin? Ghouls follows the exploits of Jennifer, an IPod-listening teen who travels to Eastern Europe with her Dad and his new girlfriend for her grandmother's funeral. While there, she meets Thomas, an overgrown frat boy with a rifle, hand grenades, and an overcoat who's chasing poorly animated CG wraiths that transform into extras in shaggy robes who munch on townspeople who seem to have walked straight off of a set from a 1930s Universal Frankenstein sequel. Apparently, this is the legacy of a millennia-old war between Druids and creatures that ruled the Earth before the dawn of recorded history. Can Jennifer and Thomas finally put an end to this terror?
Trust me. Ten minutes into this film, you won't care about the answer to that question. Flimsy dialogue, cheap effects work, and poorly staged fight sequences are all that you'll find here.
Oh, and the acting! I was actually embarrassed for the thespians earning what I'm sure was a paltry paycheck to show up in front of the cameras for this junk. Sci Fi flicks often dig up has-been actors who once upon a time appeared in a fondly remembered movie or TV show. Ghouls is no exception, unearthing Erin Gray from Buck Rogers to play Liz, Dad's kind new girlfriend. Usually, these actors don't stick around for very long, though, so it should come as no surprise that her character gets offed as soon as her part in the development of the plot has run its course.
Gray is the lucky one.
The two leads have to be in the whole film. James DeBello (the comic relief Bert in Eli Roth's camp classic Cabin Fever) is horribly miscast as action hero Thomas. He seems like he's stumbled onto the scene straight from a drunken fraternity hazing. Faring even worse, however, is Kristen Renton as Jennifer. Renton is attractive, and I'm sure she's a nice person - so I hate saying what I'm about to say. This is the worst lead performance I've seen in a long, long time. Granted, the screenplay (written by a total of four people - how can a group effort still lead to something this bad?) doesn't do her any favors, with its completely awkward and unfunny dialogue. However, Renton's screaming and running in terror is - quite literally - laughable in its ineptness. Her wooden delivery of lines seems to come from the "blank vapid stare" tradition handed down from Maggie Grace in the dreadful remake of The Fog a few years back.
Ultimately, even if you're a connoisseur of bad B-movies, just say no to Ghouls.
Ghouls is given an anamorphic widescreen presentation. Colors seem muted, and the image has a soft feel overall. Video noise is present, and aliasing occurs oftentimes in pan shots.
Two audio tracks, both English language, are available on this disc: Dolby Digital Surround 5.1 and Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0. The 5.1 track appears to be the default. For much of the film, this track seems low, and I played the DVD at a louder setting than normal. However, a couple action sequences, especially at the end, came off comparatively strong. You'll want the remote handy if you really, really must see this movie.
Subtitles are available in English and Spanish.
Trailers precede the main menu for Sukiyaki Western Django, Sharks in Venice, Transsiberian, and Flu Birds. A Previews link in the menu system gives access to these trailers as well as Ghouls, Cyborg Soldier, Kill Switch, and War, Inc.. And that's it for extras.
I honestly felt bad for the people involved in this awful, awful, awful movie. I'm sure they're nice people, and this cinematic violation will remain forever on their records. Do these kind folks a favor and just skip Ghouls.