Announcing that a film is a made-for-SyFy project automatically lowers the bar a little for such standard expectations as believable characters, quality effects and anything generally resembling worthwhile entertainment. SyFy operates on what appears to be quantity over quality when it comes to cranking out their originals, and for all of their of their weaknesses they serve the greater cable good as fodder that can guide a couch potato through two hours (with commercials) of lazy writing and underwhelming visual effects. Yet with Goblin - a 2010 offering from the SyFy factory - the end result is a film that is somehow better than its brethren, though that's not really saying all that much, and is sort of damning it with faint praise.
It's not good, it's just not the worst thing ever assembled under the SyFy banner.
The story is one we've seen before in various incarnations, opening with a prologue sequence set on Halloween eve 1831 in the small town of Hollow Glen where the locals are busy heaving diseased crops into a huge bonfire as part of some ritual to guarantee a good harvest next year. The leader of the pagan-y rites decides it would be a good idea to also lob a misshapen baby into the flames, as well, to apparently help with the gene pool.
After the town elders toss the "abomination" into the fire the baby's mother - who unfortunately happens to be a witch - puts a goblinly Halloween curse on the children of Hollow Glen, resulting in the first of the film's low-rent visual effects; flash forward to "present day" Hollow Glen, the arrival of a family from out of town (led by Gil Bellows as a remarried dad), on Halloween and you have your setup. Plenty of expendable victims, a child-hungry titular character on the loose from sunup-to-sunup on Halloween and a crotchety old-timer (Donnelly Rhodes) who just may not be as crazy as he seems.
Directed in a mechanical by-the-numbers kind of way by Jeff Lando, Goblin jogs along a familiar low-budget horror path, with attempts at jump scares and some gore, rarely stopping for anything approaching character development. I blame that on the uneven quality of the Raul Inglis screenplay, peppered with periodic bursts of almost natural-sounding dialogue amidst highly illogical plot holes concerning the Goblin's vendetta and how it relates to the curse. When creature logic and motivation goes out the window a film loses degrees of credibility - even a horror film about a goblin - and at that point the storytelling just becomes a free-for-all. That lazy wiggle room in the alleged facts is simply there so more victims can be picked off during the course of 90 minutes, leading to the obligatory bad CGI final showdown.
All horror films can live or die by the quality of the creature, and though Lando boldly displays the Goblin in broad daylight much of the time the budget-restricted finished product is less than impressive, often resembling video game graphics from the early 1990s (especially during the critical final act). Much of the time the Goblin resembles a skinny Middle Earth Ringwraith, cloaked in black with the ability to disappear and re-appear at will. As a monster it is unfortunately not particularly terrifying, and a laughable "flying cloak" sequence does little to enhance Goblin street cred. There's some light entrail tossing and a two-handed head crush along the way, but as Lando builds to the climax the visual effects become a hindrance, handcuffing the action with an overwhelming sense of disappointment.
Goblin is a SyFy original, and while marginally better than most it is still flawed. That should tell you all you need to know.
The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer from Lionsgate is quite respectable given the low-budget throwaway roots of this feature. Colors and fleshtones appear natural, black levels are generally strong throughout and despite some soft edges here and there the presentation was rather decent.
Audio options are presented in 5.1 and 2.0 surround, with optional English or Spanish subtitles. Both mixes are quite serviceable - with clean dialogue and modest directional panning - the 5.1 is the winner for style and substance with its pronounced rear channel cues (especially the opening fire sequence).
The only extras included on this disc are a smattering of Lionsgate trailers.
Be forewarned that this isn't a great film, or even necessarily a consistently good one, but it moves quickly along its cliched path, has a decent body count and as a SyFy production it is better than most of its ilk. Whatever than means.
Worth watching on cable if you're nursing a hangover, if your expectations are low and/or you're a fan of SyFy originals.