I think at the end of the day the reason people will dislike “Ghoul” are for the reasons I really liked it. “Ghoul” isn’t so much a horror movie about an actual ghoul, but about the horrors of growing up in and around dysfunction. For many this film will be especially off putting since the whole notion of an actual ghoul is put in to the basic back burner in exchange for character focus and exposition galore. I for one am a sucker for coming of age tales, and “Ghoul” is an especially powerful one that focuses on three young boys in the middle of the eighties and their attempts to uncover a horrific secret their local forest is hiding.
Most of “Ghoul” is comprised of our young boys exploring their world and finding out that there are some particularly horrific individuals waiting in the darkness, all of whom are prepared to steal their innocence and taint their youths. One of the best performances of the film is by young Nolan Gould who is quite good as Timmy Graco, a well adjusted young man who is bold enough to stand up to even the most intimidating bullies and charges in head first when he discovers local teenagers turning up dead. Most of “Ghoul” is about how these young boys deal with this carnage all around them and how it affects them and their parents in the long run. The murders and seemingly random kidnappings stirs something inside the boys parents, all of whom have their own personal demons they still haven’t confronted.
Very much in the tradition of Stephen King, the story essentially sets down on a town that hasn’t dealt with its shady past, and this eventually comes back to bite them once they notice the pattern of the mysterious crimes is directly linked to the past. This spawns an investigation within the boys who have to find a way to escape their own destructive family lives in order to solve this crime and hopefully save someone from being hurt again. “Ghoul” is filled with atmosphere and suspense and makes the crimes quite intense, especially when it becomes hard to distinguish if someone is pulling off these crimes or if there’s an actual monster on the loose. Sadly, one of the major caveats of “Ghoul” that completely bogs it down is the finale in which we learn the origin of the killer and are never told why the individual is committing their crimes.
There’s no reason why girls are being kidnapped and stored underground, there’s never a reason why certain people are being killed, and there’s no absolute reason why the father of the three main protagonists is helping in the crimes. The climax is completely left unresolved and utterly unanswered so it’s tough to sympathize with the carnage when there isn’t a single rhyme or reason why what we’re seeing on-screen is happening. I’ve read this movie adaptation of the book strays from the source material greatly, which is a shame, but as a loose adaptation it’s quite the watch, even if the final half drops the ball completely. Though the cast performances are good and the suspense is volatile, the final half makes no sense and has no reason for even existing. Which is a shame, because with more answers and terror, “Ghoul” could have been a bang up horror film.