Tuesday, July 26, 2011


By Chris Engberg

Some movies are so inexplicably inept in their message and delivery that they fall into the swamp of a category: “For Some Reason.” Written, Directed, and Produced by Timothy O'Rawe, “Ghoul School dives into that swamp and quickly thickens the water into a vat a festering sewage. Listen, I am fully aware this was intentionally made to be campy and fun and funny—but it wasn't and I'm about to rip this off its spool.

As soon as you put the tape in, music starts playing—even over the FBI warning! This leads into a very bizarre and long computer animated title sequence, which is blindingly cheap even by 1990 standards. The top billed credit goes to Joe Franklin, followed by minutes of no ones, and capped off by a “special guest appearance” by Jackie “The Joke Man” Martling. The extent of his Howard Stern alumni’s “special appearance” will be noted later.

The title sequence and song – which sounds like it was from a gothy Super Nintendo game – actually made me think this could be cool. Seconds into the movie I knew we were in trouble when the first two shots were loooong, lingering shots of the outside of a high school building. It immediately conjured one of my favorite Mystery Science Theater 3000 lines: “They're establishing the hell out of that building!” Down in the school’s boiler room, we’re introduced to a big old fat janitor in mid-romance with demon liquor, though he stumbles around more like Chris Farley on heroin. Which I guess is redundant. Anyway, he stuffs some money into a lock box on the wall and then morphine-shuffles over to his cot, which is an odd single achievement in realism within this movie. All high school janitors live in the boiler room. This is just a fact -- from Freddy Krueger to the black janitor in “Hiding Out.”

Two dropout junkie fruitcakes with a vocabulary that consists 50% of the words “fuck” and “shit” have caught wind of this money stash and decide to rob the school at the end of the day, which quickly leads one of the robber clods to shoot the gas huffing janitor while he's tied up because they can't find the money. As a gag, the shooter presses a button on the wall and says something along the lines of “hey, what's this do?” causing the other robber to scream “NOOOOOO!!!” The thieves are then very, very slowly misted with some bullshit chemical the school keeps on hand for some reason and leaves accessible by a single unmarked button.

This mystery mist contaminates the school's water supply, so anyone who comes in contact with it becomes, from what Max tells me, a shitty knockoff of one of Lamberto Bava’s Demons, with blue skin, green blood, and long, sharp teeth. The swim team is the “main” source of misfiring humor, the running quip being that THERE'S TOO MUCH CHLORINE IN THE WATER! Oh my stars, you got us, joke-not-funny-enough-even-for-Prairie-Home-Companion.

The heroes of the movie are two horror nut AV nerds whom we first meet at home, where they are harassed over breakfast by an unexplained step-brother/roommate/bully character. They never really touch on what the deal is with this guy, but he’s written so poorly that you feel okay with the fact that they never touch on him again. Our protagonists both wear Jackie “The Joke Man” Martling t-shirts along with 18 other people in the movie. One of these fools distinguishes himself by affecting his mouth to look like Bill Murray's character in “Caddyshack” without all that, you know, ability to be funny. These two dinguses sit in class reading both Fangoria and Slaughter House, so you'd think that when zombies show up later, they'd shoot them in the fucking head, but, for some reason, they don't. After school they stay late to jerk each other off in the AV room watching extreme horror movies.

Cut to Joe Franklin sitting in his infamous office packed with stacks of sheet music and ephemera. Here, we’re treated to a brief telephone conversation with the principal of Ghoul School, who thanks Mr. Franklin for speaking to the kids at an assembly. There is no one better to talk to high schoolers than Joe fucking Franklin. Sadly, the best thing about this movie is Franklin’s seemingly annoyed state at having to actually shoot these scenes. He seems especially perturbed when “special guest star” Jackie “The Joke Man” Martling finally graces the screen. Martling attempts to pitch himself to be on Joe's show, so we then sit through about three minutes of Jackie's one-liners – jump cuts and all – as Joe Franklin attempts to mask his beast-like rage with politeness.

That’s the extent of Jackie’s onscreen appearance, though this flick is otherwise packed with shit tons Martling’s t-shirts, posters, a comedy tape, and stickers (one of which is seen in an air duct – actually kinda funny). My theory is he agreed to appear in the movie for free in exchange for godless amounts of product placement. Joe comes back much later in the movie, much to my surprise, on another call to the school's principal clearly ad libbing his way out of another engagement at the school, only to punctuate it with a theory that there might be something in the water as he's feeling “very peculiar” and insists the water supply be tested. Joe knows his shit, I guess. This also gave me the SLIGHT hope that we might get to see Joe Franklin in zombie makeup. Of course that doesn't happen.

The box’s tagline that reads “Sex! Babes! Rock n Roll!” and yet this film is a never-ending desert without any oasis of nudity. Not even a mirage. Shitty film making 101 is that women without integrity or intelligence are usually much cheaper to come by and they will get naked for a steak dinner. I don’t understand how they came at us with this crap without any sacrificial breasts. We were not appeased. However, we do get some bullshit metal band, the Blood Sucking Ghouls, rehearsing in the school auditorium for the prom – a gig that has the singer's octogenarian girlfriend up in arms in between public makeout sessions and tepid arguments about managing the band. As they repeatedly play their one song, the editor could not be bothered to attempt to sync up any footage to any convincing playing, partly because none of them can play. The drummer looked like a stoner who was asked to perform brain surgery—just throwing his arms around. The AV nerds and the mooks in the band eventually join forces in a fight for survival. Other unmentionables include a pointless subplot of the basketball team only having five dudes on the entire team and the dickhead coach forcing them to practice all night. I guess he should because none of those twerps could make a single basket. They all end up being slaughtered. I think this was the scene where a true maverick of a zombie decides to chainsaw a guy in the crotch, instead of the tearing limb from limb seen everywhere else. The movie ends with the lead singer of The Blood Sucking Ghouls' elderly girlfriend, safely on the roof as the rest of these miscreants run out into the city, which is now all zooed out. Everyone dies and no one cares, except for the tough grandma on the roof shrieking “NOOOOOOOO”, because I sure as hell did not.

Check out the trailer. Amazingly, this thing makes this thing look a million times better than it actually is.

Prolific “auteur” in the genre of this bullshit, David DeCoteau, has an executive producer credit on this slugfest, yet "Ghoul School" makes his standards look Leone-esque by comparison. This may dwell in the scraggily barrel that DeCoteau built, but O’Rawe’s caustic terribleness corrodes the bottom out of it. DeCoteau is also listed as “uncredited” on IMDB, despite being violently credited on the tape itself. Let's just chalk that up to this movie's TMOQ.

Completely unrelated, Nintendo produced a video game entitled "Ghoul School" in 1992, which has become a minor cult hit amongst gamers. In spite of its glithces, it's also way better than the movie.

No comments:

Post a Comment