Monday, March 10, 2008


This 1990 schlockfest from writer/director Timothy O'Rawe was produced under the auspices of Tempe Video, the reigning king of shot-on-tape crap during the early '90s. Unlike most of Tempe's output, GHOUL SCHOOL was shot on film, giving it the feel of a forgotten Troma movie circa CLASS OF NUKE 'EM HIGH. However, like most of Tempe's output, GHOUL SCHOOL is dreadfully dull, stuffed to the gills with flaccid humor and atrocious acting.

After an interminable opening credit sequence with slow-motion title cards (indicative of the movie's pace) that seems to have sprung from an eight-bit video game cartridge, we find ourselves at a New York high school where a pair of letter-jacketed toughs accidentally release a toxic chemical into the school's water supply, turning the swim team into flesh-hungry zombies. (As ridiculous as that sentence sounds, the film's execution thereof renders it ten times worse.) Bearing a slight resemblance to the creatures in Lamberto Bava's DEMONS--in fact, a few shots serve as threadbare recreations of that film--the zombies lurch through the halls, devouring whatever high school stereotype crosses their path; speaking of stereotypes, there's plenty to choose from, from the pair of horror-loving geeks that pose as unlikely heroes (and read SLAUGHTER HOUSE magazine during study hall) to the basketball team that sports more mullets than a Larry the Cable Guy concert. There's also a bad hair metal band practicing on campus, a group so uninspired they can't aspire to cheesiness.

With its witty banter ("Why are you such an asshole?" "Cuz I like to take after you!") that makes the comedies on the CW sound like Aaron Sorkin and loads of unconvincing gore, GHOUL SCHOOL makes for pretty dire viewing. Bland and lifeless, the film sleepwalks from one moment to another; the humans in this flick act more like the undead than the zombies themselves. Particularly jarring in an odd digressive scene in which Jackie "the Joke Man" Martling auditions for Joe Franklin, a sequence that not only has nothing to do with ANYTHING but overflows with shitty jokes to boot, and exists only to show that the filmmakers could wrangle a couple of Z-list cameos.

Barring a fleeting reference or two to THE EVIL DEAD, the zombie scenes suffer from the same inertia as the others; it's pretty sad when a zombie can repeatedly whack a dude in the groin with an ax and not even elicit the slightest sympathy from the male audience. Perhaps the paltry budget is to blame for some of its biggest blunders, such as when O'Rawe attempts a RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD-style non-ending, giving us a white-out and explosive sound effects before launching into the end credits (a roll call of shame littered with fake names, like Bart Simpson and Chester Malester, to disguise the fact that the crew consisted of ten people).

(The trailer for the recent Splatter University Edition DVD contains many scenes not found in my screening copy; either the Brentwood edition circulating on budget labels is severely cut--most likely--or the former edited in scenes from another film.)

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