by Tim May
Zombie and/or ghoul movies usually go one way or the other. They’re either incredibly tedious or incredibly fun. Thankfully, for most of its run time, Timothy O’Rawe’s Ghoul School is the latter. There’s not much of the cover’s promised sex or babes, and only a small amount of unfortunately bland rock and roll, but this film makes up for that with a steady stream of funny characters and exciting, if somewhat clumsy chase scenes.
The video game style opening credits set the perfect tone. We’re soon introduced to our heroes, the horror obsessed dorks Jeff and Steve. Within the first ten minutes they’re seen flipping through Fangoria, so we know they’re serious genre fans. It’s typically pretty lame when characters in horror movies are big horror fans, because they’re too obviously mouthpieces for the filmmakers. Ghoul School lays it on a little too thick in some scenes, especially on where the principal is scolding Jeff and Steve about how horror movies need more censorship, but this problem is limited to only a couple of other moments. These horror dorks are pumped about a performance by Bloodsucking Ghouls, the band chosen by the students to play the school dance.
After school, the janitor is being held captive by two criminals in the basement for some reason. One of the hoodlums is an imbecile, so he presses a red button, which releases a noxious gas into the water system. The only people who are supposed to be left in the school are the principal, the swim team, and the basketball team. Jeff and Steve are also sticking around to watch a bootleg tape of—you guessed it—a zombie movie.
The gas immediately turns the swim team into flesh eating ghouls. When Jeff goes to take a piss, he hears a grumbling noise coming from one of the stalls. HOLY SHIT!
Jeff and Steve are all ready to get the fuck out of there, but then they remember their heroes, the Bloodsucking Ghouls (the band), are practicing in the auditorium! On their way across the school, they pick up some extra baggage in the form of the idiotic basketball coach, who they always call Dick, even though his real name is Zeke.
Blades, the lead singer of Bloodsucking Ghouls and his manager/girlfriend Roxanne help Jeff and Steve barricade the doors to the auditorium, but the swim team inevitably gets in. This leads to the film’s climax, a rather clumsy, but charming action sequence in which Steve and Jeff prove that all those years of watching horror movies paid off. Zeke (Dick) gets killed and Jeff gets injured, but they take down all but one of the ghouls. After shooting the final ghoul a few times, it falls back into a Diet Coke machine. The impact causes the machine to offer a free Diet Coke, but Steve, Jeff, and Blades are men of good taste. They walk right on by. Fuck Diet Coke.
The film ends on a relatively bleak note. When the gang gets out of the school, they find it surrounded by police officers who mistake them for ghouls and gun them down, Duane Jones style. The uncompromised ending, along with some unusually strong characterization (it’s not Faulkner, but not bad for a David DeCoteau production) make this trash worthy of your time.
That’s not to say Ghoul School is without its issues. The setup is needlessly complicated and the film introduces way too many characters to keep track of in an 80 minute movie. Still, if you’re looking for a solid high school horror flick, you could do a lot worse than Ghoul School.
The film was released by Cinema Home Video in 1990 and was later released again on VHS in a “Special Limited Edition Release” in the late 90s/early 2000s. The David DeCoteau-owned distributor, Cinema Home Video, also released Beasties and Robot Ninja, but Ghoul School is their most widely produced and easy to find tape. It was released on DVD in 2007 by Camp Motion Pictures as part of their Retro 80s Horror Collection with a bunch of great special features, but one of the worst covers known to man.
Dan interviewed cinematographer Michael Raso
Dan reviewed The Basement