Director: Timothy O’Rawe
Camp Motion Pictures/Pop Cinema

As a subsidiary of E.I. Cinema’s Alternative Cinema banner, Camp Motion Pictures have taken it upon themselves to be the savior of direct-to-video 1980s horror. Surprisingly, there seems to be a market for this swill, most likely due to nostalgia for the good old days when the local mom-and-pop video store’s horror section was filled with a wild mix of European imports, 1970s drive-in trash, and shot-on-video quickies like those in Camp’s library. Of their first batch of releases, GHOUL SCHOOL is the only one shot on film, but don’t be fooled: that doesn’t make it any better.

Two gun-toting punks searching for a hidden stash of loot in the basement of a New Jersey high school accidentally unleash toxic waste (?!) into the water supply of the school, resulting in students-turned-zombies running amok in the halls until two horror nerds step up to the plate to save the day. Sounds like fun, right? Ugh… This is pretty painful, folks. Envisioned as a mix of horror and comedy, GHOUL SCHOOL doesn’t fit the bill in either department. None of the intentional humor works (except for the routine of Jackie “The Joke Man” Martling), and there aren’t enough goofy moments to provide unintentional laughs. Gore fans will be in heaven, though, as the red stuff flows like wine and guts are torn out in visceral close-ups. Just when you think things can’t get any worse, a local hair band (with a lead singer/guitarist named Blade who looks like Andrew Dice Clay’s cousin) contributes some lame rock on-stage. One of the only highlights of the film is the scene between Joe Franklin and Jackie “The Joke Man” Martling (two characters wear a “I Stumped Jackie The Joke Man” T-shirt!). Martling’s dirty jokes and clownish laugh made him a favorite as a regular on “The Howard Stern Show”, until he left the show in 2001. He currently hosts a show on Stern’s Sirius Satellite Radio channel, called “Jackie’s Joke Hunt” (you’re supposed to say it fast so it sounds like “Jackie’s Joke Cunt”; tee-hee), and is just as funny as ever. Martling’s ex-wife/manager Nancy Sirianni plays Blade’s girlfriend Roxanne!! Franklin looks completely lost in this scene. And yes, that is future heartthrob Ivan Sergei as one of the heavily-mulleted basketball players, billed as Keith McKenna. More exciting is that the star of SLIME CITY, Mary Hunter, co-stars as the principal’s secretary in a thankless role. It’s still nice to see her on-screen again.

Previously issued on DVD (with some of the same special features included here), GHOUL SCHOOL’s fullscreen transfer looks serviceable for such a low-budget film shot in a hurry. Grainy, sure, but with decent color and a bright image that does justice to the surprisingly good lighting in the film. The mono audio is fine.

Aptly labeled on the DVD as “Commentary Overload”, yes, this DVD has 3, count ‘em, 3 commentaries! Commentary #1 pairs cinematographer Michael Raso (now president of Pop Cinema, formerly E.I.) and associate producer John Paul Fedele; commentary #2 features writer/producer/director Tim O’Rawe; and commentary #3 finds Raso returning solo. Both the O’Rawe and Raso solo commentaries seem to have been ported over from the 2005 Splatter Rampage DVD of the film (I can’t confirm, as I never viewed that disc). It may have been a better idea, at the time, to have Raso and O’Rawe sit together, but hindsight’s 20/20. Of the three commentaries, the Fedele/Raso commentary is the best, and one has to wonder why O’Rawe couldn’t be coaxed back to participate in this new special edition.

In a “Making of Ghoul School” collection, the original 1988 promo reel is included, originally shot to attract potential investors into financing the full-length feature. The production values in this promo reel are surprisingly more professional than the film itself, and the make-up and shocks are better, too. The promo reel also features a commentary Raso and Fedele. A making-of featurette includes behind-the-scenes footage and vintage interviews with Raso, Fedele, writer/producer/director Tim O’Rawe, special effects wizards David Lange and Mike Tolochko (who trekked to NJ from Ohio to work on the film), and actors Scott Gordon, William Friedman, and Mary Hunter. A featurette covering the DVD cover photo shoot is interesting because it features Seduction Cinema girl Erika Smith, so wonderful in BITE ME! and SHOCK-O-RAMA. It’s also interesting to see the cheesy computer-generated original 1990 opening credits for GHOUL SCHOOL, with David DeCoteau’s name attached (his name has been removed from the new title sequence on this DVD).

If that wasn’t enough supplementary material to compliment this oddball feature, a “Splatter University” collection features a group of short films shot at William Patterson University: “Say No to Drugs”, “A Halloween Tale”, “Halloween Takeover”, and “Dead Weight”. The latter three have commentaries with Raso and Fedele; all of them are actually very interesting and entertaining, much more so than GHOUL SCHOOL. You also get to see a blooper reel for “Halloween Tale”. If you need a reason to get the disc, at least rent it to watch these great shorts!

A Camp Motion Pictures trailer collection includes previews for the rest of the company’s current library, all shot on video: CANNIBAL CAMPOUT, WOODCHIPPER MASSACRE, and VIDEO VIOLENCE 1 & 2. The trailers are infinitely better than the features, believe me!! You will also find the GHOUL SCHOOL trailer here.
(Casey Scott)