25th Oct2021

‘Night of the Ghoul #1’ Review (Comixology Original)

by Dean Fuller

Written by Scott Snyder | Art by Francesco Francavilla | Published by Comixology Originals

As we are in the run up to Halloween I was looking for a suitably creepy and eerie book to review to tie in with that. To be honest, most of the major publishers had very slim pickings indeed, which was a real disappointment. However, every cloud and all that. Looking further afield, I spotted this book, only available digitally as far as I know, on Comixology, part of their Originals releases. Even better, it was being written by Scott Snyder, whose best Batman stories all had a healthy dollop of horror about them. Happy days. Quite refreshing sometimes to approach a book with absolutely no preconceptions, and no idea what to expect, just the hope that it’s an entertaining read.

Let’s take a look.

The first few pages set the scene, a nice traditional horror film style opener, where a father and son drive down some old back woods roads to find an isolated old people’s home. Seems they are looking for someone that Dad especially is especially pleased about tracking down. The sense of eeriness is almost immediate, as it seems that the patients here have no family, and are looked after by the institute on behalf of the state. The particular patient that Forest Inman and his son Orson want to see is a certain Mr. Patrick, which although the Doctor in charge tries to dissuade them from, they get permission to see. Well, Dad does, as Orson wisely sits this one out. The nurse tells him to be careful, as Patrick has delusions about this place and staff. Does he though? Or are they hiding things themselves?

Well, the reason for the visit becomes clear once the two men are alone. Mr. Patrick is actually a famed writer and director, T.F. Merrit, who created the infamous film ‘Night of the Ghoul’. A film so good it was supposed to be the greatest ever made, but was destroyed in a studio fire in 1946 before it could be released. Or at least, most of it. Forest has found some of the film, which he has watched. Something that, due to Merrit’s reaction may not have been the wisest thing to do. I’m guessing that studio fire may not have been an accident.

We now switch to a story inside a story, as we are told the story of the film. It’s a glorious mish-mash of 40’s classic horror films and 50’s William Castle shockers. Set during the Great War in 1917, it follows a small detachment of American soldiers as they scout ahead into a small Italian town, Culla. The town should be overrun by German soldiers but is strangely empty. As in, completely and totally empty of any living thing. Is it a trap? The soldiers decide to push on to see what they can find…

That is where the film ends, or at least the parts that Forest has managed to find. As he gushes about his love for the film and the character of the Ghoul, Merrit is strangely silent. He tells Forest he has no understanding of the film, but at least he was wise not to show it to anybody else. Slight problem, there. He showed it to his son, Orson, who it becomes apparent really didn’t want to even be there. Just as he decides to leave, doors start to open… in more ways than one. Merrit decides to fully open up and tell Forest the story. He also goes one better. This institution is actually a trap, keeping him prisoner, and they actually have the Ghoul there, waiting to unleash it. Or so he says. Tonight will be the night. So why not finish the story of his unfinished film…

If I call this old school horror you’ll get what I mean. Although not the most original story, which I’m guessing was the point as it’s a homage of sorts to a certain era of horror film, it oozes atmosphere, creepiness, and a whole feeling of ‘who do you trust?’ Jeopardy is in the air, both in the real world of the institute, and the fictional world of those WWI soldiers. It’s clever layering, and makes for a great read. The art and colouring throughout are superb, Francavilla really building the atmosphere up as the story progresses, making the story even more eerie and effective.

A real comic about a fictional film that could have been a really good Creepshow episode. You’ve got to love that.

**** 4/5


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