What’s up, weirdos? Welcome to Awfully Good, where we celebrate movies that suck! In keeping with September’s A Haunting on Film Street theme, tonight’s feature presentation is an Ed Wood film about a haunted house: Night of the Ghouls. And to make matters stranger, this is a movie that has already died!!! We’ll get to that in a second, but first we need to cover some ground rules. 1) Just because we say a movie is garbage from beyond the grave, that’s not an insult. Some of my favorite movies are garbage. Good vibes only, here. 2) If you claim to see the future and make a wildly inaccurate prediction, everyone gets to do impressions of you and you will feel very uncomfortable! Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s look at Night of the Ghouls!
For those not “in the know,” Ed Wood was a director of cheap and trashy horror and science fiction movies in the 1950s and 60s. He’s best known for Plan 9 From Outer Space, sometimes known as the worst movie ever made. Night of the Ghouls was a followup to a different Wood picture that we’ve covered here in Awfully Good, Bride of the Monster. It was made in the late 50s, but it never got a theatrical release. Instead, the unfinished movie was waiting in an editing lab for years because Wood never paid the fees for its completion. The film was considered lost for decades, until an Ed Wood fan (we exist, okay?) found it, finished it, and released it to home video. In my opinion that means this movie died, was buried, then rose from its celluloid grave!! A Haunting on Film Street, indeed. With the real-life history covered, let’s check out this lost-then-found film!
Night of the Ghouls starts much like Plan 9 From Outer Space: narration from real-life psychic, Criswell. Unlike the Plan 9 intro, this one features the eccentric narrator popping up in a coffin, so this is scarier. The first plot element that happens in Night of the Ghouls revolves around two young lovers. It’s the 50s, so they’re necking in a convertible, and then a GHOST LADY dressed in BLACK appears and kills them! The voiceover says “you remember the grisly details of this murder from when the newspaper reported on it,” but here’s the thing: I don’t remember that.
At the police station, Lt. Bradford doesn’t wanna investigate any dumb ol’ murder, because he has opera tickets. His boss is like, “Bradford, ya gotta do it. Says here that it might be a GHOST!” Then, there’s a flashback to my nightmare: an old couple driving a car. They’re bickering of course, but they decide to take a detour and see the house that was the setting of Bride of the Monster. Their car breaks down and a g-g-g-g-ghost wearing WHITE this time comes out of the fog! Credit where it’s due: Ed Wood knew how to shoot a spooky lady walking out of fog. It was true of Vampira in Plan 9, and it’s true of Night of the Ghouls.
“The voiceover says ‘you remember the grisly details of this murder from when the newspaper reported on it,’ but here’s the thing: I don’t remember that.”
Flashback complete, we come back to the police station. The chief assigns a different cop, who looks very much like Boyle from Brooklyn Nine-Nine, to the case. The cop responds by saying, “a follow-up to Bride of the Monster? What if I make some references to Plan 9 right here and now? Do all Ed Wood movies take place in a shared universe, fifty years before the Avengers movies? P.S. I quit!” so Bradford, the Opera Cop, has to go anyway.
Narration explains that he’s not a regular cop, he’s a Ghost Cop. Like a cop of ghosts, not a cop who is a ghost. A subtle distinction, but an important one. He approaches the house and meets a man in a turban named Dr. Acula who explains that he keeps a resurrection chamber out back where it’s very dark. You can come check it out! So he does!
While Dr. Acula is saying scary things, the Ghost in White makes eye contact with the Ghost in Black, which terrifies her! This is one ghost who is afraid of a ghost. Meanwhile, Boyle from Brooklyn Nine-Nine is back on the case. Apparently, he un-retired. He pulls up to the house, sees a ghost, and starts blasting. Night of the Ghouls isn’t here to waste time.
Inside, things are getting spooky. Tor Johnson, draped in tatters and covered in scars, reprises his Bride of the Monster role, Lobo! Dr. Acula conducts a seance, and it’s amazing. There are a couple skeletons seated at the table, the centerpiece is a crystal ball with a skull in it, and a trumpet flies through the air going “bwaaaaaah-weeeeeh!” I played trumpet in middle school and I can say with confidence: only a ghost could play that sequence. They’re called ghost notes! Sometimes a sheet ghost will slide across the frame, accompanied by a very loud slide whistle sound effect. I wasn’t around when Night of the Ghouls was shot, but I assume these kinds of ghostly activities were pretty common.
After the seance ends, the Ghost in White talks to Dr. Acula, and we find out that the hauntings are fake! Dr. Acula‘s a conman, and probably not even a real doctor. But if the ghosts aren’t real, what scared the fraudulent Ghost in White? Also, where the hell is Tor Johnson? He’s been missing for like twenty minutes.
Bradford investigates the haunted house and finds spooking equipment. Some of it is more damning than others. When he sees lighting equipment, he’s like “oh, that must be how they make everything look so spooky,” but when he sees an organ he’s like “that organ must be where the organ music was coming from.” This is why Bradford‘s the precinct’s top Ghost Detective. He also finds a motionless ghost, and he thinks “I could just caress this fake ghost all day. Gonna just keep touching this ghost on the face, because it’s fake.” But then the ghost smiles at him!
“Night of the Ghouls isn’t here to waste time.”
He flees the ghost and runs into Dr. Acula who is finally accompanied by Lobo! Tor Johnson was running the risk of not even getting a credit for Night of the Ghouls. Somewhere along the way, Bradford and Boyle from Brooklyn Nine-Nine meet up again. The cops bust into the seance room, and Boyle says “this crazy room has more doors in it than a butthouse!” I don’t know what that means, and I don’t know what I could be mishearing. Is he saying boathouse? Are those known for their doors?
Dr. Acula and the Ghost in White come face to face with a whole mess of ghosts. What happens next? Why, you’ll have to find out by watching Night of the Ghouls!
The good news is if you wanna watch Night of the Ghouls, you can watch it right now. Through the magic of the public domain, you can investigate this haunted house for yourself on YouTube or Wikipedia.
Are you a fake ghost, or a real ghost? Let us know over on Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, and the Horror Fiends of Nightmare on Film Street Facebook page! For more reviews, recommendations, and haunted house horror stories, stay tuned to Nightmare on Film Street.