“Dumbasses think burning a baby will help their crops” is the first thing I wrote in my notes, but on reflection, it’s fairly rare for movies, especially nice mainstream SyFy ones, to kill off babies in the name of genre entertainment, so we ought to give them credit for starting off in such a rare way (and give you fair warning, should that be a dealbreaker, that it happens).
Welcome, dear reader, to yet another SyFy Channel review. “Goblin”, from 2010, stars Gil Bellows (“Ally McBeal”) as Neil, the patriarch, Tracy Spiridakos (“Revolution”) as his unhappy-ish 17 year old daughter Nikki, and Camille Sullivan (“Sea Beast”, “Dead Rising: Endgame”) as new stepmother Kate. They’re on their way to the small town of Hollow Glen to have a little holiday, and also to discuss some real estate deal Neil worked on with his douchebag friend Owen (Colin Cunningham, “Falling Skies”). They pull into town on October 30th, which should immediately cause alarm bells to ring in the minds of low-budget movie fans everywhere.
So, the events I described at the top of the page happened in 1831. The townspeople killed a baby with an unspecified “deformity”, to purge their town or whatever the hell it was, but the mother revealed herself to be a witch, and used magic to create a Goblin, which killed a bunch of locals before going for a nap, only to emerge every Halloween to capture and kill babies, and slaughter anyone who gets in the way of it capturing and killing babies. How the town has managed to survive down to 2010 without any new people being born, and how it’s not the most infamous place on Earth, are two questions sadly left unanswered.
Although the budget doesn’t allow them to have too big a cast, the way the townsfolk are all aghast at the sight of a baby in their town, but want to protect the family rather than offer them up, is a nice touch. But who invited them to the town, knowing they had a small kid? And what’s their interest in it all? Oh, and why does that friendly but loud old fella know so much about the Goblin?
First things first, this movie is guilty of a common movie crime, characters not having conversations off camera. Nikki is extremely unhappy at having to look after Neil and Kate’s new baby, but surely on the long drive to this small town in the middle of nowhere, someone would have said “do you mind babysitting for a few hours while we have this business meeting?” And there’s the way everyone acts surprised at the lack of mobile phone service – again, wouldn’t this have been brought up on the drive there? But then, there’s the bland teen boy love interest, who Nikki seems to know despite her presumably never having been to this town before…it’s quite curious.
Realising that they need some way to tell the teens about what’s really going on in town, they introduce the sister of one of the bland teen boys, Jane (Julia Maxwell, “Supernatural”, “Scarecrow”), a cool goth who knows all about the town’s history. The parents get told by Charlie, the friendly old man, but of course they don’t believe him at first, so he goes to help out the teens, gives them the special magical thing which will save the day, etc.
The Goblin itself looks a bit CGI-goofy, but they hide its face underneath a large hooded robe for most of the movie, so that’s fine. While its motivations were clear, it’d be nice if they’d defeated it by, I don’t know, apologising to the ghost of the mother, or something, and not just “oh, I have this magical spear thing which will do the trick”. If you’re going to have a monster created from a mother’s grief, it would seem thematically appropriate to have that also be the tool to defeat it, but whatever.
Talking of mothers, I need to spoil an event which happens later on. Kate takes a huge chunk of glass to the chest while protecting Nikki, and when Neil comes home he calls 911, demanding an ambulance. For some reason, they send the Sheriff round, who umms and ahhs a bit before suggesting they take her to the diner as his wife, who works there, has some vague medical knowledge. Now, okay, the Sheriff is clearly a bad ‘un, but the operator isn’t, and why on earth would you not send an ambulance for a person who’s near death? I would sue the crap out of that 911 service.
After all this criticism, it’s a pretty fun film. It packs a lot of stuff into 90 minutes, and while not all of it makes sense, the strong acting does its best to make up for it. Tracy Spiridakos shows that her awful performance in season one of “Revolution” (she was great in the second) was an aberration, and I hope she goes on to better things. Gil Bellows could play this sort of character in his sleep, although he does seem unsure whether he’s supposed to be a loving parent or a bit of a dick. Everyone else is cool, pretty much.
I think a bit more explanation of what was going on wouldn’t have gone amiss, and they could have thinned the cast out by a few people to create space for that, but as far as SyFy goes, it’s a good one.
Rating: thumbs in the middle