It’s hard not to think about classic horror films when reading Scott Snyder and Francesco Francavilla’s Night of the Ghoul. I was reminded of the original 1951 The Thing, the 1964 film The Last Man on Earth (an adaptation of Richard Matheson’s classic novel I Am Legend), and even a bit of the black & white Universal monster movies. Not necessarily in terms of plot, but rather in terms of the dread that permeates through them. The comic just lives and breathes that kind of Fifties and Sixties horror that relished in making its characters slowly march towards their doom as they search for some impossible truth. It finds its life source in the creepy atmosphere those movies developed as well, the kind that builds up the mystery to heighten the horror at its core.
Night of the Ghoul is all of that and more, a vehicle for fear that establishes a kind of lineage of dark things that honors what came before it but also aspires to insert itself in the continuum. Snyder and Francavilla are tapping into some deeply unsettling things in their comixology series, ready for some serious mythmaking along the way.
Issue #2 digs just deep enough to expand on the legend of the Ghoul, a kind of proto-monster that transforms into the things other people are afraid of. The film researcher is making progress with the horribly disfigured director of the lost film he uncovered, the lost but now found “Night of the Ghoul,” but every new bit of information gathered points to a discovery of forbidden knowledge captured in celluloid, making the very act of watching it quite dangerous (an idea that reminded me of John Carpenter’s Cigarette Burns, about a rare movie that captures the torture of a majestic being).
The story’s dual narrative structure continues to build upon itself with key cuts in the narrative that show scenes from the “Night of the Ghoul” movie. These sequences offer more hints as to the actual content of the cursed film and the monster that lies within it. Francavilla is putting a lot of care into these segments, capturing a very genuine feel for the black & white horror he’s clearly inspired by, a quality that tends to make its presence known across his body of work.
Snyder’s script stands as one of his most focused and one of his most measured. There’s a real concern with style and structure that helps keep the story from going off the rails. Horror movies from the Golden Age (1910-1960) tended to focus primarily on the larger meanings behind their hauntings, on how they reflected upon society or a deeply seated fear on a collective level. Night of the Ghoul carries itself as such, at least two issues in. The mystery is carrying the story and its implications are what will keep readers hooked in as more gets uncovered.
Night of the Ghoul is a well-oiled machine made by two masters of the craft. Horror runs deep in its DNA and it understands the inner working of it in intimate detail. The comic is well on its way to becoming a horror comics classic. If it holds steady, it’ll become a story I’ll be recommending to readers interested in expanding into the comics medium for their horror fixes.
Story: Scott Snyder, Art: Francesco Francavilla
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0
Recommendation: Buy and subscribe to a streaming service that features old horror movies.