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Film / When Good Ghouls Go Bad

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A 2001 Halloween Made-for-TV Movie by Goosebumps author, R. L. Stine and notable for starring Christopher Lloyd.

Danny Walker has moved back to the small town of Walker Falls with his father, James, who hopes to restart the family chocolate business and revive the town as a Halloween tourist destination.

The town, however, doesn't like the idea...or the Walkers...or Halloween, as they haven't celebrated it in quite some time. The sole exception is Danny's grandfather, Uncle Fred, an eccentric sort who likes doing things that most adults would consider childish (playing with toys, dressing up in silly outfits, etc). Danny soon learns the people shun Halloween due to a "curse" by someone named Curtis Danko, an artist outcast who liked to paint monsters. Curtis mysteriously died inside the school kiln while making a sculpture for a contest. Mike Kankel, one of the people who really opposes Halloween, apparently saw the sculpture himself and was blinded by it. The town's been in fear of Halloween since.

However this particular year brings a slight change, starting when a pile of pumpkins mysteriously appear in the Town Square. However Uncle Fred, while investigating the pumpkins, accidentally sends the whole pile falling on him, killing him in the process. But the next day he reappears in his house still alive...somewhat. He's somehow come back as a zombie, and he isn't the only one resurrected as well.

It soon falls on Danny, his love interest, Dayna, James and Uncle Fred to figure out what's going on before the whole town is overrun by zombies.

When Good Ghouls Go Bad has the following tropes:

  • All of the Other Reindeer: Outside of his family, Danny is not liked by anyone in Walker Falls. He has that in common with Curtis Danko, who was an eccentric goth with a passion for art.
  • An Arm and a Leg: Happens to Uncle Fred a few times after he turns into a zombie.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The town, upon knowing the truth behind the kiln incident and that the Curtis Danko curse is bunk, resume celebrating Halloween. However, while he was able to mend his relationship with his son, Uncle Fred is still a zombie and has to pass on with the others.
  • Body Horror: Most of the zombies look like pretty normal people except for the ratty clothes, paleness or the occasional falling limb. Curtis Danko, however, is a desiccated near-skeleton with Glowing Eyelights of Undeath.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Curtis Danko turns out to be this. He was actually nice guy who admired Uncle Fred and made a statue in his honor. However, the Jerk Jock in his school accidentally got him killed and tried covering it up.
  • Dark Secret: Mike and the other bullies realized they were responsible for what happened to Curtis Danko and desperately hoped no one would find out.
  • The Dead Can Dance: The finale sees the zombies doing this, ballroom-style before they wither to dust.
  • Deadly Prank: The real truth behind the kiln incident was that Curtis had ran into the kiln to hide from Mike and his fellow bullies. They locked him inside, intending to release him later. But the janitor happened to come back and accidentally turned the kiln on, wearing headphones so he couldn't hear anything, burning Curtis alive.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Danny Walker turns out to be the false protagonist hero in this story. The twist was that Curtis Danko and the zombies are the real heroes of the story.
  • Dirty Coward: For all his posturing, Mike Kankel is constantly scared of the undead Uncle Fred and, when the zombies come for the townspeople, he makes a break for it. He does come back to try tackling Curtis Danko, but just as an attempt to make himself look good to the townspeople. The second Curtis gets back up, Mike panics and hides behind his wife.
  • Ear Ache: When Mike Kankel's zombie father shows up to punish him. He drags away Mike like this (the "like a naughty child" version).
  • Evil Is Petty: Mike Kankel admits that he scared the townspeople into not celebrating Halloween when he saw Curtis's statue which was of Uncle Fred, who had given donations to the school's art and music programs and was loved by the town children, largely out of spite and jealousy when he wouldn't give them money to build a football theme park.
  • Establishing Character Moment: The first time we see Uncle Fred, he's fallen asleep at the kitchen table wearing a space suit.
  • Eye Scream: What Mike claimed happened when he saw the "cursed" statue of Curtis. He's lying, the statue was normal and he covered his eyes in soot to make it seem like his eyes were scorched.
  • Everybody Has Standards: Fred Kankel might have been responsible for his son being a Jerk Jock, but he is absolutely disgusted with his son for bringing down doom on their town and drags him off for a butt-whooping. What makes it worse is that while he may have appreciated his son doing it for his approval, he could see clearly that his son was only doing it for his own ego and was prepared to let the zombies have the town to preserve his secret.
  • Family-Unfriendly Death: Curtis's especially when it revealed how he truly died.
  • Forbidden Holiday: The town of Walker Falls doesn't celebrate Halloween because, when a child named Curtis Danko was mysteriously killed, he left behind the threat of destroying everyone if they celebrated Halloween again. However, despite the collective fear of the townspeople, the protagonist's father planned to have a "Spooktacular" to re-open the town's chocolate factory and some of the local children spent time collecting decorations to have their own secret Halloween.
  • Foreshadowing: While discussing the situation at Curtis Danko's crypt, Mike Kankel and Ed allude to their Dark Secret.
  • Freak Out:
    • Danny several times, most notably when he finds that his deceased grandmother is supervising the zombie uprising.
    • Mike upon seeing Uncle Fred "alive" not shortly after his funeral.
  • Friend to All Children: Uncle Fred was beloved in the past thanks to his overwhelming generosity towards the art's. The only exception was Mike Kankel, who hated art as being 'sissy', and how all that money Fred gave to the art programs, he never gave a penny for sports ones, or the football theme park he and his father Fred wanted to build.
  • Ghostly Goals: Danny and Dana figure that Curtis Danko and his army of zombies want to reclaim his stolen statue and punish the townspeople. As it turns out, what he really wants is to show them his art project and expose Kankel's lie.
  • Glowing Eyelights of Undeath: Curtis Danko has these via a pair of magic fireflies.
  • Hate Sink: Coach Michael Kankel is pretty much the source of all the problems in the movie. His fear mongering and bullying tactics keep Walker Falls from celebrating Halloween for twenty years, which in turn took a toll on the town’s economy. He did so by spreading an Urban Legend about the curse of Curtis Danko, convincing everyone that Curtis was pure evil and making himself into a new pillar of the community. It's soon revealed that as a kid, he was the one who indadvertedly killed Curtis by locking him in a kiln as a prank; when he discovers Curtis's death, not only did he not feel any remorse, he uses the incident to fabricate the urban legend in the first place. He did because he was jealous that Curtis's statue was going to win an art contest and so that he could play hero. He claims that he is doing this to honour his father's legacy, but even Kankel's own father is disgusted at his son's actions when he finds out.
  • Haunted House: Dayna and the other kids set one up in an abandoned mansion so they can have Halloween despite the town's fear of the curse.
  • Headphones Equal Isolation: Played for Horror: The janitor wearing them is what turned the klin prank into a full-on Deadly Prank.
  • The Hermit: After what happened, Uncle Fred shuts down the factory and becomes a recluse.
  • Hero Worship: Of sorts. The contest involved students making a statue based off their personal hero. Curtis's was of Uncle Fred while Mike did his of his father.
  • It's All About Me: Mike would rather ruin Halloween for Walker Falls, hurt the towns economy, smear the memory of an innocent boy, damage the reputation of a kind and respected town figure, and let the town fall into the hands of zombies than admit that he let an innocent student die in a kiln accidentally and exploited this death for the aforementioned ruining because he didn't get a football-based amusement park. Even his own zombie father, whose approval he says he wanted so much, could recognize that he was doing it all for himself.
  • It's All My Fault: Uncle Fred blames himself for the death of Curtis Danko because he donated the kiln the boy died in.
  • Jerk Jock: Mike Kankel, as well as his son Ryan. All the Kankels can think of is football, and deem anything not regarding sports as trash worth terrorizing people over. This is much more important to the plot than it seems.
  • The Last Dance: Literally: After Curtis Danko's Unfinished Business is over and it's clear that the magic that is keeping them alive will be over soon, the zombies spend their last hours dancing before turning to dust at sunrise. Uncle Fred waltzes with his long-dead wife.
  • Loser Son of Loser Dad: Because it was Uncle Fred who donated the kiln that killed Curtis Danko and started the alleged curse, the entire Walker line has been shunned by the entire town.
  • Manchild:
    • Uncle Fred, despite being Danny's grandfather, is full of childlike playfulness and a love for pranks.
    • Mike is pretty much all the clichés of a high school football-playing bully in a grown man's body. It seems that keeping the truth about Curtis Danko's curse buried taxed him mentally and emotionally.
  • Mass "Oh, Crap!": When Curtis Danko pulls the tarp off his artwork, every living person in the room screams in horror. Then they see what it actually is and just stare in confusion.
  • Misunderstood Loner with a Heart of Gold: Curtis Danko. He didn't have share any interests with the rest of his classmates and he had a dark taste in art. If he hadn't died in such a tragic way, things would have turned out differently for him.
  • Oh, Crap!: Mike is a bundle of nerves around the undead in general, but this really kicks in when Curtis Danko outs him for causing his death. Ditto when he learns his father is among the zombies.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: And pretty lively too.
  • Parents as People: Uncle Fred devoted a lot of time to his business and charitable works, which made him quite beloved in the town, but it also left James feeling neglected and less important than other people's children. The strain of this lingers into the present, which made Uncle Fred both apologetic and concerned that James will similarly alienate Danny. They both iron things out in the end and part on good terms.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: Well, green eyes in this case as they're made from fireflies, but Curtis Danko gives a good allusion to them.
  • Smarter Than You Look: Despite being called "Darklord of the Stupid" by Uncle Fred, Ryan Kankel is much more eloquent and sneaky than your average Jerk Jock.
  • Town with a Dark Secret: But not the secret they thought.
  • Undeath Always Ends: After Curtis Danko's Unfinished Business is over and the people of Walker Falls understand the miscarriage of justice they had let occur for so long (and decide to start celebrating Halloween again), he and all of the rest of the zombies (including Uncle Fred) finally turn to dust as the sun rises.
  • Unfinished Business: All Curtis Danko wanted to do was show off his completed statue and out Mike for what he had done.
  • The Voiceless: Curtis Danko never speaks throughout the film.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Uncle Fred spent so much time concerned with his business and charity work that James began to believe that other people's kids were more important to him than his own.
    • Mike Kankel falls under this too, as he raves that all he did was for his father's approval.
  • Wham Shot: After all the build-up to what Curtis Danko had made, his dramatic unveiling of it reveals it's actually a mundane statue of Uncle Fred.
  • What You Are in the Dark: The Reveal shows that young Mike was genuinely shocked to be wrong about Curtis Danko and to have inadvertently caused his death. However, he refused to own up to what he had done and his lie is what caused various events throughout the story.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: Subverted, all the zombies are friendly and are helping Curtis to expose Mike Kankel's lies so the town will resume celebrating Halloween.