Yeah. Bet you didn’t see this one coming. Not every week here on Wicked Wednesday has to include death via basketball to the head or a javelin to the face. But really, this has werewolves, puns and it’s a made-for-TV movie with one of the best cartoon dogs ever.
I love Hanna-Barbera cartoons. Much of our home is littered with little mementos of my love. And of course Scooby-Doo was a huge part of my childhood, as I’m sure he and his gang were for a lot of people. I was born at just the right time that the first live-action film was targeted for me (and strangely, that was my first James Gunn film). There’s been countless made-for-TV movies, the one that holds the dearest part of my heart is Scooby-Doo! and the Witch’s Ghost.
But Scooby-Doo and the Ghoul School is not that film. With an increase in competition and changing animation styles, the 80’s were not a great time for the studio. Unfortunately, this was made clear by the introduction of the endlessly-irritating Scrappy-Doo.
The show was always silly, but this endlessly-punny 1988 movie really pushes it to the limit. It’s very much in the style of the cartoons from the decade, which were a whole lot less interesting than the show was in the 70’s. Plus besides Shaggy and Scooby, none of the gang make an appearance but we’re still stuck with Scrabby-Doo.
Scooby-Doo and the Ghoul School sees Shaggy heading out to his new job as a gym teacher at an all-girls school. Of course it’s actually and all ghouls school. When Shaggy, Scrappy and Scooby show up, they’re a bit spooked to see that their students are in fact the daughters of the Universal monsters, their headmistress Liza Minnelli and her pet dragon, Matches. When they try to leave, the headmistress Miss Grimwood reminds Shaggy he signed a contract. Which makes me seriously doubt her hiring techniques if she things a skinny, stoner who loves to snack would be a good candidate for a coach.
The boys have been brought to train up the girls for when they go head-to-head against the nearby boys military school. The “cadets” are mostly obsessed with saying “AFFIRMATIVE!” and have less dimension to them than a Care Bears character. But they serve as the foil to the ghoul ladies, so there’s that.
The girls spend their time by training in ballet and running before facing off in a volleyball game. Here the show wins points for creativity. There are spiders making nets and an excellent octopus-butler who isn’t in this nearly enough.
But while the girls play, they don’t notice that they are being spied on. The evil, multi-armed witch Revolta is lurking, waiting to harness the powers of the girls to become the “most powerful witch”. So I guess that means the students have bigger fish to fry than a volleyball game, but that doesn’t stop the film from showing us its entirety.
FYI, the girls win and have a party with their monster dads.
Revolta moves her plan into the next phase by making one of her spider-bats hypnotise Shaggy. What’s the evil she’s up to? Well, he’s been convinced to take the girls on a field trip to a bog. The horrror!
At the bog, the spider-bats capture each girl and spin a sort of web-headset over each girl’s ears to brainwash them. They believe their sole purpose is to serve Revolta, and off they are all snatched away and brought to Revolta’s castle. Though thankfully, before they leave the bog there’s plenty of 80’s quicksand action, which is entirely necessary.
Shaggy, Scooby and Scrappy head off to the castle to save their students. Here Revolta reveals her plan to make the girls evil forever with a potion she’s brewing up. And if the gang can’t save the ghouls before midnight, every ghoul in school will be Revolta’s slaves.
The ending is very much traditional Scooby-Doo style: lots of running around and silly antics. Shaggy gets trapped in a mirror. Weird were-Shaggy runs amok. Scooby is mistaken for a mummy. Everyone plays ball with a well-dwelling monster. There’s trap doors a plenty. But of course the idiots save the day by complete accident with the help of the cadets. But that’s it really, playing out exactly like an extended Scooby-Doo episode.
In the end, the girls are pretty cute characters. A show set in the school would actually be pretty great, if done in a sort of Munsters vein. But unfortunately, Ghoul School ended up being mildly irritating more than anything. The voice acting for some of the girls was just not great. Plus I was never a huge fan of Shaggy and Scooby without the Fred, Velma and Daphne. While the two are definitely the stars, their personalities were always better balanced with some basis in reality, and the Calloway cadets don’t really cut it here.
The character designs, though, were impossibly cute. Bonus points for mega-cool ghouls. Plus if you’re super into puns, this is exactly the movie for you. It’s difficult to move two lines without some sort of pun involved. Seriously.
But if you’re tempted to revisit some Scooby-Doo films. Just watch this before deciding whether or not this will be for you…