Horror comics, like any horror genre format, can be tricky. You have to introduce something with sufficient darkness and intrigue to make it worth following, pace it just right to keep readers hooked, and offer a bit of terror as well - that's what horror does, after all. And with all that, you still need originality and a real sense of stakes to give the story that perfect punch. Night of the Ghoul #1 from Scott Snyder and Franscesco Francavilla manages to bring all of those elements in this first issue in a perfectly spooky tale of a lost horror film, a powerful monster, and a father and son who may not live to see the dawn.
The story follows Forest Innman, a man obsessed with a legendary lost horror film "Night of the Ghoul" who tracks down its filmmaker, T.F. Merrit, to an unusual and secluded retirement home. After lying his way into the facility to visit Merrit, Innman reveals he's managed to track down portions of the lost film - and that he and his son have watched them as well. Innman is an ecstatic and excited superfan who simply believes he's stumbled upon a masterpiece believed lost to time, but the truth is he has walked into a nightmare. The monster in the film is real and now he, his son, and Merrit himself won't survive the night.
As horror tropes go, this sets us up with an "ancient evil" type of story and while the idea of lost footage isn't unique and neither is innocently stumbling into a much sinister story either, Snyder presents Innman's story alongside the film's story. Yes, Night of the Ghoul moves between two storylines, and it works well. Merrit's movie storyline, arguably, explains the hell that Innman and his son have walked into and even on its own, that narrative is engaging. Snyder creates characters in both the main story and the film's story that are easy to invest in.
As for the art, Francavilla brings a sleek look that is spot-on for horror. There's a pulp sensibility, particularly to the main storyline. The heavy inks and thick pencils give a heaviness that is also clean and visually interesting. It gives things both a sterile and spooky feel at the same time. Francavilla in particular nails the poorly-lit aspect of things in multiple panels - it's very well done.
Night of the Ghoul #1 is a fantastic opening chapter for a horror story. Snyder brings together all of the core elements of an engaging and chilling tale while Francaville's art provides it all a nearly polished grittiness that fits beautifully within Snyder's narrative. If you're a fan of horror films and horror stories, this is a title you'll find yourself quite comfortable with even while there's the promise of plenty of scares coming.
Published by ComiXology Originals
On October 19, 2021
Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Francesco Francavilla
Colors by Francesco Francavilla
Letters by Andworld Design
Cover by Francesco Francavilla