Even the most ardent Boris Karloff fan can skip The Ghoul.
It's a bait and switch. The opening sees Karloff playing an ailing, disfigured Egyptologist. Bedridden in a gloomy mansion, he details the conditions for his entombment following his imminent death. It's a good setup, and the funeral scene that follows has us pumped for some undead action.
But these scenes appear tacked on to capitalize on Karloff's prior box office successes: The Mummy (1932) and The Old Dark House (1932).
Despite the title, The Ghoul isn't a horror film. With Karloff off-screen, the film devolves into a tedious mystery. A slew of characters turn up searching for a rare jewel stolen from Karloff's tomb.
With the supporting cast's flat delivery and stiff dialog, following the convoluted plot proves an ordeal. The overbearing score doesn't help.
Granted, the cobwebbed sets and shadowy photography create a rich gothic atmosphere, but the film fails to exploit it. When Karloff finally returns for the film's final third as the titular ghoul, he's far from terrifying. Creeping around like a dim-witted zombie, he seems as bored as we are.