MGM // 1987 // 171 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // August 19th, 2003
They'll get you in the end.
You can always count on Hollywood to generate blockbuster movies, like Gremlins. Then you can count on some no-name studio to produce rip-offs of those blockbusters, like Ghoulies.
In the original Ghoulies, we're treated to a story that involves a young man named Jonathan (Peter Liapis) caught in the allure of black magic. Upon chanting some kind of demonic incantation, Jonathan resurrects ugly goblins that appear to be constructed out of latex and plumber's glue. Jonathan also makes the cardinal mistake of bringing back to life his long dead father, Malcolm (Michael Des Barres), who helmed an evil cult when Jonathan was just a baby. Of course, what kind of horror movie would Ghoulies be if it didn't have some party guests to fall victim to the ghoulies' evil tricks? And just for hoots and hollers, there's also Jonathan's rather corpse-like girlfriend Rebecca (Lisa Pelikan) who keeps catching him in the middle of his rituals and can only point out that it's time for supper. It will soon be an all-out war as Malcolm arises from his tomb to take back what was once his...forever!
In Ghoulies II, the ghastly monsters have turned their sights on a shoddily designed traveling carnival. After hitching a ride in a haunted house attraction called "Satan's Den," the putrid monsters begin to wreak havoc at the carnival as two of the workers, Uncle Ned (Royal Dano) and his nephew Larry (Damon Martin), attempt to stop the creatures before they destroy the fairgrounds. To make matters worse, a corporate sleazebag named Phillip Hardin wants to shut down Satan's Den because it's not making enough money for the family run business. But money is the least of these poor folks' troubles when the ghoulies begin eating everything -- and everyone -- in sight! It's a madhouse of terrors as the ghoulies continue to create havoc everywhere they go.
Had the Muppets decided to become crack whores, they might have turned out to be ghoulies. Looking like something Jim Henson crapped after a six day burrito binge, the monstrosities in both Ghoulies and Ghoulies II are vile little things that aren't quite as cute as Fraggles, yet are far less scary than those pesky gremlins. Frankly speaking, Ghoulies and Ghoulies II are cheapie horror flicks that aren't worth the plastic they've been transferred to. In the first Ghoulies we're given a lot of exposition -- i.e., talking and talking and talking -- and then some cheesy effects, a few monsters, roll credits. Not one single actor comes off as interesting, though lead Peter Liapis does get credit for looking like a chunky version of Friends star Matthew Perry. As for the resident ghoulies, they tend to hide in corners a lot and look at the camera as if they were being photographed for a demonic stag film. To make matters worse, Ghoulies (and its sequels) is rated PG-13 -- listen folks, if you're going to make a horror film, make a frickin' horror film. Director Luca Bercovici has no idea how to make this film unique -- lingering shots on tombstones and old houses does not a horror movie make. Produced by cheapie king Charles Band, Ghoulies includes all the elements of a classic '80s flick, yet none of the charm.
In 1987's Ghoulies II (I know, it's nearly unfathomable that someone could think a sequel was warranted), Band's late father, Albert Band (I Bury the Living), took over the directing duties and came up with...well, a stinker. However, at least he came up with a less putrid stinker than Bercovici's effort. In Ghoulies II, the beasts run around a carnival and chew on the scenery while actors like Royal Dano (House II: The Second Story) chew on their paychecks. There isn't an original bone to be found in Ghoulies II's body -- combining elements of Gremlins and Tobe Hooper's The Funhouse, Ghoulies II lingers in some kind of straight-to-video horror limbo. If you find watching scenes of the ghoulies playing in a circus shooting gallery fun, welcome home. Me, I'd rather endure a swift kick to my danglin' dingleberries. Hindered once again by a mushy PG-13 rating, the film never goes all the way in its depiction of horror or gore. While the ratings system says this is a movie for 13 year olds and above, I can't imagine even a five year old being scared by the ghoulies' lame antics. This time around the ghoulies are in center stage, each of them adapting a certain personality; there's the bald one, the cat-like one, and um...well, who cares?. I tried to find the silver lining. The plain fact is that while Ghoulies II may be slightly better than the original, it's comparable to noting that drinking sour milk is slightly less nauseating than ingesting rancid poultry.
Save yourself three hours of your life and rent the original Ghoulies movies: Joe Dante's Gremlins and Gremlins 2: The New Batch.
Ghoulies and Ghoulies II are both presented in decent looking 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Listen up: whatever problems plague these prints (dirt, edge enhancement, et cetera), fans should just be eternally grateful that they've been given widescreen transfers. The colors and black levels are mostly solid, though a few washed up colors pop up from time to time. Yet again, I ask you: does it really matter? Since each film was budgeted at around the price of a Snickers bar, I think we can all be happy with what MGM's given us. The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono for the first film, and Dolby 2.0 Surround for Ghoulies II. Neither sound mix is impressive -- the dialogue, effects, and music are all clear of any major distortion, and for that you should give praise. Not surprisingly, the second film boasts a richer mix, though only by a hair. Also included on each disc are English, Spanish, and French subtitles.
Not surprisingly, this double feature disc's only supplemental materials are theatrical trailers for each film.
Review content copyright © 2003 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2015 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English, Ghoulies II only)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English, Ghoulies only)
Running Time: 171 Minutes
Release Year: 1987
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Theatrical Trailers
* IMDb: Ghoulies
* IMDb: Ghoulies II