Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Welcome to another entry in the Spooktacular Shocktoberfest Big Horror Movie Scare-A-Thon. In case you didn't get the memo, most of the films covered in this year's series are going to be downright terrible, and Ghoulies is no exception.
Director: Luca Bercovici
Starring: Peter Liapis, Lisa Pelikan
This pathetic Gremlins/Critters knockoff was somehow released in theaters in 1985. Seemingly contrary to the poster, the filmmakers made the problematic decision not to rely on the creatures as much as the human actors around them. That's a problem because the acting is hilariously bad - and yes, we're talking almost Troll 2 levels here. The series inexplicably spawned three sequels, including the hilariously-titled third installment, Ghoulies 3: Ghoulies Go To College.
This movie opens with Malcolm Graves preparing a Satanic ritual in the basement of his extravagant California mansion, complete with multiple Ghoulies sitting around watching the proceedings. If you're wondering if the film addresses why there are Ghoulies present at this ceremony, or if it goes into the history of the Ghoulies, what they are exactly, why they exist, or offer any relevant information about them whatsoever, the answer is no. Anyway, Malcolm, complete with Jello-colored green eyes enhanced by some uninspired special effects, is about to sacrifice his infant son Jonathan...for some reason. All of a sudden (is there any other kind of interruption?), an old man named Wolfgang interferes with the proceedings and saves Jonathan's life. Fast forward 25 years, and a strange narration informs us that Malcolm is buried on the land and Jonathan has inherited the mansion. Ol' Johnny's there with his girl, Rebecca, and they meet the creepy Wolfgang, who's now living there and working as the groundskeeper. While fixing the place up, Jonathan stumbles across the old demonic journals and How-To Guides for Conjuring Ghoulies.
Rebecca calls for a party - it's the 80s after all - and after the huge soiree is whittled down to about six stereotypical friends (druggie duo, sex-crazed slick haired dude, bimbo, nerd, etc), they all go down to the basement for some devil magic hocus pocus. Jonathan leads the charge, chanting and drawing pentagrams everywhere, and when he supposedly conjures a Ghoulie, nothing happens...yet. Everyone goes upstairs, but the Ghoulie appears a little later and...does nothing. That's the thing about the Ghoulies - they barely do anything in the entire movie. Sure, they bite the occasional person and maybe are responsible for five total deaths across the film's runtime, but they're fairly harmless when it boils down to it. They're pretty similar to the tiny creatures in Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, actually, except these have a bit of that nostalgic practical effects vibe that Troy Nixey's creatures were sorely lacking.
So Jonathan (who resembles a poor man's Nathan Fillion) drops out of school and becomes obsessed with black magic, much to the dismay of Rebecca, who gets super pissed at him for doing his whole "dressing in a giant robe and carrying around a plastic trident" routine. She tries to leave him, but Johnny's too quick for her - he conjures up two midgets (NOT Ghoulies) who have mind control powers or something and they don't allow her to exit. Brainwashing his friends, Jonathan tries to perform a ritual so he can get ultimate knowledge and power (duh).
But remember Malcolm, dear old dad from the beginning? He's resurrected and totally evil, bursting onto the scene and wrecking people left and right. He challenges Jonathan as Master of All Ghoulies (I'm making that up, but just barely), but Johnny's saved by - YOU GUESSED IT! - the old man groundskeeper, Wolfgang! He's dressed in his own robes, and he and Malcolm have a Wizard-Off (TM), resulting in a bunch of questionable CG and an earthquake. Oh yeah, and spoiler alert - all of the friends who have been killed up until now, Rebecca included, are miraculously brought back to life and escape. But that's not all - the gang realizes (oh come on, like you haven't figured this out yet?) that they've got a few extra passengers on board as they drive away. It's Alvin and the Chipmunks, singing and dancing the whole way back to town. I'm kidding. It's Ghoulies.
Everything about this movie, from the acting to the sets, directing, and creature design, is dull and unoriginal. Even the poster, which features that (I'll call it classic) image of a Ghoulie emerging from a toilet, provides more of a psychological impact than the entirety of the actual film. Legend has it that the movie was already done and that image was created as a marketing tactic, so the director went back and inserted one shot of it actually happening into the film. Soon after, he received tons of complaints from parents trying unsuccessfully to potty train their kids, thanks to that image supposedly making things more difficult for them. There isn't a hint of life on display here, and the entire endeavor feels like a cheap replica of things we've seen before - kind of like those Chinese superhero knockoff toys.
Unless you're a glutton for punishment, or someone who has a very specific set of goals for this Halloween season like this gentleman, I'd say skip this one and watch Troll 2 again (or its documentary counterpart, Best Worst Movie). Keep your eyes peeled for more "horror" (and maybe some legit horror) movie reviews in the coming days at NotJustNewMovies.com. Until next time...