Ghoulies Take a creepy old Hollywood mansion, a naive young man and a pretty girl. Add an over-the-top orgy and some slimy, winged goblins who crawl out of toilets, and you have Ghoulies, a horrifying and hilarious ride into the darkest regions of hell! Conjured during a party thrown by the mansion's new owner, the hairy, fanged demons waste no time reeking havoc on the scene-and declaring the unsuspecting owner their new lord and master!
Ghoulies II The demonic, toilet-dwelling goblins are back! Stowed away in "Satan's Den," the traveling House of Horror operated by carnival workers Larry and Uncle Ned, the Ghoulies merrily devour the sideshow attraction's patrons...until Larry realizes his horror house is for real and tries to flee the scene! Deliciously outrageous special effects and over-the-top antics ratchet up the horrific fun!
Thanks to Scream Factory, I am taking another dance down childhood movie watching memory lane. 'Ghoulies' and its sequel 'Ghoulies II' were another of those great sets of movies that I was simply not allowed to rent as a kid, but thanks to my favorite Detroit TV station, I got to watch anyway. My memories of these two movies is a bit of a blur since the first film was in production at the same time and released shortly after 'Gremlins.' On top of that you have the "little monster" horror comedy knockoffs like 'Munchies,' 'Hobgoblins,' and the always incredible 'Critters' franchise to contend for my childhood monster affections. I like many my age probably remember 'Ghoulies' because of it's poster artwork featuring a little slimy green monster popping out of toilet. Thankfully these movies have a lot more going for them than that little bit of marketing genius.
"That was fun!"
Jonathan Graves, Peter Liapis, and his girlfriend Rebecca, Lisa Pelikan, have inherited A gigantic rundown mansion. Knowing nothing of his parents or where he came from, Jonathan is eager to root through the house and discover anything and everything he can. During a house warming party, Jonathan discovers a book of rituals and spells. Believing at first that he may be able to summon the presence of his long dead parents, he enlists his girlfriend and their friends to perform a ritual to summon a spirit. Of course it doesn't work… at first. Leaving the scene too soon, the group misses the arrival of a small, rat-like hairy beast of a creature.
In spite of believing his efforts failed, Jonathan becomes obsessed with the book of spells. Losing focus on contacting spirits, he becomes far more interested in power as he recites spell after spell. He can harness the power of the weather, he can summon bolts of energy, and he even manages to resurrect a cadre of snarling, gooey, disgusting little monsters he commands to do his bidding. Unbeknownst to him, all of his efforts lead to resurrecting his long deceased father, the one true caretaker and commander of the Ghoulies.
Really, when it comes to a movie like this, story and plot is little more than a formality. One doesn't go into a movie called 'Ghoulies' expecting some sort of intricate plot with rich characters. Motivations only need to be thick enough to ensure that the audience has a great time when the little monsters pop out of pianos, ponds, from under beds and yes, even out of toilets and terrorize their victims.
From the opening music notes from composer Richard Band, you get the perfect sense of tone for this movie. While indeed meant to be more funny then scary, 'Ghoulies' does offer up its own series of scares. Thankfully I wasn't ever one of those kids that was traumatized by the toilet monster, I was one that feared things coming out from under my bed. This fear probably didn't start with watching 'Ghoulies' but it certainly wasn't helped any. I routinely had to place my stuffed animals on the floor as protection to ensure the monsters didn't get me. Evidently it worked since I'm now writing this review!
That brings me to tone - if you're expecting deep characters with meaningful story arcs that fulfill some sense of enlightment for the human condition - you're watching the wrong movie. 'Ghoulies' is meant to be served with a nice dish of entertainment. I may have first seen this movie nursing a glass of orange juice and a bowl of breakfast cereal, it's just as much fun today with a cold beer and a pizza. For the audience factor alone, this is one to watch with a group of like-minded friends late at night. I wasn't expecting this one to hold up 30 years later, and on the scare level it may not, but it definitely put a happy smile on my face.
Four years and a 30 plus million dollar box office haul later, 'Ghoulies II' opened in theaters across the country. The filmmakers this time around took the smart approach of going bigger and creepier with the production while keeping things modest and shoestring at times. Only loosely connected to the previous film, our titular creatures this time find themselves hitching a ride in the back of a carnival spook house - where they fit in quite naturally.
It turns out the Carnival is being revamped by a wormy business executive, J. Downing who aims to replace the failing attraction with an Arabian Nights themed belly dance show featuring half naked ladies strutting their stuff. Facing the loss of their livelihoods is Uncle Ned, Royal Dano, and his protégé Larry, Damon Martin, must come up with a plan to save their jobs.
Uncle Ned goes on a bender and recites a random bit of magic and suddenly the Ghoulies appear before him. Believing that he conjured the monsters, Uncle Ned thinks he's their master. Only the Ghoulies have no master and set about dispatching innocent victims in the spook house and then throughout the carnival.
Like the first film, intricate story and plot is not what you should expect from this one. Pure fun is what is in store. Bigger and grosser was the order of the day as the visual effects and creature effects take a gigantic leap forward. More than just hands in puppets now, we get to enjoy some pretty solid stop motion effects work as the Ghoulies scamper about from place to place in the carnival. Then you get a little more blood and a whole lot more slime, and you have a fun sequel on your hands.
Now where this one gets a bit of a knock is in its home video presentation. Originally the film was released to theaters rated R as it featured quite a bit more visceral gore. When it came time for home video, the film was re-edited to remove some of the more graphic blood and gore bits to match the PG-13 of its predecessor. Now those cut scenes are available in the extra features on this disc. They may not add much to the show as a whole, but I can see this being a sticking point for completionists.
At the end of the day, even edited for content, I like 'Ghoulies II' a bit better than 'Ghoulies.' There is a sense with this movie that it knew what it was better than the first and therefor knew what buttons to push for the audience. More slime, more grime, more gore, more creative kills and add in another appearance from the Toilet Ghoulie and you have yourself the welcome second half of your 'Ghoulies' double feature.
'Ghoulies' - 3/5
'Ghoulies 2' - 3.5/5
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Ghoulies' and 'Ghoulies II' make their Blu-ray debut on a single BD50 disc. The disc opens to a "chose your movie" opening menu allowing you to select which film you'd like to look at. From there each film has its own main menu with clips and music from the films playing behind the navigation panel.
With both releases stuffed onto a single disc, 'Ghoulies' and 'Ghoulies II' actually make a nice leap to Blu-ray with respective 1080p 1.85:1 transfers. The transfers for both films look so similar it's hard to note any difference between them. Both films offer a nice little bit of film grain to ensure that detail doesn't suffer, but isn't intrusive or overpower the image in any way. Colors are nicely replicated here offering the full pallet of 80s hot pinks, bright yellows, and sharp neon greens. Primaries are also in fine shape as blood gets a nice gooey crimson red to splash on screen. Black levels are also very strong here offering good shadow separation creating a nice sense of three dimensional depth in many scenes. Contrast also seems to be under control here as well since nothing appears overly bright nor do they ever appear too dark. There is some slight crush here and there, but its never a serious problem. Even during process shots like the stop motion Ghoulies running around, the elements are in great shape and don't lead to heightened grain structure or flaten the image too teribly.
My only real gripe with these two films is that there appears to be a bit of edge enhancement employed throughout making the image appear at times just a bit too crisp and crunchy to feel natural. While this is far from a fresh restoration, the prints for both films are actually in pretty decent shape with only the occasional nick nick or speck. Considering both films are pressed onto a single disc, the only way either of these films could look any better is with fresh restoration and their own discs to occupy. 'Ghoulies II' looks better on Blu-ray than 'Ghoulies' only because it is slightly newer film and had a bigger production budget. Otherwise 'Ghoulies' fans ought to be impressed with the results here.
'Ghoulies' - 3/5
'Ghoulies II' - 3.5/5
Both 'Ghoulies' and 'Ghoulies II' benefit from strong DTS-HD MA 5.1 and DTS-HD MA 2.0 audio tracks. While the original mono tracks work alright in their own way, I'd recommend people go the distance and make sure they have the 5.1 track plugged in. The surround channels may not be working throughout the run times for either 'Ghoulies' movie, but they do get enough to do when the action happens to offer a lot of atmosphere and imaging. The mixes for both films are strong and levels remain nice and equal keeping to the midranges - even when all hell is breaking loose on screen - especially for 'Ghoulies II' with all of the carnival background noise to contend with. The mono tracks by comparison sound a bit tinny and hollow at times pulling back the fun a tad. Thankfully there aren't any kind of compression or audio distortion effects present as everything sounds crips and clear. Sound effects, dialogue, and music all own their space and help create rich and lively audio tracks. Even if you're howling with laughter, you shouldn't have any trouble hearing everything these movies have to offer.
Audio Commentary: Director/Co-writer Luca Bercovici flies solo offering a few insights here and there throughout the runtime. While interesting, there are long gaps where Mr. Bercovici doesn't say anything at all or simply responds to what he's seeing on screen.
New Interviews: (HD 29:49) Producer Charles Band, Composer Richard Band, Actor Michael Des Barres, and makeup artist John Vulich offer a wide range of anecdotes about the history of the production, the marketing, and its reception.
Original Theatrical Trailer: (HD1:55) An awesome piece of marketing that highlights the goofier, horror-comedy elements including the infamous toilet monster and tagline.
Still Gallery: A collection of set images, and marketing mockups highlighting the creatures and other parts of the production.
New Interviews: (HD 16:50) Producer Charles Band, Kerry Remsen, Donnie Jeffcoat, and effects artist Gino Crognale detail their experiences shooting the film. The real highlight here is learning that the entire carnival, rides and all were actually constructed inside one of the largest soundstages in Rome!
Alternate Scenes: (HD 2:43) These were the few moments of creature gore and blood and guts that were excised after the theatrical release to get the film down to a PG-13. Irritatingly - these scenes are actually in fantastic shape indicating that if they'd wanted to, they easily could have been reinserted into the main film.
Theatrical Trailer: (HD 1:23) This 4:3 trailer shows off some of the best elements of the movie and wisely knew to show off the monsters in all their glory, even if they were coming out of a toilet.
Still Gallery: Another collection of set images, new poster mockups highlighting the new creatures and other parts of the production involving the carnival sets.
As actor Michael Des Barres fondly says during his interview segment, "This is not 'Citizen Cane' it's 'Ghoulies' man!" With that in mind, anyone who was a fan of these movies as kids or are itching for a throwback to 80's creature feature gory glory should be perfectly happy with Scream Factory's release of 'Ghoulies' and 'Ghoulies II' on Blu-ray. Sure it would have been nice for each movie to get their own disc to occupy, but what is crammed into one disc without too much of a sacrifice of quality is actually pretty amazing. You have a good assortment of informative extras along with solid HD transfers with fun 5.1 DTS-HD MA audio tracks. Then you have the price point. Even if you can't find it on sale, $24.99 is a solid deal for these two movies. This may hit for some specific fans but the curious should be greatly rewarded. Easily recommended.