Okay, I admit it, I liked this movie. You won't, though. You've really gotta be a big fan of the Ghoulies flicks to appreciate this one, and as far as I can tell, I'm the only person alive who likes these movies. It's possible that some underground cult went around killing all of the series' fans until I was the only one left, but it's more likely because the movies are really stupid. Stupid movies make me happy for some reason, so this was right up my alley.
The ideal as far as I'm concerned was that the first three films in this quartet truly personified what I look for in my schlockfest horror movies - bad effects, bad acting, bad monsters, bad storylines, but with one catch: I had to feel like the people who put the movie together had a lot of fun doing it. All of the Ghoulies entries were terrible, but they've still got their own special charm. The first one was a stricter horror film finding it's roots in sorcery and black magic. The second one was a little more lighthearted, with the creatures showing up at a traveling carnival to wreak havoc. The third, which fans mostly hated, changed the idea entirely. In Ghoulies III, the creatures used their newfound ability of speaking English to run off 10,000 bad jokes while tormenting a college campus. Both sequels had zero to do with the original - the only true tie was that the monsters looked the same.
In Ghoulies IV, the monsters look totally different. They also have almost no role in the story. They're just here because it wouldn't be a Ghoulies movie without something ugly running around. Despite that, it's got the most continuity of any of the sequels, and wraps up the franchise nicely. Peter Liapis, who was the star of the original film, reprises his role as an older Jonathan Graves. Having given up his previous hobbies of devil worship and conjuring up evil sprits from Hell, now he's a virtuous police detective with a lot of baggage. If I'm making the movie sound like it makes sense, I'm not doing good job with this review. Make no mistake, Ghoulies IV doesn't make sense. In fact, a few scenes are so out-of-place that I would've sworn to you that the producers were intentionally trying to fuck with the audience.
The original came out in 1985, with this, the final installment, hitting video store shelves (theaters? c'mon..) in 1994. There won't be anymore Ghoulies movies. Well, not unless some risky entrepreneur lays out the franchise's total worth of sixteen dollars to buy the rights. It's doubtful, and if this was their sendoff, I don't think any of the series' four fans could've asked for more.
Meet Alexandra, a hot chick who just got out of the insane asylum. Why was she in the insane asylum? She kept trying to sacrifice people to her god and lover who may or may not exist. Wearing tight vinyl and a hairstyle that Madame Tussaud uses in her all-80s wax people section, she's our star villain. Trespassing into the storage area of a museum, she kills off a few security guards en route to stealing a magical gem that appears to be the key to breaking the lines between our world and other, scarier worlds. That's not important - what is important is that she killed one of the guards by throwing a ninja star through his forehead. It's a good sign when a movie's bodycount exceeds '5' in the first two minutes. Conversely, it's a bad sign when the number of times the boom mic appears in camera view exceeds '6' in the first two minutes. What we have here is a good old-fashioned toss up.
Anyway, Alexandra fucks up by walking into a sacred pentagram she spraypainted on the floor, causing her otherworldly master to lose the unholy jewel and generally freak out. But don't worry! There's another jewel out there, and it's the only way Alex can bridge the gap, freeing her maniacal cloaked devil boy. Pray for her.
Something screwed up during the ritual, because Alex accidentally (and unknowingly) conjured up some Ghoulies. Hmm.. Are those Ghoulies? In the last three films, the creatures were slimy puppets. Now they're midgets in piss poor troll costumes. And they're comedians!! Their jokes don't carry much weight, but in defense, they're still funnier than Carrot Top. Even without giant inflatable ducks or hot new collect calling plans to use for props.
The costumes are passable, but just barely. They only remembered to add makeup around the eye area half the time. The main gripe I've seen in Ghoulies IV reviews - all three of them - is that these guys aren't really Ghoulies. Come on people, you can't expect logic or truism in movies forged in twelve hours on a dare. Give it a rest. Aside from looking different, these Ghoulies are good guys. They don't kill people, they save people. Heroic trolls, hooray!
Meet Jonathan Graves. Ten years older, ten years wiser. In the first movie, Jonathan became obsessed with his dead father's old black magic books, ultimately causing the deaths of most of his friends, not to mention a bunch of little green monsters to materialize in his garden. The experiments had terrible results, so he reformed. Now he's a cop with a receding hairline who's denounced his past and made good with his life. He doesn't talk much about what he used to do, but really, you wouldn't either. "Hey, ten years ago I was a Satanist who carried around plastic scythes all the time" isn't the greatest ice breaker in the world.
His commanding officer is Kate, whom he used to date. She broke up with him because he slept a lot and slept around a lot. They've remained good friends, and the two actors actually have tremendous chemistry together. Sad that it's wasted in the third sequel to a movie nobody saw, but you do what you can with the cards you're dealt I guess. Peter Liapis really seems like a pretty good actor, too. Hard to believe he was only in movies about goblins with inexplicable titshots.
The two investigate the museum crime scene, and Jon becomes uneasy after recognizing some mysterious graffiti on the walls. He remembers it as a symbol from his voodoo past. Looked more like a fluorescent snake to me, but that's why we created terms like 'dual meaning.'
The Ghoulies, named "Dark" and "Lite," hitch a ride with Jonathan, recognizing him from his earlier days and seeing him as a possible ticket back to Hell. See, they live in Hell, so they like it there. If Hell is really full of helpful trolls who make jokes, I'm gonna start killing people and burning bibles to ensure a safe ride there when I die. Jonathan manages to go all the way to the movie's end without once noticing these two following him, probably because he's always got a hooker in his line of sight or a guy pointing a gun at him. Hard to divert attention in either case.
Meanwhile, Jonathan's cop pal Scotty also has someone hitching a ride in his backseat. Only it's a hot chick instead of trolls. Who won that contest? Alex seduces Scotty, and after slicing his chest open repeatedly, puts him under her wicked magical poon spell so he'll do whatever she wants. You say it's the benefits of knowing black magic. I say it's the benefits of fitting double-Ds in a four-year-old's Catwoman costume.
Back at home, our hero recalls his earlier days, where he dressed funny and lightning typically fired off in the middle of his living room. The flashbacks aren't new footage, rather cut-ins from the first film. We briefly get to see the real Ghoulies, the ones who came out of toilets, but they're lost when the flashback finishes up. Oh well.
Remember how Alex's weird god told her that there was another all-powerful jewel? Jonathan wears it around his neck. It looks like a Sweet Secrets toy, but even plastic gems can get down with the enchantment sometimes.
Okay, time for Randomly Inserted Scene #1. Nowhere near as randomly inserted as Randomly Inserted Scene #2, but it had stiff competition there. The museum curator, who played absolutely no part in the movie so far and was in it for three seconds total, is driving along the highway. Everything seems normal till a demonic voice starts broadcasting over the radio and her cars spins off the road, exploding into a zillion pieces. It's pretty hard to care about any of this because we weren't given any indication as to who this woman was.
Maybe somebody taped over part of my cassette with a brief scene from the ill-fated Dukes of Hazzard 2010.
To establish the trolls as hero characters, they save a hooker from being cut up by some random thug. To thank them, she offers free sex. Unfortunately, we don't get to see the trolls have sex. They were that close to really having something great with Ghoulies IV.
I don't know how many of you have seen it, but in 1992, a movie called Troll 2 entered the fray and quickly became recognized - universally - as the worst movie ever made. Eight times worse than anything I've ever reviewed. Whenever the Ghoulies appear on screen, they're accompanied by this music that sounds way too much like the Nilbog music from that insipid masterpiece to be a coincidence. Now that I think about it, these Ghoulies actually look a lot like the Troll 2 creatures. I guess it's possible that these are simply chance similarities, but if not, why on earth would you pick that fucking Troll movie to pay homage to? There's a lot more deserving things, like mass genocide and pipe-shaped licorice. Just thought I'd mention it.
Jonathan's current girlfriend is a hooker, because every woman in Ghoulies IV who isn't on the police force has to be a prostitute for some reason. She's sick of his bullshit, so she walks out on him, altogether forgetting that she previously tried on his miracle jewel necklace and still has the thing around her neck. Considering that the forces of Hell are after it, it's probably not a good thing to have. Then again, it looks so damn pretty!!!
Meanwhile, Alex makes Scotty call Jonathan for help. So many proper nouns in that last sentence, I'm just giddy with capitalization excess. When he goes to the abandoned warehouse, we learn a lot more about his past than we need to considering the material we're given. Hey director, stop trying to make this crap have a logical flow. It doesn't matter! It has trolls running around! It has Satanic hot chicks with ninja stars! We don't expect Shakespeare, just make with some god damned sex and gore already. Ghoulies IV is rated R, but there's nothing to warrant it. Disney could've gotten away with marketing this one.
Alex is saddened to find that Jonathan lost the Crown Jewels, so she orders Scotty to kill him. He fails, and Jonny realizes that he's still got some of the ol' devil in him, since he can apparently banish people to the depths of Hell by shooting them with energy bolts that fly out of his fingertips. Cool. Bye Scotty, you were boring anyway.
The scene does tell us a little more about the characters' past - J & A used to date, and they got heavily into rituals and worship and all sorts of other weird crap faux Wiccans do when they're mad at their parents. Jonathan gave up on that junk, but Alex can't get enough of it. She loves drawing pentagrams and no other religions let her do it so often. We find out that her god is actually the evil embodiment of Jonathan's past self. Essentially it's his twin, but only one of them can exist at a time. The government should restart prohibition if it'd mean screenplay writers couldn't get drunk enough to come up with this crap.
There's still a lot of time to fill in the movie, so all of the sworn enemies part ways for now. They'll start trying to kill each other when we get closer to the two hour mark.
Dark and Lite infiltrate Jonathan's apartment, not for any real reason apparently, they just wanna hang out and eat fried chicken. One of them reads a nudie magazine because, in the world of bad movies, trolls looking at naked chicks is pure comedy gold. I guess you could conceivably find this stuff funny if you're, I dunno, TEN, but once you're 50 like me, it's just lost on you. I swear though, I really did like the flick. I would never, ever, not ever never watch it again, but there were worse ways to kill 90 minutes. I mean, watching Ghoulies IV was a lot more fun than eating poinsettia or devising a way to shit on my face. It's got some merits.
Kate and Jonny's romance blossoms. Well, not really yet, but you just KNOW they're gonna get it on by the movie's finale. Elsewhere, Alex's god-man turns one of the locals into a hellspawn so he can find out where the forbidden jewel is. Don't ask me, I think they just needed an excuse to put horns on one of the extras.
After finding out it's location, they retrieve the jewel and kidnap Jon's girlfriend, (the hooker version, not the blonde cop version) preparing for that one last sacrifice before the ghastly ghoul can become a thing of nonfiction. Of course, they spent close to six years setting up the sacrifice ceremony, because our heroes are miles away and they want to play fair and give 'em a realistic chance of saving the day. Even if we're going by onscreen time, they wait approximately forty minutes before even considering stabbing her through the heart. Now that takes some serious grace and dedication to an even playing field. Let's give a little credit to this flick's villains, eh?
Here's some words you can spell using the letters in the word 'Ghoulies': Go, Hog, Lie, Lies, Ghoul, Ghouls, Log, Logs, Leg, Legs, Sog, House, Oil, Oils, and my personal favorite, Esiluo. That's French for 'I wish this movie would end right now.'
And there it is! Randomly Inserted Scene #2! Jonathan enters a house! Do we know who's house it is, or why he's there? Absolutely not! And hey, who's that chick in the red dress? Who knows! And why is she leading a giant Sumo wrestler around on a leash? Who cares! Why is the giant Sumo wrestler beating up Jonathan? Beats me! Will all of this be entirely forgotten in the next scene? Yes sir! You can't spell 'esoteric' incorrectly without 'Ghoulies IV.' Way to go, guys!
Seriously, there's no way to explain the above sequence. It just comes out of nowhere and disappears like a thief in the night. I told you, the producers just wanted to mess with us. If that's the case, this scene wasn't really necessary. Seeing a dwarf in a Dracula costume eat fried chicken messed with me enough. This was just overkill.
When Jonathan arrives at the scene, his evil brother-or-whatever-he-is commandeers his body. The change isn't all that noticeable, aside from the fact that Jon's now dressed like a boxer and grunts a lot more than usual. All hope seems lost - his hooker girlfriend's gonna die, and he's gonna spend the rest of his life possessed. It's like those episodes of Charles in Charge where Scott Baio eats bad clams and turns into Chaz. Only this guy's even worse than Chaz, because he drinks blood and his eyes glow green. Worse than Chaz...can ya believe it? The Ultimate Villain. How will they stop him? Better yet - who will stop him? I'll tell you who...
Nite and Dark retrieve the jewel, throw it to Kate, and fortunately, she somehow knew how to make it shoot lightning. That Kate, she'll always surprise you. After zapping Alex to Hell, she zaps the evil Jonathan, which somehow leads to the real Jonathan returning with his buddy Scott in tow. Christ, can't anybody just die? We don't need the super happy ending. Just the medium happy ending. Then again, this is the last Ghoulies movie. May as well go the Full Monty.
Jon and Kate finally rekindle their love, while Jon's hooker ex finds a rebound in Scotty. Everyone's pleased as punch.
So, what about those trolls? They helped the good guys win the war, and helped redeem the Ghoulies' reputation by doing nice deeds for hookers. Where's there comeuppance? Right here...
They got their ticket back to Hell! Before jumping through a dimensional portal back home, they wave goodbye to the audience and insist that they'll see us all again in a sequel that never came to be. Bye, trolls. I'll miss you. Sort of. Not really. Not at all. You had cute paws, though.
Overall:Ghoulies IV was slammed by critics and fans alike. I really can't understand why, especially if the gripes are coming from people who liked the previous installments. I thought it was one of the more better-acted films of the genre I've seen, with truly likable characters and a story, while stupid, that managed to hold my attention the whole way through. Can't ask for much more than that. I kind of wish the trolls would've exploded, though. But hey, ya can't have everything, and Ghoulies IV gave me way more than I was expecting.
They gave me monsters who helped hookers, and a subplot involving a leashed sumo wrestler.