The Ghoulies is one of those movies that everyone's heard of, but nobody's seen. And even the people who saw it are convinced they watched a different movie, because the box art and description tells the tale of an entirely different flick than what it's really about. Still, those of us who skip the New Releases section of the video store and walk straight towards the old school horror aisle are more than familiar with this gem - the image of the Ghoulie popping out of a toilet dressed like a Cabbage Patch Kid is something I vividly recall seeing since I was a little kid. Course, I was scared to death of it back then. Now I'm scared of it for entirely different reasons, not the least of which being a poignant concern that filmmakers are totally godless and that there's no laws preventing the production movies this terrible.
The big problem isn't the movie itself - it's bad beyond hope, but I expected that. You don't walk into a flick where the biggest star is the midget who wore the E.T. costume and expect to have your mind's horizons broadened. The enticing thing about old schlocky horror films is that it's bad and cheesy. That's what we want. However, when you rent the Ghoulies, you expect it to be about those gloppy green monsters on the box. Not so. They're in there, but they're virtually pointless to the plot and only work their magic for a few scenes. Ghoulies was advertised in such a way so that it could cash in on the success of Gremlins. To a degree, the plan worked - this movie had no right being seen by the amount of people it has. But Gremlins it certainly ain't. It's not even a Gremlins rip-off cuz the little monsters don't really mean anything to the film. Ghoulies is more about sorcery and black magic and bad 80s stereotypes. So if you go into it expecting Mr. Wing to play Indian Giver with one of the green pests, promising the useless characters that they can have it back when they're more responsible, you're gonna be disappointed.
Still, I'm happy I saw it - I've been looking at this in various video stores for the past fifteen years or so, it's nice to finally get a chance to see what all the non-fuss was about. Besides, it's kinda like getting the chicken pox. Now that I've seen Ghoulies, I'll never have to see it again. There's an undeniable satisfaction there. Let's take a look at the flick...
Article continued below advertisement:
Visit our sponsors to support the site!
We start off with a flashback scene to twenty-five years before the movie takes place - some Eurofag Satanist who really believes in the power of dancy hand gestures is holding a cult ritual with a bunch of other Satanists at some country house. He decides to appease Lucifer by sacrificing his baby son, but something goes wrong and he ends up sacrificing the mother instead. How, you ask? Well, I'm not really sure. In one scene she's got something pressing through her obviously plastic chest, and in the next, there's this little monster standing around laughing. The cult leader, who looks like Greg Kinnear if Greg Kinnear worked in a goth hair salon, seems satisfied that the devil accepted this peace offering with open arms.
The baby is carted off by one of the cultists outside the house, and now we can safely fast forward to the present. Three minutes into the flick and we've already had a death, little alien monsters, a Satanic ritual, and the guy who founded the Ricardo Montalban fan club. This is what 80s horror was all about.
The devil guy's son is named Jonathan, and he inherits his dead daddy's house some 25-years later. Oddly, his dad is buried right outside the house. And I don't mean buried like real people are buried - I mean there's this makeshift flower garden with a pile of dirt and a hedgestone in the middle of it. Obviously someone's gotta rise from it. Jon's girlfriend, Rebecca, establishes herself as the genius character right off the bat: 'It looks like some sort of...grave!' What clued you in big-nose, the hedgestone or woman's intuition?
They meet up with the house's caretaker, only he's not the house's caretaker because he's never in the house. I think he's called Wolfgang. The guy just stands there staring at Rebecca like he's dreaming of eating her or fucking her - either way Jonathan knows it's a good time to usher her away before The Caretaker Without A Cause has a chance to stick his pitchfork up her orifices. Believe me, in movies like Ghoulies, that's never something you should rule out.
Jonathan has no idea that his parents were Satanic morons. When he finds his dad's old black magic books, he just think they were New Age or something, because he totally doesn't seem a bit concerned. Actually, he seems downright curious about the whole magic thing and as the movie progresses, his interests become a problem.
Jon's played by Peter Liapis, who's surprisingly likable here. I don't mean likable like Arnold or Sly or anything, I just mean I didn't throw our cats at the television every time he spoke. The cats and I now share an appreciation for him not hamming it up too much - they didn't get their skulls bashed, and I won't have to stab myself with needles to get the feeling back in my hands every time I transcribe something he says. See, my hands have minds of their own and force themselves to go numb when I make them do something they deem useless. That's why I could only get a Quickie out of Pokemon chewing gum instead of a full article.
To celebrate their new house, Jon and Becky throw a wild party. 80s style. All the guys are horny idiots who feel the need to run out to their cars whenever they take a shot as if it's some rebellious act when everyone else is taking them inside the house anyway. When they do this, they share tips and tricks on how to pick up women, which usually degenerates pretty quickly into high-fives and raucous howling. When their come-ons flop, they go back to the drawing board and conjure up a surefire way nail a hot chick's affection: breakdancing.
It's at the party where we meet the rest of the 'good guy' characters, all more stupid than the next, all wearing outfits that make the earliest Satanists look fashionable by comparison. To the movie's credit, or discredit, there's no vapid sex scenes and no shots of pointy tits that were such a hallmark of movies in this genre. They were so close to ending up with a decent little flick, but the lawn dart fell a little short and we end up with a movie banned in 16 states for excessive banality.
When the party's over, Jon and Becky's closest friends decide to stay the night, and they all try to think of something to do. Here's an idea: mass suicide. If they killed themselves now and cut the movie short, I'd tack 20 points onto the final grade out of appreciation. Instead, Jon decides he wants to hold a seance. Bad move, Jon. Anytime someone does a seance in this type of flick, somebody ends up vanishing or transformed into a killer chicken puppet. Either way it's annoying to us viewers who just want to see little green monsters bite their heads off.
The seance seems to fail, but after everyone makes fun of Jon for being such a lame-o and head upstairs, one of the creatures materializes in the middle of a chalk-drawn pentagram. The reason I'm not including any pictures of this intense piece of filmmaking is because the little monster doesn't really do anything and has no affect on the story. He's just there because Gremlins made lots of money. Though I shouldn't really poke fun over that - it's widely accepted that Critters was the big Gremlins rip-off, but somehow, people seemed to really like that movie. Ghoulies is way more original, but at the same time, way worse. I guess the old adages are true. If you painted Mona Lisa with a mustache and called it Mona Lukey, you'd make a lot more money hocking it than you would creating a statue out of old VCR innards and various car parts. But at least you'd be original.
No you wouldn't, Nick already did that and Mallory was real proud of him. Looks like you're screwed.
Jon tells Becky that he's quitting school so he can spend more time working on the house. What he really meant to say is that he's quitting school so he can practice black magic in the basement wearing a preacher's robe. Becky is obviously concerned - what about his future? Sure she wants the porch lights to work, and it'd be nice if there weren't so many damn bowls of old ceremonial salt laying around, but she doesn't want Jon to give up his dream of becoming the world's first dentist who only uses one hand.
After he explains that he wants them to have this kickass place so they can start a great life together, Becky backs off. To be honest Jon is already acting real creepy so I'm sure she's terrified of him by this point. Jon does what he promised - in a few days the house looks fantastic, totally clear of cobwebs, but in the interim, he's up to something a little fishy, namely witchcraft.
You know how, when you wear an officer's outfit on Halloween, you really do feel like an authority figure for the night? Costumes have really great mind-over-matter powers. So when Jon starts dressing like a devil worshipper, his voice changes into Dracula's and he starts grinding his teeth like a methhead. And of course, when you consider his bloodlines, he's a pretty good black magician. We see a number of parlor tricks take place - first, he makes lightning shoot all around the basement, then he makes a boom mic appear floating around the ceiling. Or was that a movie flub? You can't really tell.
After he makes it rain just because he can, Jonathan casts a spell to make a horde of Ghoulies appear to do his bidding. The green Ghoulie on the cover isn't what they all look like - there's an assortment of little monsters ranging from one that looks like a mini-werewolf to one who looks like Chewbacca if a car ran him over. For the duration of the film these little creatures hang around Jon but don't do anything evil, because that's not what he intended to bring them around for. What did he intend? Beats me, he doesn't use the stupid things for anything other than aesthetics. If I was gonna go through all the trouble of conjuring up Helldemons, you can bet I'd at least have them getting the morning paper for me.
Becky catches him in the act and threatens to leave, but Jon promises to stop his shenanigans. He pulls the old 'I was just trying to understand my parents' excuse that we've all used at one time or another. Of course, whenever I said that, it was just to justify eating crab legs and steak in one sitting. Jon's really playing up the trump cards here.
Of course, once Becky leaves, Jon goes right back to witchcraft. Only now he's like some CRAZY witch, carrying around plastic scythes and screaming at every twist and turn. If I may make a small confession, I too once dabbled in witchcraft. It was fake witchcraft really - I bought a few books after learning that the art involves us buying a lot of quartz crystals and lavender seeds. It's really a materialistic religion. I'd be such a better Catholic if God decreed that we needed to honor him by stocking up on tons of amethyst. The funny thing is how similar a lot of the religions I've studied end up being - they all seem to have the same end goal, albeit with a different way of getting there. If Scientologists were more into Christmas, I'd probably become of them just because it's such a fun word to spell.
The point I was trying to get at here is that, while Jon had no ill intentions with his magic at first, his thirst for something more is become evident. And that's where the trouble begins. Whenever a guy in a bad movie starts questing for true magic, you know a team of ugly midgets aren't too far off in the horizon. Sure enough...
Jon summons two imps to follow his orders. I guess the Ghoulie creatures weren't enough for him. Or maybe the shitty puppets were just too hard to really animate. Whatever the case, he ends up with a dwarf duo wearing rubber helmets. Their names? Grizzle and Greedigut. Their game? Total devotion to their master. I should mention that none of these witch monsters appear to be inherently evil - they just carry out their master's commands. Amazingly, the same balances for good and evil remain true for the many fine characters in the world of Pokemon. Whomever scripted Ghoulies should sue Nintendo. God knows they probably need the money.
The imps ask Jon what he desires, to which he answers, in the film's greatest line: 'KNOWLEDGE......ANDPOWER!'. I didn't forget to put a space in there - in Jon's psychotic devil world, 'and' and 'power' combine to form a more powerful superword meant to be spoken in one syllable. They explain that, while dangerous, the only way he can get more power is to invite his friends back for a larger ritual.
By the way - it's the girl midget who played E.T. - the real one, not some ET in a foreign rip-off or something. Amazing, right? That means she probably gets to go to comic conventions to do autograph sessions with idiots who think her signature is actually worth ten dollars. David Prowse SPITS on people like that, right after he takes their 25 bucks.
Jon does what the imps suggest, and gathers the old crew back to the house. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention this, but Becky is now under Jon's spell because she tried to leave him after one too many incidents where he tried entrancing her during sex. I'm not making that up - it really did happen in the flick. As for his friends, I'm guessing they're under spells too, because everyone's wearing wacky sunglasses and none of them are questioning why the Ghoulies are sitting inside the turkey dinner laying on the table.
Well of course they're not questioning it - they saw Gremlins, and they want to bank that hard at the box office too!
Anyway, Jon prepares a weird spell with the end goal totally undetermined. All we really know is that, to complete the spell, everyone at the ritual has to do something pretty odd: scream real loud.
Holy shit, did I miss something, or did Chairy wander in muttering today's secret word?
EVERYONE screams - all the friends, Becky, Jon, the Ghoulies...even the two stupid midgets! This goes on for about 45 seconds, a span of time that will go down in infamy as the minute I most wanted to do myself in. The cats all ran out of the room the second this started going down because they knew they were a scant three seconds away from being hurled at the TV set.
The screaming ends up waking Jon's devil-worshippin' daddy from the grave - and even the god damned CORPSE is screaming. You haven't heard this much screaming since the final vote tally came in after Bush was already in office.
As it turns out, it seems as though Jon himself was under a spell this whole time. His father was using him to get resurrected. Great, now at least we have our star villain, which of course means we're a step closer to the end credits and that's something I'm thankful for.
Meanwhile, we get a closer look at one of the guy's sunglasses - look, it's one of those pairs that have windshield wipers! The fun don't stop with novelty sunglasses! Seriously, this was one of the definitive 80s fad. I remember one time long ago where Pizza Hut ran a promotion...you'd be able to buy a pair of these wacky sunglasses for 99 cents if you ordered a pie. I, in my infinite stupidity, would not shut up about them till my parents took me there. So I get the glasses, and they can best be described as being shaped like Hendrix's guitar, only colored like puke with a yellow nylon string attached. Making matters worse is that I got these while we were on vacation for the weekend, and I walked around the boardwalk of Wildwood, NJ with these stupid things on for two days. My parents never kept such a distance from me in my entire life. Even the seagulls thought I looked stupid - I got shat on like sixteen times that weekend. In short - I HATE novelty sunglasses.
Jon's dead daddy summons up some Ghoulies of his own, and eventually takes control of ALL of them, including the midgets. The midgets don't like carrying out their new master's orders, but it's not like they can deny him, right? I mean midgets are supposed to do as their told, they're not real people with rights. The dead daddy, named Malcolm, orders everyone to kill off all of Jon's friends. For what reason we're not sure, but he's evil so I guess he's got to start murdering people. It wouldn't really fit the movie's theme if he got across his bad guy attitude by cheating at Scrabble or not claiming the rent of his illegal tenant apartment in his taxes. If we're to believe this guy's bad, he's gonna have to do a little more than worship the devil. Otherwise all we have is a more attractive Glenn Danzig. No, he's gonna have to kill people.
The death scenes are fantastically stupid, and they're what you want from this kinda film. Unfortunately, they're not too gory, but personally I don't go much for gore and I'd rather have creative stupid death than boring bloody ones. These fall somewhere in the middle. The Ghoulies kill everyone, including Becky, but the two pictured above are by far the most interesting.
The first death? One of the horny guys leaves his bedroom to find a beautiful scantily clad chick begging him on. When he accepts her advances, she starts choking him with her 12' tongue and transforms into Malcolm. After a few moments, the tongue chops through his neck. This really isn't doing much for Malcolm's daisy persona. If the constant use of dance moves to prove his points aren't enough, here he is tonguing every male in sight like an episode of Six Feet Under gone terribly wrong.
The other cool death has a clown doll coming to life to choke one of the vixens. Before he does it, his head starts expanding and a green claw rips through the thing's forehead, dripping with slime. Freaky clowns are always a morale boost in films like this, especially when they're flanked by feathered cuffs.
Malcolm finally meets up with his son, and vows to finish what he started twenty-five years ago by sacrificing him to Lucifer. You've gotta give the guy credit for wanting to tie up loose ends like that. Take a lesson and bring back that copy of Barnaby Rudge you took out of the library in seventh grade.
The greatest part about this scene is that all the dead bodies of Jon's friends are in the background, quite visibly moving around. I guess our pal Rigor Mortis took the day off. Malcolm totally overpowers Jon's witchy abilities, but just when everything seems to be falling apart, a shining star breaks through the wall to save the day...
Yep, the caretaker turns out to be a great and powerful sorcerer fighting for the powers of good. Either that, or they ran out of money for casting and had to reuse the guy with the smallest part. The Holy Caretaker arrives on the scene by throwing a staff into Malcolm's back, which fazes him as much as any corpse would be phased by having a staff shoved in it's spine. In an Amazing Scene Alert, the caretaker celebrates his terrific aim by laughing hysterically for 30 seconds while holding his belly. Caretaker Claus.
The two lock up and start shooting lightning at each other through their eyes - the Caretaker's lightning is white, while Malcolm's is a more sinister red. Eventually, they both get destroyed, but at least Caretaker Claus put an end to all the madness before Jon got offered up to Ozzy. The best part? Somehow, in killing Malcolm, all of Jon's friends COME BACK TO LIFE WITH NO VISIBLE SCARS. Resurrections rule.
Everybody decides it's probably a good time to leave the house forever, and Jon promises Becky to never dabble in black magic again. Unless he needs to win the lottery or something. None of his friends yell at him about inadvertently getting them killed, because they're the type to let bygones by bygones. At least it's a happy ending, right?
Wait - it isn't really. The final scene shows some of the Ghoulies hiding in the back of Jon's car. I'd say this was the scene that left the door open for the many Ghoulies sequels also out there, but in the second flick, everything that happened in this movie is totally ignored. I guess it's up to us to figure out what happened next. My vote? They cooked and ate the little monsters because this was the decade of health and everybody knows Ghoulies are low in cholesterol.
Overall: See the sequels if you're more interested in the monsters. They don't play a big part here. Still, there's something about this movie I rather liked - I can't put my finger on it, but it might have something to do with my secret midget fetish. Whatever the case, I'm glad to put 15 years of curiosity to rest...I always wanted to know what this one was about. For anyone else who's wondered the same thing, I hope this review helps you feel more complete and fuzzy.