Back in April, we reviewed the insipid Ghoulies 80s horror flick, a title everyone seems to have heard of, but few have actually sat down to watch. It didn't take long to establish that there really was no need for you to see it -- the little demons on the video box play little part in the overall adventure, which had more to do with the ghost of a dusty interior decorator tricking his son into an unholy resurrection.
Ghoulies 2 delivers the goods as promised. A seeming rip-off of everything from Gremlins to The Lost Boys and every other movie the producers could afford to borrow from, this unbelievable (in the 'I can't believe it exists' sense, not the 'It's AWESOME FUN!' sense) sequel languishes in every element that makes us cherish 80s cheese horror so much: really fake-looking monsters, supplementary amounts of gore and scares, a carnival, an out-of-nowhere love story, ridiculous deaths, and a climax sequence that looks to have been scripted by taking the last words from each sentence in a copy of The Farmer's Almanac and scrambling them till they had something remotely coherent.
I bought the first movie because I enjoy the bad 80s horror genre - it's a moot point to tell you it was a bad flick, because that's the point of watching it. Ghoulies 2 is even worse, so I like it that much more. Here's a full review of the film, detailing every last one of it's idiotic nuances. I found this in a bargain bin yesterday for 3.99 - it was purely by chance, and while you'll have some trouble locating the Ghoulies movies because nobody on the planet has ever truly searched for them, (with good reason) you have a good shot of still finding it at video stores. It helps them fill their crap-per-aisle quota.
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Things kick off with a Jesus-enthusiast who's taken up the side hobby of drowning Hell's demons in acid. The 'demons' he captures are actually Ghoulies, so now we know they're down with the devil. The old demon-slayer is not important to the plot in any way whatsoever aside from introducing us to the monsters -- as you can see, he dies pretty quickly when one of the Ghoulies flies into his head, causing an ironic domino effect that ends with him falling headfirst into the barrel of acid, with all the grace and skill of the world's top acrobats. He practically swished his entire body in the thing, didn't even hit the rim once. This guy missed his calling, he was obviously better suited to play Roy to Shaq's Siegfried. By the way, we know the barrel's full of acid because it's conveniently marked as such, complete with fifteen 'extremely toxic' and 'incredibly bad for you' stickers.
The Ghoulies are a lot more noisy and animated in this movie than the last - there's four of them this time around, and while they share the same outlook on life, they look entirely different and boast different skills. One of them is a rat-like cretin who spits glue/slime, another looks like flying roadkill. Then there's a fuzzy one with goat legs, and of course, the one pictured above and my personal favorite -- the green 'toilet' Ghoulie. You know, the one featured on the video box. Unlike the first movie, Green Ghoulie actually makes use of a toilet later in this one. Gotta love rewarding the three fans of the Ghoulies series by making good on the toilet promise, however late they may have been.
The original film wasn't as much of a Gremlins rip-off -- all they really did was promote it as if the little weird alien monsters had much to do with the plot, when in reality they were just props for a few scattered scenes. No, this is the real Gremlins rip - the Ghoulies all make Gremlins-like noises, cackle the same way, the works. You're gonna spend half the movie waiting for Zack Galligan to get attacked by a futuristic juicer. Sadly, there's no actor's actors like Zack Galligan to move along the plot today. Instead, we get a cornucopia of people who quite frankly would've been better off dead rather than having resume points on this for their hallmark achievement. Let's meet the hero characters...
Larry and his uncle, Old Man Ned, run the spookhouse attraction in a sideshow carnival. Basically part of a traveling circus, these two have tried to keep their careers alive for decades despite the fact that nobody seems real scared on their act these days. Larry is as atypical as you can get for the star character in these sorts of movies - pouty, muscular, wavy hair, monkey-level dialog. (think Johnny Depp after a lobotomy and a few whacks to the face with a broom) It's Uncle Ned who provides something a little more unique - an alcoholic nutcase who spits all over himself when he speaks, so perpetually drunk that he often references spells and magic to attempt to alleviate his financial woes. In this case, he tries casting a spell to make their spookhouse 'more scary,' so when the Ghoulies show up, he's certain it was his fault. Actually, the Ghoulies hitched a ride on their equipment truck earlier in the film, but I left that part off this review because it mainly consisted of a five-minutes-long sequence where the monster puppets just stare at the open lock on their truck.
There's one more hero character I've gotta introduce you to, and my, he's something else. If Ghoulies II needs to be remembered for something, it's the ability to throw a thespian midget into the fray and somehow get the movie's best performance out of it.
Sir Nigel Penneyweight helps run the spookhouse by running around it wearing a tiny gorilla suit. That's not a joke or anything, it's really his job. He makes a point to constantly talk about how he's an 'actor' and not a sideshow attraction, and I've gotta agree because he's doing a damn good job of acting like he actually cares about Ghoulies II. Virtually the only guy on the entire cast who didn't go through the motions, the midget who played him really put every one of his 35 inches into it. After some research, turns out he's got a pretty impressive resume, for a dwarf anyway. His real name is Phil Fondacaro, a little troll who's portrayed everything from a Star Wars Ewok to Greaser Greg in the Garbage Pail Kids movie. Obviously one of the most successful midgets ever, discounting the ones from Seinfeld and Mexican pro-wrestling.
P. Hardin comes to the carnival to stir shit up - seems as though he was hired to get the place out of the red, and his first decree as Supreme Dictator is telling everyone his plans to cut any attraction not pulling in a profit, and to fire those who aren't helping the bottom line. This obviously causes a slight ruckus, as Uncle Ned spits all over the place and cites the years upon years the carnival has enjoyed building it's reputation. Hardin has no emotional attachment to any of this, calmly explaining that he drew the Judge Reinhold Straw when they were doing the Gremlins play-by-play plan, and that his job is simply to be the story's human villain who makes everyone miserable till a Ghoulie eats him.
And there's your setup. Now we can move onto the fun stuff!
It doesn't take long for the Ghoulies to claim their first victim - the carnival's two-bit whore. Usually they keep the two-bit whores around for long enough to achieve the mandatory titshot, but Ghoulies was rated PG-13 and there was nothing really else to pull out of the girl. This movie would've been better served going the R-rated route - it's not like anyone was clamoring to see it anyway, might as well have the midget scream 'FUCK' and the Ghoulies castrating people. Oh well - they learned by their mistakes for the next two Ghoulies movies, which were both R-rated and full of asinine gore and decadence.
Meanwhile, Drunken Uncle Ned pulls a Ghoulie from his hat, thinking it was him who conjured up the little demons to help add a little fright to their spookhouse. Of course, nobody believes him and everyone assumes he's a hallucinating, senile old bastard. They're only partly right there - senile & old, definitely. Hallucinating? Definitely not. The Ghoulies slip by in this case without being noticed - seems they're pretty good at hiding bodies, as it takes virtually the entire length of the film for anyone to realize that there's been a single murder. These carnies may be interesting, but they're by no means quick. They'd be terrible on the $25,000 Pyramid.
Two skeptical little kids enter the spookhouse, and they're sure nothing in there will scare them or even look cool. After browsing around the place kicking the crap out of the lame props and dangling rubber spiders, they're thrilled when one of the Ghoulies shows up and vomits all over their shirts. Again, I'm serious. Unfortunately, these types of attractions are dead in real life, too - seems like the only rides that get any press are multimillion dollar roller coasters or media-themed 'experience' attractions. Personally, I've always been a sucker for the classic campy haunted house, and I go on 'em every chance I get. The fact that some guy would go through all the trouble spraypainting the word 'Boo!' on a wall, then highlighting the border of the word in blacklight dust with a toothbrush - it's just such a lost art and we really need to start campaigning to make sure every amusement pier and carnival has at least one haunted house ride where a paper mache Frankenstein pukes into a toxic waste barrel. Some things need to remain a constant.
While the kids get a kick out of the Ghoulies, the local troublemaking hooligans do not. Using the spookhouse as a makeout center, they're shocked to find gloppy, mean-spirited creatures running about, spitting slime on their faces and killing at least a few of 'em. The acting range of these guys takes us to a new low - one guy doesn't even know how to feel up his chick correctly, looking more like he's checking for cancerous lumps. The goons show up later to cause more trouble, but that subplot continually meets a dead end so I won't even bother mentioning it. Suffice to say, don't be a brazen thug carrying a boom box in an 80s horror movie - you'll almost certainly get beheaded by the end of it.
Okay, here's an amazing scene - after the little kids tell everyone that there's really cool looking monsters in the spookhouse, everyone buys a ticket. So piles and piles of people run into the place, and none of the main characters have any idea that there's supposedly little monsters running around despite the fact that everyone in the carnival is screaming it over and over again. After everyone gets inside and finds the Ghoulies, which they assume to be just top notch animatronics, something so odd and amazing happens that I'm shocked the movie didn't make more than the forty-two dollars it pulled in...
They all start cheering the Ghoulies on, who are quite literally mummifying one of their victims, crying a battle chant of 'Rats! Rats! Rats!' till the Ghoulies oblige and become the ultimate audience pleaser by slapping five - a maneuver which sends the entire crowd into a maniacal frenzy of hooting and hollering. It was easily the best scene in the movie to this point, and it would've been the funniest part of the entire gig if the ending wasn't so friggin weird. Yes, it somehow gets much worse.
Eh, fuck it - this is a scene you really have to see, so I've encoded it for you. Very small .rm file -- no audio, but you don't really need noise to understand how stupid it is. Click here to see the Ghoulies ham it up for the crowd!
Uncle Ned finds one of the dead bodies, and is feeling pretty guilty since the drunk moron thinks he conjured up the demons. So, he takes it upon himself to try banishing them back to Hell. Evidently, magic is a sobriety sport, since he gets nowhere and the Ghoulies end up electrocuting and killing him in short order. I wasn't expecting this because most 80s horror flicks that feature the old fogey character usually have him surviving because he's not breaking the cardinal sins - no sex, drugs, or sunglasses. But at least killing Uncle Ned breaks the monotony -- if they'll kill off this guy, nobody's really safe. Plus, it's always fun to throw a 600 year old hack actor in a role where he's gotta pretend to get electrocuted. It's little things like this that make me keep the faith: maybe the 3.99 I spent on this flick really wouldn't have been better spent on outlet store Virgin Mary party lights. Time will tell.
Larry, of course, doesn't take his uncle's death too well. Actually, he takes it pretty hard for all of five minutes before everyone completely forgets he was even in the movie to begin with. You really can't fault them for it though, it's hard to hold a long period of grief for a guy who wore a checkered leisure suit. It's all worth it in the end since the frustrated hero ends up insulting Nigel the Midget to vent off his anger. Nigel takes it in stride, mainly because Shakespeare-obsessed dwarfs in painter's caps don't have too many social outlets. He needs all the friends he can get.
Here's an interesting scene - one of the movie's belly dancers, whom we'll call Helga, has a long talk with Larry, trying to console him after Ned's death. Actually, she consoles him for a minute before going into a long-winded soliloquy detailing a childhood accident that made her terribly afraid of heights. The camera is shoved so close to the actors' faces that it's impossible to pay attention to what they're saying. The sequence drags on for around four years, and after Helga becomes intensely upset talking about her dead brother, Larry attempts to alleviate her pain by shoving his tongue down her throat. It ends up being one of the worst looking movie kisses ever, as Helga's nose gets so scrunched up in the process that you'll swear your watching some scientific documentary on the advantages cartilage has over bone.
I wouldn't have even mentioned this, but Helga ends up as one of the main characters from this point of the story on. I guess they freaked out thinking the loss of Uncle Ned would really detract from the epic scope of Ghoulies 2. I dunno though, they could've shown the slap-five scene over and over again for two hours and I would've been equally if not more satisfied.
FINALLY, Larry and Nigel realize there's little monsters running around causing havoc, and they decide to do something about it. It's gonna be a little tougher now, since Mr. Hardin took it upon himself to fire them and now has complete control over the spookhouse, which is littered with Ghoulies. Obviously, he's not about to shut it down because two disgruntled former employees claim the place is crawling with Hell's minions, and we really can't be mad at him for that. I know I wouldn't believe it.
Indeed, the Ghoulies have taken over the carnival! These are the movie's money scenes - Ghoulies shooting pellet guns, running over people using bumper cars, you name it. There's even one scene where the toilet Ghoulie gnaws a clown's arm off! The best part? Despite the chaos, every police officer on premises still maintains a belief that the most important issue to take care of is enforcing the line at the spookhouse. There's literally scenes with people running around with Ghoulies on their back past shotgun-wielding cops who do absolutely nothing. This is what happens to films when the director tries challenging himself by doing his job blindfolded while smoking crack.
And now, here's the moment you've all been waiting for: the Ghoulies Toilet Sequence. Hold on to your hats...
Hardin looks into a mirror and questions whether or not he's responsible for all the chaos, but derails from this amazing self-analyzation to take a big shit. Of course, the green Ghoulie is waiting inside the toilet, and before he can find relief, the monster apparently leaps into his ass and starts eating him. You know, the sick part of all this is how frightened I was as a child looking at the cassette's box art in video stores. I mean, I was positively terrified of it - renting the movie was never a consideration, I wouldn't even go near it in the aisle. If I knew back then that the scene ultimately summed up with a guy screaming 'Ahhh!' while sitting on the throne for a couple of seconds, I could've saved myself five years of nightmares.
By the way, toilets become more important in the next set of Ghoulies flicks, serving as their interdimensional portal from Hell to Earth. Not sure why I felt you needed to know that, but I wouldn't want any of you aspiring filmmakers coming up with a killer idea like this and thinking you were the first. Demons in a toilet? Dude, it's been done to DEATH.
Midget Nigel suggests fighting fire with fire, or in this case, magic with magic. So they grab Ned's old spellbook and try to send the demons away. The Ghoulies aren't having it - the flying one grabs it and throws it atop the nearby ferris wheel. Helga, if you'll remember, is afraid of heights, but even she realizes the scope of what's happening so she sucks it up and climbs the wheel. This accomplishes two things - a wonderful little lesson to the kids about overcoming fear, but more importantly, a great long shot of her ass. Dual purposes make the world go 'round, my friends.
They get the book back, recite the spell, and you're not gonna believe what it ends up doing. The ground cracks open, and a giant version of the toilet Ghoulies emerges from the depths of Hell. Instead of being a cheap puppet, it's now a guy in a giant, cheap rubber suit. With the spell in mind, this giant monster goes around grabbing each of the Ghoulies, and eating them. It's really, really gross - after each meal, the big Ghoulie picks the meat and slime off his teeth. He goes around making sure to eat up every other Ghoulie around, but he never finds the mini-version of himself who's still hiding in the toilet, so the door's open for sequels. Not that it matters since this one doesn't follow the first film in any way, but at least you could string along some semblance of continuity if you really tried.
Again, words don't really do scenes like this justice, so click here to see it for yourself.
After the giant Ghoulie eats the smaller ones, he turns his attention to the good guys, obviously still a tad hungry. In the movie's largest display of idiocy, the heroes decide to run and lock themselves in a nearby trailer, despite obviously being able to outrun and escape the creature entirely. As the big bastard pounds away on the doors and windows, they hatch a hot plan: fill Nigel's monkey suit with TNT and feed it to him. Sure, the other Ghoulies were impervious to fire previously in the film, but it's getting really late and they've gotta cut some corners to get this mess over with.
And yes, it works - the Ghoulie happily munches on the ape costume, and blows up. The threat is vanquished, at least until the next movie. This scene made me really happy, as the green Ghoulie is the only reason I wanted to see any of these flicks in the first place. Seeing an enlarged version of him going around eating other demons isn't the biggest payoff in the world, but it's good enough to keep me from throwing the tape in with my box of stuff I never want to look at again in the back of the closet. I don't think Ghoulies II is quite as bad as Octopus or my three copies of Randy Savage's autobiography.
Larry and Helga decide to leave the carnival behind, forging a relationship strong enough to warrant spending their lives together in all of a half hour. Nigel promises to keep the spookhouse really spooky, which shouldn't be too hard since all he'd have to do is stand in front of it, making sure people realize he looks like the watermelon-smashing Gallagher cut off at the knees.
Overall: I'm torn between which one of the Ghoulies movie is more worth watching. Both were incredibly stupid, but the first one at least had a coherent story. This one's more of a series of skits for the little monster puppets. I'll put it to you this way: if you've never seen or heard much about the movies but were always a bit interested in watching 'em, this one will probably better fit your liking because it matches what the box advertises a whole lot better than the first one. Of course, carving your initials into each of your toenails would probably be just as entertaining and healthy as watching either of these movies, so it's really gonna be a judgment call on your part. I happen to like stupid horror movies that are so basic you can watch them while sleeping and still point out what's wrong, so I was happy with it. If you're unsure, here's a few more video clips to help you decide...
Click here to watch the Ghoulies running people over on the bumper cars!
Click here to see the infamous toilet murder scene!