“I got an idea: let’s do a ritual.”
I always wanted to watch Ghoulies. At least once a week, my dad would take us to the local mom and pop video store. It was like a trip to the circus. What new oddities would be on the shelves this time? A paper bag of free buttered popcorn in hand (they gave it out at the door), munching away between the aisles, I would search out weird titles with great box art that my dad may or may not let me rent. Ghoulies, unfortunately, was one of the latter. “It’s a horror film, dad. About Satanism!” Alas, my traitorous brother had informed on me, preventing me from watching it. Ghoulies had slipped away, lost in the labyrinth of memory and the shelves of dusty videocassettes. Until now. Yes, my entire life had led to the moment when I could watch the movie whose box featured a silly goblinoid monster wearing suspenders, poking his head out of a toilet. Which was about Satanism, I guess.
As it turns out, Ghoulies is not a great film, but neither did it disappoint. Ghoulies is awesome, bizarre, cheapo 80s Satanic horror. There’s bad breakdancing, beer and weed, dwarfs, 80s frat humor, Satanic rituals, and a ridiculous deus ex machina climax. It’s fun and funny, doesn’t take itself very seriously, and would go well with at least two of the aforementioned elements.
This guy right here. Cigarettes and change everywhere.
At first, it appeared as though the film would be a simple frat party gone gory, but it’s a little more convoluted than that. Student Jonathan Graves (Peter Liapis) inherits a mansion after the passing of his father Malcolm Graves (a scenery chewing Michael Des Barres), which he moves into with his girlfriend Rebecca (Lisa Pelikan). He soon uncovers his father’s sordid history and occult artifacts, which compel him to take up his father’s dark doings in a Lovecraft/Poe-esque story of genetic compulsion and possession. It’s not long before the ghoulies are unleashed and the dying starts. The oddest thing here is the clumsy, weird framing device of having actor Jack Nance – here playing a sort of slinking Renfield groundskeeper for most of the film – narrating, and later, arriving preposterously to play a key role in the climax. It feels a bit like the filmmakers didn’t think things were working and tacked it on.
“Good thing we bought that extra set of linens for when we have guests over for a ritual.”
The acting by the leads is acceptable for a wonderfully cheesy 80s flick, and the film has as typically great score by Richard Band which was conducted by Shirley Walker, even though it’s largely just a mashup of Band’s work on 1982s Parasite and 1984s The Alchemist. Director Luca Bercovici and cinematographer Mac Ahlberg create a nice, gothic California atmosphere, and there’s some nice sets here, like the mansion grounds strewn with statuary and old gravestones.
There he is, the most iconic Ghoulie, in all his toilety glory.
Yes, this film is about Satanism, but the real evil is my brother. What an ass. If you’re in the mood for a large serving of fun, cheesy 80s horror, Ghoulies comes recommended. Toilet goblins await!
8 out of 10