Ghoulies (1985) Review

ghoulies-poster-1985-everett

“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.

ghoulies2

Hail Satan!

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.

ghoulies5

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.

ghoulies13

“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.

ghoulies21

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

22 thoughts on “Ghoulies (1985) Review

  1. All I really remember from this is the iconic poster & it started girl from Van Damme film AWOL, clever cash in on Gremlins though at a time of great creature features with Critters too

    Sure saw the sequel but remember nothing about it and the comedy one Ghoulies go to college, not sure if that was 3 or 4 though haha

    1. I read somewhere that production was started pre-Gremlins, but who knows. Haven’t seen the sequel, or any of the Critter films, but I’ll be rectifying that gap soon 🙂 Haha, I knew I recognized that girl from somewhere!

  2. omg, I remember seeing this box in the video rental store but I too never got to see it. You’ve convinced me it might be worth seeking out, if only to watch with a beer for a giggle!

  3. That’s a great story!

    I’ve wondered how it would play for an adult. I watch it for nostalgia now.

    Also, too bad the ghoulie coming out of the toilet didn’t have suspenders in the movie. Band tells some good Ghoulies stories on an episode of the Killer POV podcast.

    1. Yeah, despite being an adult, I was still disappointed that the toilet ghoulie didn’t wear suspenders. If I had seen the film as a kid, I’d have been crushed.
      I’ll have to check out that podcast – thanks for the recommendation.

  4. I too had a similar experience. I remember seeing the box art for this film and thought it looked fucking awesome. It didn’t really meet up to my expectations, but I wouldn’t say it was horrible. It was good for some cheap laughs, especially the cheesy acting. But I don’t know if I would spend any time watching the sequels.

  5. Referring to the ghoulie emerging from the toilet, the critics said that the movie belonged there. I beg to differ. “Ghoulies” is one of the most enjoyable movies ever made. Even though it’s a blatant ripoff of “Gremlins”, it’s just fun to watch. You can bet money that they had fun making it.

    Who would’ve ever guessed that Jayne Mansfield’s daughter would star in a movie about a bunch of green monsters?

  6. The post-Gremlins era led to a plethora of diminutive monsteroids. From Critters to Pod People, Hobgoblins to Troll, honestly I think even the Leprechaun can thank the success of Gremlins for his existence. It may be that Ghoulies was in production before Gremlins (that sounds like a familiar claim), but there is no doubt that they cashed in on the success of its release in the marketing.
    Speaking of that marketing, I can remember the blowhards on the local “Z-Morning Zoo” in New York City objecting to that iconic poster, on the grounds that it would frighten innocent little tots and complicate toilet training! I think that was to moment I decided to see the film. Which I did, in one of the late lamented 42nd Street Theaters (one of my first experiences in such). Be assured that the “aformentioned elements” were illicitly present in abundance, although young me was not offered any.
    Re-watching it as an adult, I was impressed with the care they took to make a convincing ritual. Mostly a horror-comedy, but one that didn’t lose track of the horror, thankfully.

    1. Hilarious story about the toilet training objection! Interesting angle with crediting Leprechaun to Gremlins success – hadn’t thought of that. I’ve also never seen Leprechaun, but you’ve convinced me.
      Yeah, it’s surprising how Ghoulies actually looks pretty good, and the ritual stuff is pretty cool.

  7. Ghoulies brings back so many memories. I watched this film as a kid and the ‘satanic’ leader’s hair metal shoulder pads didn’t bother me at all. In fact, I thought they were cool. Times have changed, that’s for sure. I’m glad you dug the flick, though! If you get the chance, watch Ghoulies II. That’s the movie that made me watch the commode for fear of toilet monsters years after watching it.

  8. Thanks, rarehorror! An awesome 8 out of 10. Just to set the record straight: Ghoulies was in production at the same time as the incomparable Gremlins. Gremlins opened first for the main reason that Charlie ran out of funds about 3/4 of the way through production, and it took several months for us to put together the funds to finish the movie (from John Daly/Hemdale).

    The uneven tone is mostly due to the fact that the original script that we sold to Charlie was a much more serious in tone, reflected in the Satanic infanticide/patricide storyline. The “ghoulies” as such were really just window- dressing – until we actually saw them, about two weeks before filming. Buechler’s creatures were – funny. It was really hard to take them seriously, so Ghoulies suddenly became what it was: an uneven cheesy, horror-comedy that no, did not take itself seriously.

    Bottom line: as difficult as it was at time (and it was), we all had a great time making it; everyone has crazy, fond memories of our long nights at the Wattles estate – and I’m personally grateful that, love it or hate it, people are still talking about Ghoulies 30+ years on.

    Cheers,

    Luca

    1. Thanks so much for reading our review, Luca, and, of course, for making Ghoulies! We’re honored that you dropped by!
      Really fascinating to read some behind the scenes background. It certainly feels like a film that people had a great time making, so I’m glad to hear that despite any hardships during the making of the film, everyone still looks back on it fondly. Despite missing it in my childhood, I had a great time watching it, and I’m sure others will, too.
      Thanks again – we’re glad to be people who are helping to keep Ghoulies alive.

  9. Gremlins for me was one of those favorite memories I have in my mind and heart. I takes me make to a special place and situation 😉 I till watch it on occasion on VHS, as it is just one of my campy favorites and far out does the water down version for all the kiddies to be able to see, and would turn into a huge money maker with all it’s a little dolls etc etc and marketing scemes* hell, didn’t even like it at that age, and thought of it as more of a comedy than of the horror genre. Please excuse my writing this evening. On heavy duty meds due to an accident last week. One of the first things I thought of was ” Wow, my bedroom carpet and wall, look like a bloody scene out of a horror scene,awesome” lol. Blessed be, and keep writing your wonderful and informative posts!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s