Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Tiny terror double-feature with the Ghoulies!

Want a double-bill that's going to fill any Bad Movie night with glee, laughter and little critters behaving badly? You can't go wrong with "Ghoulies" and "Ghoulies II."

Ghoulies (1985)
Starring: Peter Liapis, Lisa Pelikan, Scott Thomson, Michael Des Barres, Ralph Seymour, Keith Joe Dick, Mariska Hargitay, Jack Nance and Peter Risch
Director: Luca Bercovici
Producers: Charles Band, Debra Dion and Jefery Levy
Rating: Seven of Ten Stars

Jonathan Graves (Liapis) discovers his father was a demonologist and decides to pick up where he left off, summoning nasty little demons to his bidding. He soon conceives of a plan that will give him ultimate power (as well as the complete obedience of his hot girl friend, Rebecca (Pelikan)), but, as always, the demons goals of their own, goals that will see the ressurection of their true master (Des Barres).

"Ghoulies" is a rollicking horror comedy that was a major hit in the mid-80s, thanks in a large part to the poster displayed above. It was also one of three movies that established the Charles Band trademark of featuring weird little creatures in his films (the other two being "Troll" and "Dolls").

It's the least of the trio, a little slow in getting started and never reaching quite the heights of wackiness as "Troll" nor delivering frights as effective as "Dolls", but it's still a fun and entertaining movie that makes great viewing for a Halloween-themed gathering.

The film's greatest flaw is that it's a bit too slow in getting started, but as it builds, you'll be able to have fun with the bizarre characters that make up the circle of friends that will eventually become ghoulie victims and demon-summoning ritual fodder. Once Jonathan puts on his demon summoning duds and actor Peter Liapis goes into Overacting Hyperdrive, the film becomes truly hilarious. Unintentional comedy, such as when an undead warlock turns himself into a sexy chick in order to lure one of the characters to his death, makes the film even funnier. (In the middle of alll the laughs, unintentional and otherwise, we also get a few genuinely creepy moments, such as when Jonathan turns Rebecca into a mind-numbed sex slave and later when it becomes aware of what a huge mistake he's made.)

"Ghoulies" is one of the best films to be cranked out by the Charlie Band Movie Factory, and it holds up nicely although it's nearly 25 years since it was first unleashed upon an unsuspecting public. it's one of those films that's the very definition of "guilty pleasure." You know it's garbage, but you still have a great time watching it.

Ghoulies II (1987)
Starring: Damon Martin, Phil Fondacaro, Royal Dano, J. Downing and Kerry Remsen
Director: Albert Band
Producers: Albert Band and Charles Band
Rating: Four of Ten Stars

Five diminuative demons, the ghoulies of the title, escape from their summoners and take up residence in a carnival spook house. Ghoulies being ghoulies, Bad Things soon start to happen.

That's pretty much all there is to the story in "Ghoulies II". Sure, we have a variety subplots (most of which don't really go anywhere interesting) and lots of stock characters, including the obligatory romance between the handsome young co-owner of the spook house (Damon Martin) and an aerialist-turned-exotic-dancer with a tragic past (Kerry Remsen) and the heartless accountant (J. Downing) who wants to shut the spook house down because it's not profitable enough, but that's of course secondary to watching tiny terrors spread mayhem and violence. Which they do, so for most of its running time, the film delivers exactly what we expect of it.

Unfortunately, the film lacks a decent ending. The basic idea is sound--and the insight it provides into where the ghoulies reside on the demonic foodchain is cute--but it lacks energy and any real sense of urgency. In fact, a lack of energy seems to be the problem with the entire film. For a movie like this to work--a film where crazy critters are running amok--it needs to build and build and get more frenetic until it reaches an explosive climax, literally or figuratively. Here, we may get an explosion, but we don't get the crazy, cartoony energy the film should have been full of. The movie's never boring, but it's also never as exciting as it needed to have been.

I've seen at least one reviewer refer to the original "Ghoulies" film as a low-rent version of "Gremlins." When I saw "Ghoulies" a week or two back. i wondered if he or she had actually watched the movie they were supposedly commenting on. Now, I think they must have seen "Ghoulies II" at some point and they were confusing the two. (So, I'm now certain the reviewer hadn't actually seen "Ghoulies" but was writing comments from memory and applying them to the wrong film.)

"Ghoulies II" IS a low-rent copy of "Gremlins." It's better than some of them that were made--like, for example "Hobgoblins," but still not very good. The ghoulies puppets are the best thing about the movie, and, since they're the real stars, I applaud the effort the filmmakers put into them. I just wish they'd paid more attention to the script and to the movie's pacing.

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