Review Date: August 10, 2003
Released by: MGM
Release date: 8/26/2003
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: Yes
Ghoulies begins with a black magic cult performing a human sacrifice using a baby boy. The leader of the cult is Malcolm Graves (Michael Des Barres) and the baby boy is his son. Before the sacrifice is complete, the baby is saved and taken away from his father. Many years later, that baby is now a man named Jonathan (Peter Liapis) that knows nothing of his past. Jonathan has just inherited a large old house from his recently deceased father. Jonathan and his girlfriend Rebecca (Lisa Pelikan) promptly move in and decide to throw a house warming party of sorts.
As the party winds down, Jonathan and several friends become increasingly bored. Passing on strip poker and hide and go seek, Jonathan comes up with the brilliant idea of doing a ritual. The group heads down into the basement and listens to Jonathan spout off some incantations to raise demonic spirits. It seems to fail, so everyone heads upstairs. As soon as they're gone, the first ghoulie makes an appearance. Before long, more and more of the cute little buggers are popping up all over the house.
Jonathan begins to take a darker turn as he slowly becomes more and more controlled by his father's spirit. Jonathan is in control of the ghoulies, but warns them to stay hidden from everyone except him. Finally, Jonathan performs a satanic ritual, requiring six of his friends that ultimately become snacks for the ghoulies. When the ritual is complete, Malcolm rises up from his grave. Malcolm is now determined to rid himself of Jonathan once and for all. With Rebecca and his six friends' lives at stake, Jonathan must use the little magic he has acquired to send his father and the ghoulies back to hell!
Ghoulies is truly an awful movie. The first hour just crawls by as Jonathon and Rebecca waste vasts amounts of time doing nothing of interest in their new home. At the one hour mark, shortly after Malcolm is resurrected, I began to think the movie was taking a turn for the better. Sadly, that was not the case at all. There is a quick battle between Malcolm and Jonathan, followed by a lackluster ending that of course leaves the door open for a sequel. That isn't too surprising given some of the names attached to Ghoulies. Watch the credits and you'll see that the executive producer is Charles Band (Full Moon fame) and film editing by Ted Nicolaou (Subspecies).
The ghoulies themselves are interesting and look pretty good. They don't get much screen time here, as the story focuses on Jonathan and his descent into darkness. That's too bad. If they cut out the first hour and reworked it into the ghoulies running around killing people, the movie would have been a lot more enjoyable. As it stands, Ghoulies is a real stinker. Even with its 81 minute runtime, it's a difficult movie to sit through.
In Ghoulies II, our little friends make their way to the circus. Uncle Ned (Royal Dano) and his nephew Larry (Damon Martin) are driving their carnival attraction, Satan's Den, to the carnival's current town. Their truck starts to have radiator problems, so they stop at a garage to try and get some repairs. It is here where the ghoulies hitch a ride and head off to become the carnival's latest attraction.
The earnings for Satan's Den have fallen substantially and it's at risk of being shut down by Phillip Hardin (J. Downing), whose family owns the carnival. It's up to Larry and a midget named Sir Nigel Penneyweight that works along side him, to turn Satan's Den around before it's too late. Uncle Ned is no help as he's an ex-magician turned drunk. These carnies are about to get the surprise of their life. With the help of some ghoulies, Satan's Den is going to change direction in regards to taking in money.
Our little ghoulie friends are hiding out in Satan's Den. They don't do much harm, at first. They scare a few kids by puking a green substance onto them. Of course, the kids think the ghoulies are great. They go around telling all the other carnival goers about it, leading them all to head toward Satan's Den to see these ghoulies in action. Soon after, the body count at the carnival begins to increase and all mayhem breaks lose - it's open season on all carnival goers. Larry, his would-be girlfriend Nicole (Kerry Remsen), and Sir Nigel Penneyweight find one of Uncle Ned's magic books and call upon a giant ghoulie to come and kill all the little ghoulies. This plan is all well and good, until they're left with one giant ghoulie on their hands. Now they have to figure out how to get rid of this last ghoulie before they become his next meal.
Ghoulies II is a vast improvement over its predecessor. The first thing the sequel does right is by keeping the focus on the ghoulies themselves. The original was just too boring! Most monster movies don't have a great story to begin with. That's not a problem. I think as horror fans we accept that certain areas of the horror genre aren't going to be Oscar winners. But at least Ghoulies II gives us lots of what we want: ghoulies running around and terrorizing people! Smart thinking on the part of the filmmakers.
I didn't mention it earlier, but the effects of the ghoulies are obviously a bit dated now. Even so, I prefer those traditional costume and puppetry effects over the CGI over today. They do manage to make some of the ghoulies look reasonably real, and to me this type of puppetry is more convincing than CGI.
Thanks to that additional screen time, the ghoulies in Ghoulies II have more personality. These are funny little guys, no doubt 'inspired' by Gremlins. We get to see a ghoulie high-five, ghoulies shooting ghoulies at a carnival game, some stop-motion ghoulies, and ghoulies eating ghoulies! Lots of fun delivered from the sequel.
Ghoulies 1 & 2 are presented in anamorphic widescreen transfers in their original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. One word can describe both transfers: Amazing! I was blown away by what I saw here. I expected the usual transfer from a low budget - washed out colors, print blemishes, grain, etc. Instead I was treated to the exact opposite. Both films look beautiful. Each transfer boasts a sharp image; strong, vibrant colors; very few print blemishes; and hardly any grain for that matter. Excellent job done by MGM on these two. I'm scoring each with an A-.
Ghoulies contains a mono track. Sound is consistently clear and audible - no problems noted. Ghoulies II contains a Dolby Surround track - front channel separation was good and there was very little activity from the rears.
Not much in this department, unfortunately. A theatrical trailer for each film is included.
To summarize: The first Ghoulies is long, boring, and could have about 75 minutes cut from its 81 minute runtime to make it a bit more enjoyable. Ghoulies II, on the other hand, is much more enjoyable as it focuses primarily on the ghoulies themselves, who fortunately get much more screen time in the sequel.
Movie - D (Ghoulies)
Movie - B- (Ghoulies II)
Image Quality - A-
Sound - B
Supplements - C
- Running Time - 1 hour 21 minutes (Ghoulies) | 1 hour 30 minutes (Ghoulies II)
- Rated PG-13
- 1 Discs
- Chapter stops
- Dolby Mono (Ghoulies) | Dolby Surround (Ghoulies II)