OCTOBER 19, 2011
Despite being warned by everyone I’ve ever met that Ghoulies wasn’t “as good” as the second film, which I didn’t like at all, I watched it anyway, because I needed something on Netflix instant that I could watch at work and thus save my night off from Screamfest (the only movie showing was Livid) to saving the good people of Gotham once again in Arkham City. So for all its faults, thank you, Ghoulies, for being PG-13 and short, thus making you an ideal “at work” viewing.
Also, I think I might have to disagree with the others: I actually liked this one slightly more. Perhaps it’s because my expectations were so insanely low, but with random breakdancing sequences, a freeze frame ending with a guy making a funny face as Ghoulies appear behind him, and Mariska Hargitay, making her feature debut in a performance she probably doesn’t talk about all that much. In fact a lot of folks in the movie are familiar; Ralph Seymour from Fletch pops up as one of the main couple’s pals, as does Jack Nance as the good wizard. And Copeland from Police Academy! Not bad for a Charles Band production.
Hilariously, I had forgotten that Band was involved with these movies, and had to clap myself on the back (or cry in shame) when the movie opened on a cheesy wizard rambling on and on. “Oh, is this a Charles Band movie?” I instantly thought, a few minutes before a credit confirmed it. I don’t know why he is so obsessed with wizards and sorcery in his little monster movies, but it’s somewhat amusing that the mere sight of a guy in a terrible costume was enough to inform me who I was dealing with here. On that note, it’s equally amusing that there’s a post on the movie’s IMDb page explaining that the production had to shut down because of financial issues and most of them didn’t come back once it resumed. Good to know Band was always shady with the dough!
Anyway, even with those aforementioned improvements, it’s still a lousy movie and suffers from the same problem that the second one did – not enough Ghoulie action. Obviously those things are more complicated and likely more expensive than scenes of humans, but it doesn’t make it any less interesting. Primer didn’t have any money to do big FX for its time travel story – the movie is still awesome. So instead of little monsters running around, we just get some asshole who is possessed by the spirit of some old wizard, and his equally annoying friends not really noticing much is wrong. Finally everyone comes over for a dinner party and things pick up a bit, as the Ghoulies wreak minor havoc and folks get hurt (almost no one dies in this movie). And the FX are pretty good, but is that really worth noting when they appear so infrequently? If this was all the FX team had to do and they were bad, it would be unforgivable.
Odder still, they’re barely responsible for any of the action. You’d think that by saving their appearance for the 3rd act that they’d go all out, but instead we get one attack by a clown doll of some sort (with a Ghoulie inside it), a couple of dwarfs, and even a full grown woman with a giant tongue, who turns out to be the real (hey wait a minute, did Dream Warriors actually rip this movie off?). Said villain is actually our hero’s father, who tries to kiss his son for some reason I wasn’t interested in exploring. Even when it seems like they’re about to do something cool, they don’t – there’s a scene where everyone has gathered for a dinner party, and the Ghoulies are actually SITTING ON THE TABLE, but no one notices them, because they all have sunglasses on (whatever).
It’s worth noting that this is Band’s first tiny creatures movie, paving the way for Puppet Master and Demonic Toys and all that other nonsense. It was also the first Empire movie, I believe (Re-Animator came out later that same year) – way to make a big splash on your first release! The IMDb lists a 35 million gross for this thing, which has to be inaccurate since the movie doesn’t even show up on the far more reliable Boxofficemojo. I should note that IMDb lists a Saturday for its release date, so my guess is that any theatrical run was quite limited and quite brief (and if it made 35 million it would have been in the top 25 grossing films of the year, topping Fright Night, Nightmare on Elm Street 2, and even Teen Wolf!).
Even if it was one screen, I can’t imagine sitting through a movie this dull in a first run theater. Even with the “Ghoulie in toilet” ad campaign (a throwaway moment in the film that was shot after they came up with the poster), I am baffled how they could have produced a trailer that would inspire anyone to go check it out over movies like Mission In Action II or The Sure Thing, both of which opened on March 1st (assuming the IMDb listed March 2nd date was just a typo). “Hey, that wizard in the 9 dollar cape looks awesome!”
Actually, you know what, Ghoulies II IS better. At least that one offered the death of Bill Butler.
What say you?