Ghoulies (1985)

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?


  1. It took two viewings for me to get through Ghoulies. I had turn it off a little over half way (due to approaching sleep) and then picked it up again the next night.

    I know there's that unexplained force which drives bad films to get sequels but I'm really surprised this was even considered for that. It's so boring, I don't see how anyone thought there was more to the story.

  2. Ghoulies definitely had a real theatrical release. I don't know how wide, but it played everywhere and was considered a success (although, 35M does seem too high for the time). I remember it being referenced on sitcoms and talk shows at the time, too. Unfortunately, it really did have a "moment." I blame the poster of the creature coming outta the toilet. It was just too hard for kids to resist.

  3. oh Ghoulies... hehehe... i mean that the scond and the third Part of the Film Series are the Best..they are funny. Part 1, also this Movie here is good to, the scariest of all Ghoulies-Movies.

    (Ich meine, dass der zweite und dritte Teil der Film-Reihe am besten sind, da sie sehr viel Humor haben) Teil 1, also dieser Film hier ist allerdings am spannendsten und kann auch mit einigen Schockmomenten aufwarten))

  4. yeah, I remember this one in the video shops. There were posters and lots of trailers on other videos. My mum wouldn't let me watch it so it built up a kind of mystic in my head until finally I got to at a friend's house. And I remember now, reading your review, there weren't many Ghoulies at all! Just a cool bit with a spaceship and some little guy running around towards the end. Maybe it was successful on VHS just cos everyone wanted to another Gremlins film and there wasn't one then.

  5. Ha ha, I saw this one in the theatre! I enjoyed it at the time, but I was just a kid, and for me any big-screen horror was great!

  6. Ghoulies and the monster in the toilet cover was one of the scariest tapes in the video store when I was a kid. "My God!" I thought "I'm completely vulnerable on the toilet!"

  7. There's like an inflatable Ghoulies toilet lid that was distributed to video stores as promo material. One of my buddies has one.

    Still waiting for part 3 to get a DVD release and thus legitimize that format.

  8. I also have the inflatable Ghoulies "toilet" somewhere in my childhood closet! Loved all those video store promos from the 80s.

    I promise this had a theatrical release as I saw it with my family at a Saturday matinee. I doubt they remember it but I loved even the worst horror movies so it's stuck with me all these years. The only sequel I saw was part 4 that had the same guy as part one but seemed completely unrelated otherwise.

  9. I am looking to buy the Ghoulies 2 Promo Inflatable Toilet. If anyone has one, name your price and I would be more than happy to buy it from you.


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