Peter Liapis - Jonathan Graves
Lisa Pelikan - Rebecca
Michael Des Barres - Malcolm Graves
Mariska Hargitay - Donna
Peter Risch - Grizzel
Tamara de Treaux - Greediguts
Scott Thompson - Mike
Keith Joe Dick - Dick
Charlene Cathleen - Robin
David Dayan - Eddie
Jack Nance - Wolfgang
Genre - Horror/Science Fiction/Comedy/Witchcraft/Demons/Cult/B-Movie
Running Time - 81 Minutes
In the past, a cult leader named Malcolm Graves (Michael Des Barres) wants to sacrifice a baby boy to gain the ultimate power. The baby boy happens to be his newborn son, but the baby is saved before the sacrifice is completed and taken away from Malcolm.
Years pass, and the baby has grown up into Jonathan Graves (Peter Liapis), who knows nothing about his past except for receiving an inheritance from his birth father - a large mansion that seems to be full of books of witchcraft and pentagrams on the floors. Even with all this strangeness, Jonathan and his beautiful girlfriend Rebecca (Lisa Pelikan) move in and make themselves at home.
Jonathan and Rebecca hold a small house warming party with a few of their closest friends, who quickly become bored at doing the same things together. Jonathan leads the group to the basement and suggests they perform a ritual to speak with the dead. While the others don't take it too seriously, Jonathan is slowly feeling the demonic presence taking over him. During the ceremony, Jonathan quickly speaks in incantations, raising demonic spirits without the others knowing. As the days pass by, Jonathan slowly becomes as powerful as his father was, while little demons known as Ghoulies pop up to lend a helping hand to bring back the demonic days of yesteryear.
- Screenplay: GHOULIES is a film I probably haven't seen since I was a little kid. It was one of Charles Bands first films he was associated with [he was supposed to direct the film originally, but ended up executively producing the film instead], and was meant to capitalize on a film I will be reviewing later in the month - Joe Dante's 1985's classic GREMLINS. However, GHOULIES barely scratches the surface of GREMLINS. In fact, I wish the narrative was better and more interesting than it actually is.
GHOULIES is a low-budget B-movie that doesn't really capitalize on what it wants to advertise. What I mean is that the script barely highlights any of the Ghoulies at all! The Mogwai were a huge part of the story in both GREMLINS films, as the film title advertised. But The Ghoulies barely make any sort of presence in their own movie. Sure, the little green one pops out of a toilet [which was meant to be a joke, that the screenwriter actually used because he thought it was serious], but it's barely a blip in the film's running time. I have no idea who these Ghoulies are. I get that they're minions of some sort for the villain, but what are their purpose exactly? To scare people and bite their faces? Lame. I'm not saying they should have been the star of the film, even though their name is in the title. But maybe a narrative revolving more around them, like in the later sequels [for better and/or worse], could have made GHOULIES more memorable than it wants to be.
Instead, the screenplay would rather focus on an evil cult leader, who's a master of witchcraft, who uses his son to resurrect him in order to kill the son to steal his youth. Yeah, that's a mouthful. This main plotline isn't terrible really. It has the predictable beats and you know where the story is going. GHOULIES, in a lot of ways, is a haunted house flick mixed with a possession angle. But I could care less about any of these characters. The main ones, Jonathan and Rebecca, seem likeable. But their normal life isn't really given much time to develop before Jonathan decides to dabble in the dark arts. I'm guessing the screenwriters, director Luca Bercovici and Jefery Levy, felt that sympathetic and decently developed characters weren't needed in a movie like this. Unfortunately, we have to follow these characters for over 80 minutes, instead of the Ghoulies we were promised in the title. That's not to say Jonathan and Rebecca are bad characters. Jonathan's corruption would have been more fun if they let the actor go all out, but it's alright. And Rebecca seems to be pretty intelligent about the whole thing until Jonathan [with the help of two magical dwarfs - yeah, I'm not getting into these two] brainwashes her into a zombie-like state. But do you really care about what happens to them in the end? Not really.
- Direction: Luca Bercovici's direction is what it is. GHOULIES has no real terror, tension, or style that really makes it stand out from countless other B-movies that deal with the same theme. But it's competent enough, I guess. The special effect stuff is dated, but it works for its time. We see countless laser effects shooting out of hands and eyes. The Ghoulies themselves seem to be puppets, although the low budget really makes the puppets from Fraggle Rock look like a million bucks. John Carl Buechler has done better work. I think they actually look better in later sequels. The tongue attack is pretty sweet though! The picture quality is decent, and the editing is fine. Plus, the pacing is very good as GHOULIES flies by quickly. The visual presentation is fairly average stuff, but I'm sure the nostalgia factor raises it a bit for some.
- Acting: I can't really say the acting is terrible. Both Peter Liapis and Lisa Pelikan are good with what they're given. Mariska Hargitay, hot then and now, is okay as Donna. Keith Joe Dick is pretty funny as Dick, playing an over-the-top ladies' man. Michael Des Barres' melodramatic acting matches the film's final act tone, so he's alright. Jack Nance, given an unnecessary voice-over that tries to make GHOULIES feel more epic than it actually is, is wasted as Wolfgang. His character should have really been developed, but for whatever reason wasn't.
Fairly tame B-Movie in terms of sex. We get shirtless dudes, but not much else. There's also a PG rated sex scene that stops before it really gets going. Nothing to see here really.
Again, another tame category. Sure, Malcolm gets to throw Jonathan around a couple of times with his witchcraft. The Ghoulies also attack a few people. But other than that, there's nothing really violent about GHOULIES.
GHOULIES should have been cheesier than it was. The 80s special effects do put a smile on my face though. And the Ghoulies themselves look pretty okay, adding entertainment value for a pretty bland story. But GHOULIES takes itself fairly seriously though, which is unfortunate. I feel the filmmakers could have had more fun with the premise. I'm sure the budget had something to do with that though.
THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE PEEKING OUT OF A TOILET BOWL
- Malcolm Graves wanted to sacrifice a baby for great power. I must be missing this L. Ron Hubbard novel in my collection...
- Dick wants beautiful women to call him "Dick". Unfortunately, they'll be calling his actual dick "Disappointment".
- Grizzel and Mike wanted to see what was inside a closet. Most likely John Travolta, Tom Cruise, or R. Kelly [allegedly].
- Getting possessed by evil is hard on the body. It's like getting the flu. Or watching a single episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians. Same sick feeling.
- Jonathan received the ability to make it rain inside of his basement. And he didn't need a single dollar bill to make it happen.
- Jonathan held a sunglasses party indoors to use his friends to gain ultimate power. Corey Hart's a big fan.
- There was a point during the ritual where everyone screamed real loud. I guess "sunglasses" was the secret word!
- Dick was tricked into making out with a big boobed chick, who was really Malcolm Graves in disguise. He knows all there is to know about the crying game...
THE FINAL HOWL