When Jonathan (Peter Liapis) inherits a mansion, he finds not only Ghoulies, but that he has a dark past steeped in black magic.
Going in, there were two trains of thought about this one, from what I had been reading: This was a fun, guilty pleasure film or that it was a mind-boggling load of dreck. The latter seemed to be consensus, but I had to see for myself. Most fans consider it a Gremlins knock-off, although it supposedly has its origins in 1983. Later, Critters would go on to claim something similar, so it sort of makes me wonder about the validity of these claims. Nevertheless, Charles Band made a significant sum of cash off this one, based on Joe Dante's success.
You would think a film like Ghoulies, whose main draw is that it has small creatures roaming around and causing chaos, would be more of a Horror/Comedy. Looking at the theatrical poster, you would probably think the same thing. Well, not so. It’s a premise more suited for Horror/Comedy, that is treated pretty much as a straight Horror film. In that, is my biggest problem with it. You can’t scare people if what they’re seeing on the screen is laughable. I can’t imagine someone not reading this script and pointing out to the director how shlocky this whole thing was. As a result of the poor style choice, the film comes off as simply bad rather than having a chance of falling into the category of ‘so bad, it’s good’ cult classics.
Despite the Ghoulies being what was marketed, the film is largely about Jonathan, his fascination with the occult, and the fact that his girlfriend, Rebecca (Lisa Pelikan), isn’t happy about it. Liapis gave probably the best performance out of the bunch, but really what is that saying? Pelikan was so low key, that it seemed like she didn’t really want to be there. Maybe I could at least forgive the filmmakers for some of the failed scares, if the film wasn’t so flat and outright boring at times. They used voice over as a device to push exposition a few times throughout. I found myself sometimes wishing that they had cut out several of the dull sequences, and used this voice over to fill in what we missed.
But, it’s not all about Ghoulies and a lovers' quarrel; we have some fodder present. Most of the acting is what you would expect from the type of film that I’ve described so far. It’s mostly stiff and any fun the characters might have had on the page, suffers. We have characters such as Dick (Keith Joe Dick), a ladies man who has the disco Elvis thing going on. If he had blonde hair and shades, he’d look closer to a live action version of Johnny Bravo. He’s probably the only thing remotely amusing about any of these guys.
We have others that range from having almost no characterization whatsoever, like Robin (Chareen Kathleen) and Eddie (David Dayan), to really annoying characters like Mark (Ralph Seymour); who talks in a strange voice and refers to himself as "Toad Boy" at random times. You know, maybe he should have been one of the guys with no characterization. We also have Mike (Scott Thomson), the party guy who thinks he’s cool. I didn’t think he was cool, but at least he wasn’t lifeless. Then there’s Donna (Mariska Hargitay). I doubt Mariska shows this one to her friends. This was her first film, and you can tell she was pretty green. We’re also introduced to two inter-dimensional little people named Grizzel (Peter Risch) and Greedigut (Tamara De Treaux). I didn’t exactly see the point of these two, they did nothing really significant, and I don't think the story would have missed them had they not been present.
A few things aren’t bad. The score by Richard Band was pretty good. Considering the budget, the design and movements of the Ghoulies (created by John Carl Beuchler) weren’t bad. And there are a couple of nice 80’s effects present, even if their impact is later diminished by a shitty, cop out ending that renders most of the film pointless. I know this one has some fans, but there is no way I recommend this. If you just have to see a Ghoulies film, try one of the Sequels. While not good themselves, they at least understood that this premise had more potential as a borderline Comedy. That, at least to me, makes it a little easier to endure them.
Ghoulies is available on DVD, exclusively packaged with Ghoulies II.
Directed by: Luca Bercovici
Starring: Peter Liapis, Lisa Pelikan, Mariska Hargitay, Keith Joe Dick, Michael Des Barres
Released by: MGM
- Theatrical Trailer