Monday, April 20, 2015

GHOULIES (1985) / GHOULIES II (1987)

GHOULIES (1985) / GHOULIES II (1987) 

Label: Scream Factory 
Duration: 81 Minutes, 89 Minutes 
Region Code: A
Rating: PG-13 
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: Luca Bercovici, Albert Band
Cast: Peter Liapis, Lisa Pelkin, Michael Des Barres, Jack Nance,  Mariska Hargitay, Scott Thomson, Keith Joe Dick, Kerry remsen, Phil Fondacaro, William Butler, Royal Dano, J. Downing, Damon Martin

GHOULIES (1985) 

College student Jonathan Graves (Peter Liapis) cannot believe his good fortune when he inherits a sweet mansion that once belonged to his estranged father Malcolm Graves. He moves in right away with girlfriend Rebecca (Lisa Pelkin) with plans to renovate it, but he becomes increasingly obsessed with the occult following the discovery of his journal, turns out that Dad was something of a Warlock. The new found interest in the occult disturbs Rebecca but Jonathan secretly  continues to dabble without her knowledge down in the creepy basement. When the two host a house warming party Jonathan suggest to his friends that they should hold an occult ritual in an effort to summon a demon, which sounds like a great idea to a roomful of drunks. Gathered in the basement Jonathan draws a pentagram and other ritualistic symbols on the floor, but it doesn't seem to summon much of anything... at least at first. It turns out that the spell casting was a success, having conjured not just series of supernatural creatures but a pair of pint-sized minion named Greedigut (Tamara De Treaux) and Grizzel (Peter Risch), who seemingly set out to help Jonathan master his nascent occult powers. 

Rebecca and Jonathan host yet another party and invite the same group of friends, an anthology of '80s stereotypes, the drug-addled burnouts, the nerd, a horny beefcake and two young female companions. Notably among them is the very attractive Mariska Hargitay, the future star of TVs Law and Order: SVU, in her very first onscreen role. The group fall under the control of Jonathan, who is now much stronger, his eyes now glowing with satanic power, who coerces them into performing another ritual, but it turns out that he has been duped by his diminutive minions who only helped him perform the ritual to resurrect their true master, Jonathan's deceased father Michael Graves (Michael Des Barres) who emerges from his grave to reap a terrible vengeance upon the party goers with some help from his ghoulie demon-spawn.

Viewers might be thrown off by the fact that the creatures take a bit of a back seat to Jonathan's exploration of occult in the first film, only coming out to play from time to time in short bursts before receding back into the shadows for long stretches. I still love the creature design, my favorite has feline features, while another has the appearance of a rat, and then there's the iconic ghoulies recognized from the advertising campaign, the slimy green-skinned goblins seen emerging from the crapper and apparently scaring young children away from proper potty training, if Charlie Band is to be believed. 

The cast is a bit stuff, Peter Liapis is wooden through and through as the apprentice warlock, as is the porcelain-skinned Lisa Pelkin, and poor Jack Nance (Wild at Heart) just looks lost during his own scenes, as the mansion's  caretaker.  On the other hand Michael Des Barres (one time singer of '80s rockers Power Station) is a lot of fun as the reanimated master of the occult, a blue-skinned spectre who at one point transforms into a horny blond babe (Bobbie Bressie, Mausoleum) to seduce a young man before strangling him with an elongated tongue. As a young teen I found this sexual switcheroo to be quite disturbing. In one of the more genuinely creepy moments a young woman is terrorized by a clown marionette, a gag borrowed from Poltergeist but with a green-ooze twist, it's good stuff. All of the murders are happening without Jonathan's knowledge and when he becomes aware that his friends have been murdered he must face off against his father in a battle of the black arts.

The finale is a bit of bust honestly, a ridiculous eye-zapping laser show of magic that is the most '80s and dated sequence in the entire damn movie, but you just gotta love it. I freely admit that the scares are few and far between throughout and that my own love for this one is largely based on overwhelming nostalgia, something I have always been able to muster with relative ease. Your own mileage may vary depending on your own level of nostalgia and love of cheesy b-movies, but if you enjoy other Full Moon Entertainment titles like Puppet Master I think it;s safe to say you will enjoy this one. 

Special Features: 

- Audio Commentary With Director/Co-writer Luca Bercovici
- FROM TOILETS TO TERROR: THE MAKING OF GHOULIES - New Interviews With Executive Producer Charles Band, Composer Richard Band, Actor Michael Des Barres And Special Effects Makeup Artist John Vulich (30 Mins) 
- Original Theatrical Trailer (2 Mins)
- Still Gallery (4 Min) (41 Images)


I remember hearing about Ghoulies II because of the inclusion of the band W.A.S.P. on the soundtrack, a tasty little track called "Scream Until You Like It" which was one of my favorite hair-metal bands at the time, it was an easy sell for a sixteen year old rocker who loved horror movies This time around the setting has changed from a musty mansion to a dilapidated carnival roadshow on it's last legs,  it's a great location with a built-in atmosphere which makes for a great setting. There's no Jack Nance this time around, but we do get Royal Fano (Killer Klowns from Outer Space) as Uncle Ned, the alcoholic proprietor of a fright house, who along with his nephew Larry (Damon Martin) must fight to keep the attraction open when the corporate financial baker arrives with pans to close down the attractions that are bleeding profit. 

Luckily for Uncle Ned, but unluckily for the fun house patrons, the ghastly ghoulies have taken up residence inside the attraction, adding an air of menace to the otherwise hokey scares. However, when Ned sees the demons inside the attraction he tries to stop them, but his nephew Larry and the crew assume he suffering from alcoholic hallucinations. Things kick into gear on the first night they open the attraction, particularly for two jaded kids and a group of trouble-making teens who wanna cause some trouble after the ghoulies break their boom box.

The sequel kicks the fun and the gore up a notch, while I enjoyed the first film the sequel is far and away the superior film, plus we have the added benefit that the creatures are front and center throughout, with more articulation and a more proactive role in the storyline. 

Special Features:
- MORE TOILETS MORE TERROR: THE MAKING OF GHOULIES II - New Interviews With With Executive Producer Charles Band, Actors Kerry Remsen And Donnie Jeffcoat, And Special Effects Artist Gino Crognale (17 Mins) 

- Rare Deleted Scenes (3 Mins)
- Original Theatrical Trailer(1 Mins) 

- Still Gallery (26 Images) 

Audio/Video: Scream Factory have crammed both films onto a single Blu-ray disc but the image quality is solid, there's a fine layer of film grain and with it some modest fine detail with minor depth and clarity, easily surpassing the old standard-def DVD, fans of both films will be pleased. Each film is given both English DTS-HD MA 2.0 and 5.1 options, with optional English subtitles. I prefer the surround option which while not the most lively presentation does wonders for the Richard Band score. 

Onto the extras for the first film we have a half-hour making of featurette with new interviews with Executive Producer Charles Band, Composer Richard Band, Actor Michael Des Barres And Special Effects Makeup Artist John Vulich, all of whom paint a fun picture of the film and are very up front with what kind of film it is. Then we have a theatrical trailer for the film, a still gallery and an audio commentary with Director/Co-writer Luca Bercovici which is a bit of a slog to be honest. 

Extras for the sequel include a shorter seventeen-minute making of featurette with New Interviews With Executive Producer Charles Band, Actors Kerry Remsen And Donnie Jeffcoat, And Special Effects Artist Gino Crognale. The actors discuss how exciting it was to be filming in Rome and touring Italy while Crognale has some great anecdotes about creating the effects for the film. 

Also included are three-minutes of alternate R-rated gore scenes that were originally included during the theatrical release of the film but have been missing since it made it's debut on home video, I think Scream missed an opportunity to sell a few more units by not presenting the film in it's original R-rated theatrical cut. The last of the extras are a theatrical trailer and a still gallery of promotional images and stills from the movie. The only thing missing would be the video for the W.A.S.P. tune "Scream Until You Like It" and an R-rated cut of the film. 

A solid double dose of '80s creature features and by far the best either film has ever looked on home video. The Ghoulies films are certainly not a tent-pole horror franchise but they are good, watchable b-movies with some fun elements. The first one seems a bit maligned by fans when compared to the second, but I do love the glowing green-eyed occult '80s party atmosphere of it, there's just not enough of the ghoulies in it. The sequel remedies that with more screen time for the pint-sized terrors and a fun carnival setting, plus a great tune from W.A.S.P. doesn't hurt either.