As an infant, Jonathan Graves is absconded from his father, Malcolm (Michael Des Barres), the leader of a black magic cult, when Malcolm almost sacrifices Jonathan in a ritual. 25 years later, Jonathan (Peter Liapis) learns that his father has passed away and he has inherited his estate, including a large home that is now in disrepair. He moves there with Rebecca (Lisa Pelikan), and soon after begins acting strangely, instinctively following his father's footsteps.
If you're a fan of campy, cheesy horror films, as I am, Ghoulies is a must see. Everyone else should probably avoid this film. This is a Charles Band production. Charles Band means Empire/Full Moon, and Empire/Full Moon is almost a guarantee of some campiness/cheesiness. Not many of Band's films, however, approach the sublime ridiculousness of Ghoulies. We're almost in Troma territory here, but Ghoulies is played much more seriously than the typical Troma production, and in this case, it works to increase the entertainment value.
Since Ghoulies was made in 1984, it features most of the mid-80s horror film clichés. Shortly after moving in, Graves throws a party, so we get big hair, tight miniskirts, skinny ties, recreational drug use, and so on. We also get our eventual fodder for our body count, although in this case, it is worth noting that writer/director Luca Bercovici introduces a "twist" near the end that significantly decreases the body count.
Liapis is the focus of the film, though, and without him, Ghoulies might be more boring than campy. His absurd overacting, often in solo scenes, takes up a majority of screen time. Still, just the brief presence of two demonic minions, Grizzel and Greedigut, would alone make Ghoulies a must see, especially given how everyone continues their attempt to play the film seriously when they appear. And I haven't even mentioned the other ridiculous minions, which are obviously puppets and "dead props" (Band seems to love puppets), and were the beginning of a horror industry attempt to cash in on the success of Gremlins (also seen later in such films as the Critters series and Munchies). We also get zombies, a Star Wars-like battle of wizards, sunglasses as a major plot device, an evil doll, an attack with a 5 foot long tongue, and some probably unintentional homoerotic subtext. Who could pass all of that up? The film gets a 7 out of 10 from me--an 8 out of 10 would have been in order, except for the inexplicable absence of gratuitous nudity.
Note that while Ghoulies is tagged "comedy/horror", it's very unlikely that it was intended to be a comedy in any way. Even if Band applied the label to the film prior to release, it was probably because even he realized how ludicrous the film turned out. At any rate, it would be misguided to watch it expecting intentional humor.
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