Almost every horror movie contains something shocking. The most shocking thing about 1984’s Ghoulies is how little the Ghoulies appear in it.
Ghoulies isn’t even really about Ghoulies — it’s about Jonathan Graves, the son of a self-avowed Satan worshiper who inherits his father’s home, book collection, and interest in the occult. (Jonathan was only a baby when his father tried to sacrifice him during an evil ceremony; fortunately, he doesn’t remember that.) At a housewarming party of sorts, Jonathan, his girlfriend Becky, and the rest of their friends decide to hold a seance using the old books found in the home, because hey, that’s what people did in the 80s at housewarming parties. The seance appears to fizzle and everyone leaves while mocking Jonathan, but moments later we as viewers discover that it did actually work as an evil puppet materializes.
Fast forward a few minutes and we find Jonathan — now with glowing green eyes — dropping out of college and spending all of his free time reading books on the occult and practicing incantations. Eventually his hard work pays off and he conjures up “the Ghoulies,” most of which look like slimy Creature from the Black Lagoon babies, but a few of which look like rats. While there are a few variations of Ghoulies, they all look like really bad puppets. Remember the first time you saw Gremlins as a kid and wondered, “How did they do that?” You won’t be wondering that while watching Ghoulies. You’ll just think, “Huh, look at all those puppets.”
Eventually Jonathan conjures up a couple of little people wearing brown coats and metal helmets named Grizzel and Greedigut, two names so awkward to pronounce that even they have trouble saying them at times.
Grizzel and Greedigut, along with Jonathan and all his old friends, perform another seance. This time, Jonathan’s father is resurrected from the grave. And not to make things obvious, but Jonathan’s father’s name is Malcom. Malcom Graves. Subtle, the film is not.
Malcom takes control of the Ghoulies and uses them to kill all of Jonathan’s friends, which is not a particularly nice way to thank people for bringing you back from the dead. He then attempts to sacrifice Jonathan to the devil, again, but things won’t be so easy as Jonathan is joined by Wolfgang, a good sorcerer who also happens to be the caretaker who has been watching over Jonathan his whole life. Just go with it.
By the end of the battle, excluding Jonathan, everyone involved in the battle is dead and everyone who was dead prior to the beginning of the battle is now alive. This includes a few of the Ghoulies, who show up near the end to let us know there will probably be a Ghoulies 2. And there was, followed by parts 3 and 4.
Ghoulies was part of a wave of movies that capitalized on the success of Gremlins, including Critters, Munchies, Troll, Hobgoblins, Beasties, Kamillions, and others. All of these movies copied the “little creatures attacking people,” but none of them were able to capture the wit or charm of the original.
(This review is a part of my month-long October 2014 A-Z Horror Reviews.)