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Ghoulies is often represented as being one of the knockoff films inspired by Gremlins. It was actually in production at the same time as Gremlins. Unfortunately it didn't have the money or the talent behind it that Gremlins did. That's not to say that it isn't enjoyable, it is. But there were times when the combination of cheap production, cheesy dialogue and bad acting made it feel almost like one of the porno movies of the time. It has it's redeeming features. While the puppetry isn't great, the puppets themselves are pretty cool. It moves a little slowly, and for an 80's horror movie it's light on the gore. While I did enjoy it, I think the main reason it has lasted as long as it has is due a combination of being featured on USA Up All Night and the one image of the Ghoulie coming up from the toilet.

The movie starts out with a ritual being led by Michael Des Barres' Malcolm. He is planning to sacrifice a baby. He is stopped by a woman who puts an amulet on him. The amulet prevents Malcolm from completing the sacrifice. Another of the ritual goers, Wolfgang, grabs the baby and makes a run for it. It turns out the baby is Malcom's, and the woman who put the talisman on him was his mother. She ended up taking his place as the sacrifice. Skip to years later when Jonathan, the baby grown up and now attending college, inherits the house where the ritual took place after his father dies. He shows up to look the place over with his girl, Rebecca. They run into Wolfgang, who Jonathan says is the caretaker. This is strange since it makes it seem like Wolfgang raised Jonathan here, yet it's made clear he never met his father.


Jonathan and Rebecca have a party, where we are introduced to their friends/ the victims. They have the two stoner burnouts. There is their friend who subtly goes by the name Dick who is a bonehead sex maniac. At the party he picks up Robin who joins the group. Then there is Donna (Mariska Hargitay in her film debut) who is Rebecca's friend who is dating Mark, the weirdest member of the group who has a penchant for talking in a strange whiny voice and referring to himself as Toad Boy. Jonathan has become obsessed with a spell book he has found, and talks his friends into performing a ritual with him. They all think the ritual was a flop, but he summoned the Ghoulies.

Jonathan becomes more and more preoccupied with summoning demons and gaining power. He summons two little people who convince him they will serve him but he must perform one particular ceremony to become all powerful. They help him to bewitch Rebecca, who had left him due to his behavior. He has a dinner party and puts his friends in a trance to get them to participate in his ritual. What he doesn't realize is that the ritual is to bring Malcolm back from the grave. He proclaims himself the true master of the Ghoulies and he and the little creature begin slaughtering Jonathan's friends. Soon Jonathan finds himself alone fighting his zombie dad, as Rebecca and his friends have all been killed. Wolfgang shows up to help Jonathan defeat his dead daddy, and magically the whole gang is restored to life. They make a getaway, but the Ghoulies pop up in the car that Jonathan, Rebecca and one of their stoner friends is driving away in.

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The movie is okay, but it had the potential to be much better. It was apparently plagued by money problems, which is why it came out after Gremlins even though it was in production at the same time. The lack of money is pretty obvious when you watch the movie. This was also the first movie directed by Luca Bercovici, and it shows. It's not the worst first movie by a director or anything like that, but his inexperience does show through in places. In all, it was a good attempt that just didn't quite hit the mark it was aiming for but is still enjoyable. It's worth watching, just don't expect a whole lot from it.

© 2022 Gracchus Gruad

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