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Wednesday 26 June 2019

Burl reviews Ghoulies! (1985)

Ha ha and bottombiters, it’s Burl! I’m here to review a movie that’s no doubt most famous for its apparent fealty to Gremlins and its crudely evocative VHS cover, depicting what looks like a miniature green Tor Johnson goblin arising from the bowl of a toilet! Ha ha!
Well I can assure you that I was in no way seduced by this video box cover, for you see friends, I had already seen this movie during its theatrical run! Yes, it’s true - along with such abercrombies as Saturday the 14th, Time Walker and Deadtime Stories, this stands as one of the lowest-rent pictures I ever had the pleasure of seeing on the big screen!
Directed by Luca Bercovici, an actor who was in Parasite, the movie tells the story of Jonathan, who was rescued as a baby by a wizardly old caretaker from the clutches of his diabolist father, who wanted to sacrifice him in a ritual, and now, twenty-five years later he’s played by Peter Liapis from Starhops, and has inherited his dear old dad’s mansion! The caretaker-sorcerer, played by the excellent Jack Nance (well-known from all his work with David Lynch, like Dune, and then of course many other fine pictures like The Blob), disappears for the bulk of the movie, but occasionally pops up on the soundtrack to narrate the proceedings!
In tow are Jonathan’s girlfriend Lisa Pelikan, who had trafficked in this sort of thing before, in the Carrie rip-off Jennifer, and a whole group of his jerky friends! These boxwines are played by the likes of Ralph Seymour, an 80s fixture in pictures like Fletch, Surf II, Killer Party and Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure; Scott Thomson from RoboCop; and TV fixture Mariska Hargitay! Ha ha, one can hardly wait for the ghoulies to appear and shred these klingfields!
But one must wait, for the ghoulies only pop up intermittently, and are in no sense the main antagonists of the story! Ostensibly the bad guy is Jonathan’s father, played by British softrocker Michael Des Barres, but for my money the picture’s biggest jerk is Jonathan himself, who, upon discovering his black magikal patrimony, dons robes and begins muttering incessantly in a cod-Latin style, and becomes a liar, a scoundrel and a complete chowderhead! Meanwhile his pals roam the house, giggling and occasionally engaging in the worst white-guy breakdancing ever committed to film! Yes, even worse than that depicted in Graduation Day!
Jonathan conjures up first the ghoulies, then a pair of tiny, steel-helmeted helpmates played by Tamera de Treaux (who did some time in E.T.’s costume) and Peter Risch (the cigar-chomping, serape-wearing midget from Malibu Hot Summer), and finally the old man himself, who rises from the grave zombie style! Ha ha, he briefly assumes the form of Bobbie Bresee, from Mausoleum and Armed Response, in an attempt to seduce one of the lummox houseguests! After a few scenes of the friends finally being attacked, then doing the worm around the house and being wrapped in sheets, the whole thing concludes once Jack Nance reappears and engages Des Barres in a wizard battle straight out of The Raven!
The ghoulies and other trick makeup effects come courtesy of the late John Buechler, a hard-working trick effects man who somehow always managed to make his creatures look vaguely like himself - ha ha, the monster in Cellar Dweller is a pretty good example of that! In Ghoulies it’s the little green ghoulie which most resembles its creator, while, as mentioned, also calling to mind the facial features of Tor Johnson! But Buechler is let down by both his budget and the poor direction, and the creatures come off as stiff afterthoughts! They sure aren’t scary!
I will say there is one effective moment involving a big clown doll, and then a subsequent scene involving the clown doll that isn’t effective but is certainly entertainingly goofy! In its best moments, which are few, Ghoulies actually reminded me of the low-budget The Demon Lover or the recent horror picture Hereditary, both of which were a lot scarier! In the end, which is of course where the ghoulies will get you, and where the movie itself seems to have originated, ha ha, I give Ghoulies just one single eye zap!

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