Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Scream Factory - GHOULIES & GHOULIES II on Blu-ray ""

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Scream Factory - GHOULIES & GHOULIES II on Blu-ray

GHOULIES (1984; Luca Bercovici) / GHOULIES II (1988; Albert Band)
"They call me Dick, but you can call me...Dick."

I really love this trend of Scream Factory putting out some of the sillier horror comedies from the 1980s. Sure, we all remember the GREMLINS, but what about all the knockoffs that followed in the wake of its massive success? Who could forget the CRITTERS movies? Those seem to be remembered and pretty well thought of, but the lesser GREMLINS rips like MUNCHIES and THE HOBGOBLINS are understandably forgotten by most. The GHOULIES films hold a special place for some reason though. Maybe it has to do with the more supernatural element to them - the way they seem to be trying to capitalize on both GREMLINS and even GHOSTBUSTERS a little might be a factor. I also think it has a lot to do with that poster. If you were a child of the 1980s, there was no way that you didn't see that on the cover of a VHS box at your local rental store and not pause to go, "What the hell is that?". And what a tagline. They don't write em like that anymore. It's a shame. So wether or not you think too highly of the movies themselves on a quality level, you probably remember THE GHOULIES. What I didn't remember is how not-like-GREMLINS the film is. I mean there's a supernatural element and little mischievous beasties in both, but other than that they are pretty different. I forgot how much GHOULIES focuses on the occult and how the main character becomes obsessed with rituals and stuff (from which he obviously conjures the Ghoulie monsters as well). GHOULIES is not about a family and a small town, it's more focused this couple and how his obsession is pulling them apart. The monsters themselves don't really show up much until after the  30 minute mark (in this 82 minute movie) and even though GREMLINS had a similar wait time, at least that film makes the mysterious mogwai its focus. The monsters in GHOULIES are much more extraneous really. The movie is a bit raunchier than GREMLINS of course and a bit more immature which is expected from a Charles Band movie and isn't necessarily a bad thing. In the special features, Charles Band mentions that he and Stan Winston had been kicking around an idea/project they were calling BEASTIES for a while but that it had never worked out. When I hear stories like that my first reaction is to think that the filmmaker is just trying to cover the fact that they blatantly ripped off another movie and that their film was actually more their own idea. In rewatching GHOULIES though, I realized that Band was not just covering up and that his movie really was quite different in a lot of ways. I can see from a Roger Corman-y point of view how it was a great time to put the movie out in the wake of GREMLINS, but that the poster and the ad campaign (which seemed to be quite effective) were just a simple bait and switch type means of selling the film. While GREMLINS is much more lighthearted and relatively non-threatening (though it has some scary moments), GHOULIES is much more creepy in tone and contains some sequences that fall much harder on the side of horror than anything else. All in all, the film is just a bit more grim and a bit less rompy than I remembered. Kudos to John Carl Buechler for his effects though I must say. He is one of the better practical effects guys of the 1980s and I get very nostalgic when I see his stuff.

GHOULIES II is the better of the two films here for my money and it makes much better use of the Ghoulie monsters almost right out of the gate. It also adds elements of stop-motion animation in addition to the puppetry to give the monsters more of a presence and more character. They obviously feel more like real live creatures when we can see them walking and moving around on screen. This story also has a great setting in that it takes place at a broken down carnival wherein the Ghoulies find their way into the house of horrors attraction called "Satan's Den". They are initially a hit and reinvigorate the antiquated horror show, but soon they start with the killing and must be stopped. It's a clever locale for a sequel like this and is a better fit tonally than the first film. I personally just enjoyed seeing them more the main focus (there is some human drama here as well of course) which shows a sense of what these films should be like (and just how much that Ghoulie in the toilet image sold the first movie which must have disappointed a lot of folks going to see it back in 1984). GHOULIES II features much more Ghoulie mischief and kind of delivers a bit more on that iconic poster image. The GHOULIES II cast has a couple more recognizable faces in veteran character actor Royal Dano, Kerry Remsen (NIGHTMARE ON ELM ST 2, PUMPKINHEAD) and the lesser-known Damon Martin (I'll always remember him as one of the BMX kids from PEE WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE). Oh and last but not least, the film ends in a killer way with the W.A.S.P. song "Scream Until You Like It". Remember when movies really loved to send you out of the theater with a good tune? This is one of those man.

Special Features:
GHOULIES Features:
-"From Toilets to Terror: The Making of GHOULIES" (30 mins) this new featurette contains interviews with Charles Band, composer Richard Band, special effects man John Vulich, actor Michael Des Barres,
Charles Band talks about his early days with Stan winston and how the success of GHOULIES really allowed for Empire Pictures to take off even though it was a tough process to get the movie made and distributed.
-An Audio commentary from director Luca Bercovici is also included. Not a bad track and Bercovici seems to have a decent recall for a lot of the behind the scenes. He kicks off by clarifying that this film was in production at the same time as GREMLINS so it was not a ripoff of that movie. He seems to indicate a lot of authorship for many of the ideas and story elements in the film,which certainly may be the case though it runs a little contrary to some of the things said in the making of doc. Regardless he has a lot of insights about the movie and it's nice to hear his perspective. He leaves a little dead air in spots, but it's not a bad track overall.
-"More Toilets More Terror: The Making of GHOULIES II" (17 mins) This featurette has Charles Band, actress Kerry Remsen, actor Donnie Jeffcoat, and FX artist Gino Crognale talking about their memories of the production. They're are lots of stories of what filming in Rome was like and how the entire carnival set was built on a gigantic soundstage and so forth.
-Some Alternate Scenes (3 mins) are also an added supplement here and they are mostly extra bits of Ghoulie troublemaking and gore.

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