Director: Luca Bercovici | Albert Band
Writers: Luca Bercovici, Jefery Levi | Charles Dolan, Dennis Paoli
Cast: Lisa Pelikan, Peter Liapis, Jack Nance, Mariska Hargitay | Damon Martin, Royal Dano, Phil Fondacaro
Year: 1984 | 1988
Length: 81 min | 89 min
Rating: PG-13 | R
Label: Scream Factory
Release Date: April 21, 2015
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1:85:1
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master 1.0
Subtitles: English SDH
- Audio Commentary with Luca Bercovici
- Interviews with Charles Band, Richard Band, Michael Des Barres, John Vulich, Gino Crognale, and Kerry Remsen
- Deleted Scenes
- Theatrical Trailers
Where do you begin with Ghoulies? Is a plot synopsis necessary? Perhaps not, but for the hell of it, here we go. Aspiring student and orphan, Jonathan Graves (Peter Liapis) inherits an old, eerie mansion and decides to move him and his girlfriend (Lisa Pelikan) in. However, as he begins the process of fixing the place up he discovers the relics of an ancient satanic cult. He finds himself drawn to the objects, and it is not long before he falls under their hypnotic powers. Jonathan begins to learn the dark arts and conjures up ancient spirits, which take the form of demonic creatures. Drawn by the forces of evil, Jonathan concocts a plan to invite his friends to his home so he can offer them up as sacrifices.The biggest downfall of Ghoulies is that it is remarkably reserved for a Charles Band related project. The film is, to be frank, tame. It moves at a very slow pace and feels longer than it is. If you didn’t know better, it would be easy to assume that — given Empire’s history — the film was already produced as a straight Satanic film that had the Ghoulies added after the fact as an extra selling point. The creatures play such a relegated role in the film that it really feels like two films condensed into one. The strangest thing is that this is not the case, which leaves more questions than answers. It does, however, have two redeeming qualities. The first is that the opening scene of the film, which depicts a satanic ritual sacrifice, is very well crafted. It remains the single most effective piece from the film, but unfortunately that level of filmmaking is never fully returned to. The second aspect of the film that really works is the creature design. The Ghoulies look, admittedly, great in that low-budget kind of way. Other treats include an appearance by Jack Nance (Eraserhead) and a young Mariska Hargitay (Law and Order: SVU). In the history of cinema, there are few sequels that are not only better than the original, but blow the first one away. In this case, this is one of those films. Ghoulies II learns from all of the first film’s mistakes. It ramps up the humor, the death, the involvement of the Ghoulies, and doesn’t even really try to work through a meaningful plot. While the first film makes an honest attempt to craft a story about a satanic cult, giving a sense of justification for the Ghoulies existence, the second seems to just take their existence as fact. There is some mild exposition, and the carnival makes for a great backdrop, but the film is far more concerned with the spectacle of it all. Ghoulies II is everything you want in an Empire picture. It is pure, unpretentious fun. If for nothing else, Ghoulies II showcases the grossly underrated Phil Fondacaro’s talent. While the script certainly takes a few easy shots, Fondacaro is able to transcend what may otherwise be a “token” role, creating something of a real value out of it. Similarly, long time character actor Royal Dano delivers a wonderful — albeit terribly excessive — performance as the old drunkard, Uncle Ned.
While you can never expect to much with double features — as for obvious reasons they are more novelties than anything else — , the transfers on these releases are nicely handled. This comes as a surprise as Empire/Full Moon is notorious for cutting corners. The 1.85:1 transfers may be subject to small complaints but they are every bit as good as any one should want and/or expect, with Ghoulies II faring better (whether that be because of its higher production value or not is left to be said). In the same light, the audio is finely handled and doesn’t appear to feature any problems of major note.
With these dual releases, you come to expect that extras will be limited, if not essentially non-existent, so it was nice to see that Scream have assembled a respectable amount of supplementary features for this collection. For die-hard fans of the series, you’ll be pleased to see an audio commentary with director Luca Bercovici. Others will probably have more fun with the two featurette documentaries on each film. It is always great to see Band talk about his career, because he generally has some interesting (mildly offensive) stories—as is the case here. Also included, are many of the cut scenes of gore from Ghoulies II. It is a shame that they couldn’t have featured the uncut film but it is nice to see some of the footage.
Neither Ghoulies nor Ghoulies II can be compared with anything close to art but neither are they trying to either. While Ghoulies is a little long in the tooth and dry, this collection is worth owning simply for the second film, which is loads more fun. Overall, it is a nice addition to anyone collection, and its probably best that rather than take up two places on your shelf, these titles can be presented together. Scream does a respectful job with films that are anything but respectful. So pop it in, turn it up, tune out, and have a blast with these little creatures.