Ghoulies (1985) — We’re never sitting on the potty again

“They call me Dick, but you can call me… Dick.”

Justin’s rating: Flush with reused ideas

Justin’s review: Once Gremlins hit it big in 1984, it was off to the races with all manner of “troublesome little horror creatures” knockoffs. We had Critters, Munchies, The Gate, Hobgoblins, Spookies, and today’s feature presentation, Ghoulies. Sacrificing quality for speed of release, Charles Band and his merry men rushed this into theaters and enjoyed a surprising $35 million box office gross on a $5.5 million budget (just in case you were wondering why this got three sequels… “profitability”).

I’ve only known this as the “toilet bowl monster movie,” thanks to the iconic poster. They really went all-in on that with the sequels, too. The image was certainly a gift to critics, who were given an obvious metaphor for their scathing ire.

Jonathan is your average young man who’s been raised by a mysterious wildman after his father failed to sacrifice him to a satanic cult. Ignorant of his sordid past, Jonathan returns to the family homestead after dear ol’ dad died to inherit the house — and its hungry inhabitants. Yes, it turns out that there’s a ripe infestation of little demons, and because of the bloodline, Jonathan can actually command them to do his bidding.

It’s, you know, a good party trick, so he initially does it at a party full of ’80s goofballs and stereotypes. Things get really crazy, as the ghoulies start romping all over the place, a hideous clown puppet comes to life, and at least one person gets strangled by a super-long tongue. In a PG-13 way, mind you.

Ghoulies makes very little sense — it’s a movie that can be labeled “scatterbrained” and nobody will argue the point — but as an ’80s twist on a ’50s-style B-movie, it has a certain charm. There’s a whole lot of bizarre stuff crammed into these 81 minutes, including occasional bursts of narration from the caretaker, Jonathan’s inexplicable powers, interior rainstorms, little people as servants, the very green eyes, and the aforementioned evil clown living in one of the rooms.

Another oddity of this film was that originally it was going to be partially filmed in 3D. Audiences were supposed to put on their 3D glasses whenever characters wore sunglasses in scenes. And while the 3D idea was scrapped, the many scenes with sunglasses weren’t. It’s quite distracting.

You would think that the creatures themselves would the main attraction, but it’s actually not the case with the first film. They’re not in much of the movie, and while there’s some variety between the five or so pint-sized demons, their effects are about as convincing as me doing a sock puppet routine behind a couch. They barely have moving parts, so a lot of imagination and sound effects are needed to transform them into a genuine threat.

The messy plot tosses together the house, Jonathan’s possession, the ghoulies, and everything else into a climax that concerns resurrecting Jonathan’s lunatic dad. You know, from the grave that’s on the front porch. Cue two men shooting eye lasers at each other, and an audience perplexed at how a movie got to this in just over an hour.

Unintentionally funny when it’s trying to be ominous and unintentionally serious when it’s trying to crack a joke, Ghoulies can’t land the tone or the story. Even so, it’s a pretty watchable mess of a flick, especially when the critters get their few minutes of screentime.

Didja notice?

  • Why wear a veil over your face if you’re just going to rip it off? It makes your green eyes more shocking, I guess.
  • Hey, a grave on the front porch! That’s normal!
  • This does not look like a properly supervised party
  • Way to over-emote with your face there, twitchy party jerk
  • Party breakdancing scene by discount Kiefer Sutherland
  • I love how angry Jonathan gets at people clowning during the ritual
  • Possessed cleaning!
  • Hey, that’s a nifty spear you have there! Trident?
  • He makes it rain inside? Not good for the floorboards.
  • The rain doesn’t make a single candle go out
  • Ghoulies like to watch people making out
  • Can someone explain the little people to me? What is their purpose?
  • Jonathan really likes swishing his robe around
  • So many sunglasses at night!
  • Hey, he made the table disappear
  • The guy bursting out of the grave is a pretty neat moment

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