• Ghoulies/Ghoulies II



    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Released on: April 21st, 2015.
    Director: Luca Bercovici, Albert Band
    Cast: Peter Liapis, Lisa Pelikan, Damon Martin, Jack Nance
    Year: 1984
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    The Movie:

    Shout! Factory bundles the first two Ghoulies films together on Blu-ray with some exclusive new extra features – and it’s kind of rad. Here’s what you get…

    GHOULIES:

    When this first movie begins, Malcolm Graves (Michael Des Barres), the leader of a Satanic cult is all set to sacrifice an adorable baby boy to their dark lord and master but before the deed can be done the infant’s mother whisks him off to safety. Years later, that baby boy is now a young man named Jonathan (Peter Liapis) and he’s inherited a creepy old house. Along with his girlfriend, Rebecca (Lisa Pelikan), he moves right in with the intentions of cleaning up the old place, paying no mind to the strange old caretaker named Wolfgang (Jack Nance) who is just sort of hanging around.

    Soon enough, he’s having his friends over to party. Mike (Scott Thomason), Mark (Ralph Seymour), Donna (Mariska Hargitay), Dick (Keith Joe Dick), Eddie (David Dayan) and Anastasia (Victoria Catlin) all show up to get done and it goes well enough until Jonathan puzzlingly opts to end the night with a black mass of sorts in the basement. From here, he starts to change and as he dons some sinister looking robes and builds a Satanic church in his basement, he enlists the aid of two midgets from the netherworld named Greedigut (Tamara De Treaux) and Grizzel (Peter Risch) to do his bidding. What he doesn’t realize is that he’s also unleashed some weird, Muppety demons into the world, demons that are hell-bent on destruction and… hiding in toilets?

    Directed by Luca Bercovici for Charles Band’s Empire Pictures, Ghoulies is pretty goofy stuff, a PG-13 creature feature meant to cash in on the popularity of films like Gremlins at the time. The opening scene is great but from there it sort of meanders around dealing with Jonathan’s gradual transition to ‘the dark side.’ While this is happening we see an inordinate amount of footage wherein he and Rebecca aimlessly wander around the house a lot. The different friends that populate the supporting cast are an interesting mix of weird eighties clichés – we get Dick, the big ladies’ man who thinks of nothing but sex, two stoners in the form of Mike and Mark, and a couple of sexy lady types with Anastasia and Donna. It’s kind of neat seeing Mariska Hargitay here in an early role. Really though, they’re there to provide either comic relief or cannon fodder.

    So having said that, why watch this? Two reason. The first is Jack Nance. He’s woefully underused here but by the time that the movie is over he will have shot lasers out of his eyes and seeing Jack Nance shoot lasers out of his eyes is pretty fucking rad. The second reason is the titular beasties themselves. The creature design here is an interesting mix of the cute and the grotesque and while they often move like the puppets that they basically are rather than flesh and blood creatures, it doesn’t matter. These are some neat looking monsters and they’re quirky and weird enough that any time they are on screen. The movie is fairly hypnotic.

    And evidently it did well enough that it spawned…

    GHOULIES II:

    …which basically picks up where the first movie left off but carries over only the creatures themselves, not any of the human characters. Having escaped the events that closed the first movie the Ghoulies sneak into a transport truck carrying a carnival attraction called Satan’s Den. The Den is run by three guys – a young man named Larry (Damon Martin), his hard drinking elderly Uncle Ned (Royal Dano) and a cultured midget performer named Sig Nigel (Phil Fondacaro). They’re part of a travelling carnival recently purchased by the father of Hardin (J. Downing), who is on site to make sure that each and every attraction is earning its keep.

    Now, Satan’s Den, according to Hardin, hasn’t made much money in ages but Larry figures this time around it’ll be different – and he’s right. Because those Ghoulies that squirrelled themselves away have made a nice little home for themselves in and amongst the ghoulish set pieces that make up the haunted house. While it might have annoyed some of the teens who went in there looking for a place to make out and listen to some ‘tunes’ it sure did amuse everyone else who wandered through so much so that Hardin decides to claim ownership for himself. When those rat creatures that people figure are effects turn out to be real, however, Larry will have to team up with dancing girl Nicole (Kerry Remsen) to figure out how to send them back to the Hell from whence they came!

    Directed by Albert Band, father of the producer, this is in every way a more entertaining film than the first one. It moves at a faster past and Jack Nance notwithstanding it has a more interesting cast. Royal Dano is fun here as the alcoholic old man who believes in real magic and of course figures out what’s happening long before everyone else does. Will anyone believe him? No, of course not, he’s an old drunk – but he’s right. Good casting here. Phil Fondacaro, one of the most prolific and recognizable little people actors of our time, steals pretty much every scene he’s in and is a blast to watch as Sir Nigel. His character obviously feels that the work he does at the carnival is beneath a man of his acting skills but at the same time you get the impression he cares about Larry and Ned. You also get the impression he doesn’t have a whole lot of other options. J. Downing is very good as the typically shifty businessman type only out to make a buck while Kerry Remsen is also good as the female lead.

    Shot on a soundstage in an Italian studio the carnival sets nevertheless feel plenty authentic. The setup inside Satan’s Den definitely nails the right vibe for a cheap, old, rundown spookshow attraction and it allows Band and company to come up with all sorts of weird color combinations. Once again the Ghoulies are the highlight (and once again there’s a toilet gag) but we get a lot more of what made the first movie entertaining presented here in more concentrated doses.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Both films are slapped onto a 50GB Blu-ray disc in AVC encoded 1080p high definition properly framed at 1.85.1 widescreen and while they aren’t reference quality transfers they are pretty decent. Some mild edge enhancement and minor crush in some of the darker scene notwithstanding, both movies are reasonably clean and detailed. Some minor white specks will show up throughout playback but no serious print damage while color reproduction is frequently pretty impressive. Black levels are also pretty good here, as are skin tones. No obvious noise reduction works its way into the picture and there’s good depth and texture to the picture throughout. These still look like the low budget movies from the eighties that they are, but both films get a good HD bump compared to previous DVD editions.

    English language DTS-HD tracks are provided in 5.1 and 2.0 for both movies, with optional subtitles provided in English only. The 2.0 mixes will probably give you the closest approximation to the movies’ original sound mixes but the 5.1 tracks are surprisingly good on this disc. The music is spread around as you’d expect it to be but the sound effects wind up coming at you from the different channels during the more active scenes, which tends to add to the fun in a few sequences. Aside from that, the dialogue stays clear, the levels are balanced and there are no issues with any hiss or distortion. W.A.S.P.’s Scream Until You Like It in DTS-HD. Who’d have ever guessed it!

    Extras are specific to each movie starting with an audio commentary on the first film with director/co-writer Luca Bercovici. This track definitely has its moments but there are a few too many stretches of dead air or moments where Bercoivi simply falls into that dreaded commentary trap wherein the participant(s) simply tell us what we’re seeing on screen. When he’s discussing the making of the movie it’s interesting as he sheds some light on the effects, the cast, the crew and the story itself but maybe a moderator would have helped to give this more focus.

    More interesting is a half hour long featurette made up of interviews with executive producer Charles Band, composer Richard Band, actor Michael Des Barres and special effects makeup artist John Vulich. This is an interesting and thorough piece that starts with Charles Band explaining how he and Stan Winston originally intended to work on a movie together called Beasties and how when that never happened and Gremlins got big, he reworked the idea into Ghoulies. He also talks about how the movie was originally meant to be in 3-D, which is why there’s the scene where the characters all put on strange sunglasses (intended as an indication that those in the audience should put on their own 3-D glasses). We then hear about what went into the shoot, what Richard Band was going for with the score, how some of the effects were created and how Michael Des Barres landed the part and how he feels about it now as an adult.

    Rounding out the extras for the first movie are the original theatrical trailer, a still gallery, animated menus and chapter stops.

    There’s also a featurette included here covering the second film that runs just under seventeen minutes. Charles Band shows up here again, alongside cast members Kerry Remsen and Donnie Jeffcoat, and effects artist Gino Crognale. There’s a lot of discussion here about making the movie in Rome, the roles that the two actors played and what it was like acting alongside a bunch of Ghoulies puppets and how Band’s father, Albert Band, got behind the camera to direct the film.

    The disc also includes just under three minutes of deleted scenes, most of which would appear to have been cut from the film to assure it’s PG-13 rating as they’re a bit gorier than what we see in the finished version of the movie.

    Rounding out the extras for the second movie are the original theatrical trailer, a still gallery, animated menus and chapter stops.

    The Final Word:

    Shout! Factory’s Blu-ray double feature release of Ghoulies and Ghoulies II is a good one. The movies are presented in solid looking transfers with good audio and a surprisingly decent array of extra features as well. The films themselves are a lot of fun fans of goofy, campy eighties, horror pictures should definitely have a lot of fun going through everything contained on this disc,

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!