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Ghoulies / Ghoulies II (Blu-ray Review)

Ghoulies-Double-FeatureLook out or they’ll get you in the end! Scream Factory proudly presents a monstrous double feature of Ghoulies and Ghoulies II on Blu-ray. New bonus features include an audio commentary with Ghoulies director Luca Bercovici and interviews with executive producer Charles Band.  These films were a staple of the Ma and Pa video stores back in the 80s and 90s.  They were a part of the influx of movies that were trying to cash in on whatever it was they saw and liked in Joe Dante’s Gremlins.  Community recently did a riff on something like that with their incredibly perfect “Portuguese Gremlins” spoof.  Ghoulies had the sort of chums like Critters coming in around the same time.  They came from the house of Puppet Master, Full Moon, but this double feature is teaming up with Scream Factory.

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Ghoulies 

Take a creepy old Hollywood mansion, a naive young man and a pretty girl. Add an over-the-top orgy and some slimy, winged goblins who crawl out of toilets, and you have Ghoulies, a horrifying and hilarious ride into the darkest regions of hell! Conjured during a party thrown by the mansion’s new owner, the hairy, fanged demons waste no time wreaking havoc on the scene – and declaring the unsuspecting owner their new lord and master!

Essentially, Ghoulies is a cross between a 1980s effects-horror and haunted house film.  On one hand its a loving haunt involving some witchcraft, sorcerers cults and spells.  On the other, it feels like this is just a movie to support some cool gore effects and show off some creature creation and puppeteering/stop-motion skills.  And, don’t worry, its full of both genres’ specialty in the cheese department.

If you know how to watch something like this, there’s enough here to enjoy.  Plus, the film is incredibly short.  The creatures are really fun looking and there’s enough crazy to get you on board.  However, the film isn’t fully comitted to being schlock or the random effects cheese-fest and at a few times dips into wanting to be a serious film.  Its not really good, but its decent enough to be something to go back and revisit time to time.

One of the biggest bits of trivia from the movie is that its the film debut of Law & Order: SVU legend, Mariska Hargitay.   She’s not one of the two leads, but a “Friend” of the lead girl.  And young Mariska Hargitay is pretty cute.  MacGuyver fans will take note that the guy who played arch-nemesis “Murdock” (“MacGuuuuuyyyyyveeeeeeeerrrrr!”) is here as the guy who leads the Ghoulies.  He also came back to talk in the new retrospective documentary which is super cool of him.  Combine that doc with this movie and you really do have some time well spent as those always enhance your study of the film they’re attached to.

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Ghoulies II 

The demonic, toilet-dwelling goblins are back! Stowed away in “Satan’s Den,” the traveling House of Horror operated by carnival workers Larry and Uncle Ned, the Ghoulies merrily devour the sideshow attraction’s patrons… until Larry realizes his horror house is for real and tries to flee the scene! Deliciously outrageous special effects and over-the-top antics ratchet up the horrific fun!

This second Ghoulies film I actually like a little better than the first.  Its the one that decides, “Yeah, let’s just be dumb and have some fun”.  And for what it is, and what it is setting out to accomplish, it works.  No, this isn’t greatness, but its the kind of trashy flick you’re going to enjoy watching.  It has a good pace and always knows how to steer into new territory whenever something is close to getting tired.

Basically, as is with horror monster comedies, the next step when it comes to the sequel is to start making the fish out of water stories.  This particular one takes to the traveling carnival.  This circus, which to my surprise, was all done inside a big studio.  Things were built or brought in.  To the credit of the production, I couldn’t tell that at all, and still can’t.  So, what we have here is the Ghoulies taking over the haunted house exhibit at the carnival.  We have teens kids and everyone opening themselves up to Ghoulie-mayhem.

The effects in this film aren’t shy and the film isn’t afraid to get gross.  Limbs come off, and blood flies around.  The Ghoulies are a neat little distinct group as a clear concise team with each of them looking different and having some different abilities.  I actually think the stop motion work on them here is terrific.  Their placement into scenes looks pretty flawless as the shading and size match wherever they are placed quite well.

Once you get through the first Ghoulies, the second really knows what you want and gives you less of what you didn’t care for the first time around.  Charles Band’s father returns to the director’s chair for this one, and you can tell the guy is having a lot of fun.  This is a neat little creature-feature comedy that is somewhat more enjoyable than the first outing, even if it isn’t as serious or determined narratively as the original.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (Disc lists as 1.78:1)

Clarity/Detail:  These similar transfers both aren’t going to knock the socks of anyone and win any awards.  But think about it, this is GHOULIES.  I know some wild movies have been given incredible attention or 4K restorations, but lets hold our expectations in check here.  This transfer looks very nice.  The image is pretty sharp for the source material.  The detail on the Ghoulies themselves look pretty impressive as you’re able to pause and take a gander at the detail of each puppet.  Clothing textures, carpet patters, floor scuffs and stuff all wind up showing through good enough to make for a really nice image.

Depth:  Pretty solid work on the dimensions of each environment.  Outdoor scenes look the most impressive.  For the majority, people move around pretty free and loose in every scene and clarity of background is as good as it could likely be.

Black Levels: Blacks look pretty natural and help to enhance the image quality.  No real loss of detail witnessed.

Color Reproduction:  Colors appear very nice and natural.  Greens tend to stand out, thought everything shows a bit of restraint.  Though, it does have a radical 80s color palette on display that looks very nice without being incredibly loud.

Flesh Tones:  Natural and consistent.  Detail is decent and looks really good in close ups.

Noise/Artifacts:  Some grain and specs.  For the most part a really clean and nice looking print transfer.

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English, 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English Mono DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics: Both features have an audio track that feels plenty loose and genuine.  Sound effects are impressively distinct and well rounded.  There is a nice balance between vocals, music and effects.  It never sounds cheap or dated either.

Low Frequency Extension: Some decent action sounds, growls and scoring hits emanate from the subwoofer.

Surround Sound Presentation: The front speakers have a nice, mono’ish sound coming from them.  The rear speakers are mainly just ambiance and not a whole lot to report here.  The 2.0 track is dynamite and really the way to go here.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Clean and clear.  Nice and ideally placed in the volume.  Ghoulies II features some hissing on people pronouncing their S’s.

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Extras 

The features both share a disc and the cover insert features additional promotional photos/art on the reverse side.

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Audio Commentary

  • With Director Luca Bercovici

“From Toilets To Terror” The Making Of Ghoulies (HD, 29:49) – Charles Band, some cast and effects folk gather to tell the tale of making Ghoulies and cheap horror in general.  As always, this retro doc completely delivers.

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 1:55)

Still Gallery – 40 images of promotional photos, behind the scenes photos, effects work and posters/VHS boxes.

Ghoulies II

“More Toilets More Terror” The Making Of Ghoulies II (HD, 16:50) – Continuing where the last one left off, the effects guy from II as well as two cast members join in to discuss this film that shot in a studio in Rome.

Alternate Scenes (HD, 2:43) 

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 1:23)

Still Gallery – 25 images of promotional photos, behind the scenes photos and posters.

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Summary 

This is surely a niche pick.  You either “get” and enjoy a property like Ghoulies or the output from Full Moon or you don’t.  If you’ve known of them your entire life and still can’t find an appreciation, then its too late for you.  For those who enjoy these films, Scream Factory has you covered with a rock solid presentation of both.  And when you have retrospective documentaries on each, that trumps whatever bonus material is missing or “could have been”.  For fans and collectors, this is a fun pick up and sure to make a great Saturday night with some beers and a friend who “gets it” too.  Plus its really cheap.  One can only hope this does well and Scream Factory completes the series for fans with a III and IV double feature soon.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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