GHOULIES 1 & 2 — It’s Time For The Ghoulies Get-Together! (On Blu-ray)

The Ghoulies 1 & 2 double feature was conjured onto Blu-ray on April 21 by the warlocks of Scream Factory.


Fair disclosure: There’s not really any way for me to discuss Ghoulies objectively.

Back when I reviewed The Sword And The Sorcerer as a Pick Of The Week title, I discussed how it had made a huge impression on me, but I never knew its title or really much of anything about it. It wasn’t until the Internet age that I finally sought it out and rediscovered it as an adult. It was one of my two great rediscoveries of a film I vividly remembered from childhood, yet didn’t know the title of.

The other is Ghoulies.

It was not only the first horror movie that I can remember watching, but one that made a massive impression on me as a little dude — in part because I wasn’t allowed to watch these kinds of movies but somehow this one slipped through. To my young brain it registered as a sort of terrifying chapter of Star Wars, as the imaginative creature effects and hooded old wizard character reminded me of George Lucas’ creations (I obviously didn’t know much about Star Wars, either).

Unlike The Sword And The Sorcerer which I desperately sought out, I rediscovered Ghoulies a few years ago by pure chance. On a whim while browsing Netflix Instant, I decided to fire up that movie with the famous toilet-monster artwork, and lo and behold, the memories came flooding back.

Revisiting it now, there’s definitely a comedic and playful element to the proceedings, but that was lost on little me. Even so, the film is pretty dark, dealing with witchcraft, demonology, and possession. The critters are far more sinister than the obvious comparison of Gremlins, and there’s no clear hero to root for either. A young man named Jonathan inherits his deceased father’s house, only to discover it’s still the host of Satanic forces — forces which his own wicked father had tried and failed to master. He falls prey to the house’s influence and takes up the powerful black magic of dear old Dad. Not exactly Billy Peltzer. (By the way, where Gremlins comparisons are concerned, Ghoulies is not a copycat — both films were developed simultaneously and released in close proximity).

Jonathan invites several friends over to party and inaugurate the house, but his conjured demons — Ghoulies! — start murdering them. As a kid I was especially terrified by an uncanny clown doll which moves when the human characters aren’t looking at it. When gooey green hands ripped open the head from inside to reveal a monster lurking within, I lost my mind (there must be a theme here because the villain of The Sword And The Sorcerer did the same thing).

Despite the many scary things that happen on-screen, it was the unresolved nature of things that rattled me the most. At the film’s close the people escape, but THAT CLOWN MONSTER IS STILL LOOSE IN THE HOUSE! And as they drive away, the closing shot shows Ghoulies hiding in the car’s back seat. It’s played for humor, but to me there was no more horrifying conclusion than to cue the credits when THERE ARE STILL FRIGGIN’ DEMONS IN THE CAR. The endless horrible scenarios haunted me.

Watching it now, Ghoulies is not nearly as scary, but still totally entertaining. The creature effects hold up incredibly well and the film has that old Charles Band charm that so wonderfully enriched his earlier productions. Unabashed love.


Set loose after the events of the first movie, the Ghoulies encounter a traveling carnival and make themselves at home within its cheesy haunted house attraction called “Satan’s Den”. Hiding in plain sight amongst its thematic spooks, they begin terrorizing customers who don’t realize they’re not part of the attraction.

Most people who have seen both films would tell you that Ghoulies II is a superior sequel. I’m not one of them, but I can see where they’re coming from. If you get right to the heart of it, the original Ghoulies is essentially a haunted house story. After its success, Charles Band and friends were able to produce Ghoulies II with a much larger budget, allowing its scope to be much greater.

The sequel changes things up not only with its huge carnival stage sets (an extravagant budgetary indulgence that Band laments in the special features), but by swapping the first film’s band of witless morons for a likeable cast of hard-luck carnies who must battle the foul creatures. It’s also a reversal for the carny image, typically depicted negatively in popular culture, as in other horror films such as Tobe Hooper’s The Funhouse.

As with 1986’s Troll, another Charles Band production, Ghoulies II prominently features 3’6″ actor Phil Fondacaro, contrasting his humanity and difficulties as a dwarf — in this case, one “Sir Nigel” — against the viciousness of the similarly small monsters. It’s not as poignantly expressed as in Troll, but he’s a great presence here reprising a similar role.

For the film’s finale, our protagonists use a magic spell to conjure a giant-sized Ghoulie to devour all the little monsters, but after doing so he turns his hungry attention toward them. Fittingly, it’s Sir Nigel’s diminutive size which ends up saving the day.

Ghoulies II is a worthy sequel which continues in the style of the original film while telling a new story and generally trying to make things bigger and better. The series would see two more sequels, each veering further from the series’ roots and into increasingly stupid territory. Ghoulies III is a nudity-packed frathouse “comedy” in which the previously silent critters quip annoyingly idiotic catch phrases non-stop. Ghoulies IV inexplicably reprises Peter Liapis as Jonathan Graves, now a police detective, but eschews the traditional Ghoulie puppets, replacing them with dwarf actors in makeup. Just terrible. But for two films, the Ghoulies formula was intact and the result is a pair of great horror comedies.

The Package

This release follows Scream Factory’s usual Double Feature format, serving up both films and their extras on a single Blu-ray disc. The packaging lacks the slipcovers and reversible artwork of Scream Factory’s prestige editions.

Both films are rated PG-13, though they push the rating notably far — Ghoulies with its general scariness and Satanic themes, and Ghoulies II with a handful of f-bombs.

Special Features and Extras — Ghoulies

From Toilets To Terror: The Making Of Ghoulies (29:49)
 Nicely produced featurette explorer the film’s origins from its original title Beasties to its scrapped 3D production, famous marketing campaign, and eventual success.

Theatrical Trailer (1:55)

Still Gallery (3:32)

Special Features and Extras — Ghoulies II

More Toilets, More Terror: The Making Of Ghoulies II (16:50)
 Discussions with several cast & crew on creating a sequel, working with an expanded budget, and shooting in Rome.

Alternate Scenes (2:48)
 Much gorier takes on several kills and acts of violence. Given their availability and great condition, it’s kind of a shame they haven’t been reincorporated back into the film to make a harder R-rated or unrated cut.

Theatrical Trailer (1:23)

Still Gallery (2:12)

A/V Out.

Get it at Amazon:
 Ghoulies 1 & 2 [Blu-ray] | [DVD]

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