Saturday, March 17, 2018

Ghoulies



* / *****
I hadn’t intentionally planned it but here is another 1984 horror film a week later on a Saturday evening, but it is much, much worse than Razorback. Ghoulies was an Empire Pictures production (Charles Band’s before Full Moon) with Devil Worship, a book of incantations, and little creatures (obviously with string-puppeteers moving rubber monster faces), set almost exclusively at the estate of Michael Des Barres, seemingly mimicking a flamboyant 70s stage rock star as the Satanist with glowing green eyes and penchant for sacrificing babies as part of ritual to his master. Malcolm Graves (Des Barres) is hosting a Satanic ritual with preparations to sacrifice his child, Jonathan, when the mother prevents it through the use of a talisman necklace, forced to replace her son. Jonathan (Peter Liapis) grows up, arrives at the estate of his father, inherited but should never have set foot on its grounds. From beyond the grave, Malcolm uses dark influence to command Jonathan to do his bidding. Jonathan’s girlfriend, Rebecca (Lisa Pelikan), comes to live with him, both certain to eventually encounter Malcolm and the creatures that serve him. Thankfully caretaker, Wolfgang (Jack Nance, Twin Peaks & Eraserhead), who took baby Jonathan away during the ritual when Malcolm could not touch him due to his talisman protection, is there at the end to do battle with resurrected Malcolm.

This is awful. I’m not going to sugarcoat it. Awful. I can’t even conjure much love for John Carl Buechler’s team’s work for the film as the ghoulies look rubbery and ready for the Bowl-o-Rama. Sure the bald-headed ghoulie pops from the toilet—to show my age, when I was a kid, I recall going into one of the rental stores and seeing the Ghoulies display, not horrified but morbidly curious—and Malcolm’s rotted corpse bursts from his grave (with the pentagram on the tombstone adding a stylistic touch to his form of worship) but the antics of Jonathan’s green-eyed, white-robed chanting, rubber monsters thrown at actors who must sell the hell out of being mauled by them, lots of sunshades, Dick (Keith Joe Dick) working the ladies with his frat-boy posturing, poor Mariska Hargitay (iconic actress of Law & Order: SVU) probably spending years in analysis trying to recuperate from the trauma of this being in her resume, and Scott Thomson break-dancing and remaining wasted by Mary Jane and booze (and ALWAYS in shades) make up for any good will that might could be culled from the waste-bin. Yes, I imagine all of the cringe-inducing moments offer delights to those looking for an accumulation of 80s Velveeta. I realize that. But I admittedly won’t put myself through this again.

I remembered revisiting this six or so years ago. I believe it was part of a MGM double feature DVD also including the sequel (which I think is a bit better). There is plenty of Satanic iconography and black magic Latin summoning, with Liapis briefly “himself” before Malcolm starts controlling him, finding his way into the basement while cleaning up, his Jonathan eventually discovering books containing ceremonial / ritualistic text and pentagram designs.

I like Pelikan. I’ve seen her in plenty of television, and she is always appealing but this film does her no favors. Her character tolerates a lot, considering Jonathan clearly has quickly changed from the man she truly loves into some robed warlock even chanting Latin while bedding her Rebecca. She finds him shivering with weary eyes, standing at the gravesite of his father, telling her that he won’t be in for din-din due to his “fasting”. And the later time in the basement with his robes, candles, chalked and painted pentagram outlines eventually does break her strongholds as she leaves him, only to be “urged” back. But when Jonathan summons two little people in robes to help the ghoulies from wherever “spirit place” they previously resided, to help garner seven victims (Jonathan and Rebecca’s friends from college) for Malcolm’s specific sacrifice it just further goes off the rails, quite the crazy train this film. There’s levitation, Malcolm going in for a kiss so he could suck Jonathan’s soul from his lips (seriously, what the fuck?), Malcolm’s manufactured façade of a blond seductress with a long tongue that wraps around Dick’s neck with a suffocating bleeding resulting, and a rat ghoulie playing a piano. Yes, a rat ghoulie playing piano. Well, the ghoulies actually also emerge from turkey and soup on a supper table while Jonathan and Rebecca’s friends (with their shades) are oblivious to what it going on (probably because of a spell), eventually retreating by spell to the basement so that a ritual can awaken Malcolm from the grave. It goes on and on.

Malcolm and Wolfgang in battle. Groan




This will be ideal entertainment for fans of bad 80s cult horror with puppet monsters and prolonged black magic mumbo jumbo. I used to coin this as “rancid cinema” back in the days of IMDb user comments. I certainly consider this film deserved of such. Liapis spends plenty of time (as does Des Barres) with arms stretched outward, face noising with great vigor the incantations needed to stir up trouble for those who happen to arrive at Malcolm’s estate due to unfortunately being the friends of Jonathan and Rebecca. Wolfgang and Malcolm blast each other with laser eyes and commence to choking each other. Yes, this happens.

I did love Richard Band's music, though. Even during the worst of Charles' productions, Richard's work always seems to persevere unscathed. Buechler, though, has done so much better. I mean even looking at Troll, if there is an example of a cult horror film within a similar genre, proves that Buechler's team can create monsters worthy of appreciation.





*I did forget to mention Ralph Seymour as the bizarre Mark, nicknamed Toad Boy, whose wordspeak seemed less juvenile as much as gibberish. Dick just decides that conversation with him was going nowhere. Unless you discover his kind of crazy and learn the language. Seymour is known to horror fans for the '81 film, Just Before Dawn and the junkie in Fletch.

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