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Home | Film Review: The Ghoulies (1984)

Film Review: The Ghoulies (1984)


A young man and his girlfriend move into his inherited estate, where he becomes possessed by a need to control ancient demons.


Director: Luca Bercovici
Luca Bercovici, Jefery Levy
Lisa Pelikan, Peter Liapis, Michael Des Barres

Everyone knows Ghoulies. Not everyone has seen it, but most people above their mid-twenties should remember the iconic video sleeve of the green Ghoulie standing in the toilet at their local rental store. This image sold the movie to many (it grossed around 35mil), making them believe it was another Gremlins-like movie, with somewhat cute and funny little creatures causing various shenanigans. My mother fell for it, borrowing it for my brother and myself when I was about 8, well before I got into horror and became desensitised by it all. The first scene of a satanic ritual scared the crap out of us, especially when we started to see a women’s chest expand and crack open. We quickly stopped the VCR at that point. Thank Shiva we did… I couldn’t live through seeing this piece of utter crap twice in my lifetime… Once for HorrorNews is enough. If I had watched it back then, I would have formatted my computer and turned to a life of hermitude once I saw this tripe on my HorrorNews review list.

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When you see the title Ghoulies and see a video sleeve of an actual Ghoulie you kind of expect the movie to be about, well, Ghoulies. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The Ghoulies make up about 10 minutes in total of the film’s runtime, the rest is about our Protagonist/Antagonist, or as I coin the term, PRAGTAGONIST, Jonathon, who was played by the emotionally devoid Peter Liapis. “But Mr. Caps, Jaws was the same. You only saw the shark for a bit” yes, person asking the question, you did, but it still had stuff going on pertaining to aforementioned shark throughout the film. In Ghoulies they literally do nothing for most of the film. Their first interaction/kill is at 52 minutes in! Until this point we only see them leering, making stupid grunting noises while Jonathan does his numerous rituals. They’re not even acknowledged during this time. Ghoulies is about Jonathon having an urge to do various rituals to become full of power and knowledge. It’s not about Ghoulies, it’s about him. It should have been called The Not-so-very Curious Case of Johnathon Graves, or How the F#ck did This Film Get Made?

Ok, so like MC Hammer, I’m going to break it down. As I mentioned above, the film begins with a satanic ritual. Malcolm Graves (played Michael Des Barres) is about to sacrifice his baby boy, Johnathon, but is stopped by his wife (the lady whose chest explodes) when she puts a magical talisman around John’s neck. Coincidentally, this talisman is never seen again for the film. Coincidentally again, John makes one for his GF which is never referenced again either. Such is the genius of the writers of this film… Anyway, another cult member, Wolfgang (Jack Nance) takes the baby away somewhere to protect it from this evil and once the father dies years later, lets the now adult Johnathon to re-visit the mansion as its inheritor.

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“Hang on, Mr. Caps, are you telling me that this Wolfgang dude saved Jonathon, but then lets him go back to the house?” Yep. Not only that, but Wolfgang, who is the mansion’s caretaker by the looks of things, also left all the satanic paraphernalia lying around for Jonathon to easily find and be corrupted by… This is the awesomanity we are dealing with in Ghoulies. But wait, there’s more.

So, after Johnathon and his equally old girlfriend get to the mansion (all the “college” aged actors in this film were in their very late to mid-thirties at the time this was made), John stumbles upon the very ritual book his father used, and promptly begins to read and somehow become corrupted by.

As he grows into his new abilities, John resurrects the Ghoulies, who pretty much do nothing after that until the 52 minutes mark. He also resurrects Grizzel and Greedigut, two “little people” for some unknown reason… Actually, I presume cocaine and high as f#ck writers were the reason… These two minions tell John that to gain ultimate power and knowledge he must perform yet another a ritual. They were apparently servants of John’s dad though we never see them in the intro or at any other point until now, and Greedigut, to Grizzel’s lame protests, withholds some key details about the ritual from Johnathon, that being it will resurrect his father from the grave…. The grave that is conveniently located right at the mansion’s courtyard, complete with pentagram headstone… A pentagram headstone Johnathon and his GF nonchalantly glance over at the beginning of the film, not even registering the pentagram one iota.


Johnathon invites his stereotyped friends over for a dinner, drugs them, performs the ritual, unwittingly resurrects his dead and all hell breaks loose. Finally the Ghoulies (you remember them, right?) go to work, lamely killing some of the friends. Oh, Grizzel and Greedigut kill some too, for no reason other than they apparently “had to” for Johnathon’s dad. Getting confused? Good, cause that’s I felt watching this absolute piece of crap.

Let me describe the scene of Grizzel and Greedigut’s kills as I think this is a prime example of the complete inanity of Ghoulies as a whole.

Grizzel and Greedigut kill (knock out?) a dude. They drag him outside, then lure and capture a Ghoulie. As doing this VERY ACTION Grizzel protests “I will not this, I will not” (paraphrased). So as he does the very thing he is protesting about, he and Greedigut then go back into the house wearing the knocked out dude’s jacket, stand on top of each other, then put the Ghoulie on their head so that the dude’s friend thinks they are actually the dude. Got that? As the friend taps their shoulder, they spin around and let the Ghoulie leap onto the friend and kill him… Pure writing genius. As this is playing out we also have Johnathon’s dad morphing into a “hot” woman and killing a man with his/her super-long tongue and Ghoulies killing people themselves… Oh, we also have a clown! A clown which, when is in the very room his victim is in, chooses to walk out of the room, then BACK IN to kill her…

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Johnathon’s father goes to the basement (ritual HQ) and calls his “friends”, that being all the Ghoulies and, for some completely unknown reason, the dead friends who crawl to him. John confronts his dad and tries to out ritual him, but he is no match. Don’t fret, because Wolfgang comes to save the day, having what is the most useless and hilariously dreadful final fight scene I have ever witnessed in my life. Seriously, this fight made Roddy Piper’s one in They Live seem like an entertainment extravaganza. It involved too much time of the two men holding each other’s throats and looking bug-eyed at one another while animated electricity shot out of their eyes at their counterpart, accompanied by a shit-tastic electricity sound. You have to see this scene to believe it as my words cannot do it justice. Wolfgang defeats the dad– Surprise. The writers didn’t even have enough brains or skill to let our pragtagonist defeat his dad, you know, like a GOOD film would do.

And… this is my favourite part of the entire film… Johnathon’s friends MAGICALLY COME BACK TO LIFE AND ALL THEIR WOUNDS DISAPPEAR… What is the explanation for this? “Don’t ask” is the response from Johnathon when his GF asks him about it. I am not making this up. Even the writers knew how friggin’ stupid their ending was and couldn’t come up with a logical explanation, not even one to fit in the realm of the movie, so they just flippantly disregarded it. Terrible.

Devoid of horror, humour or entertainment, good God this film sucks.

-5 out of 5 rituals

Bonus Features

    • — GHOULIES —
    • Audio Commentary With Director/Co-writer Luca Bercovici
    • New Interviews With Executive Producer Charles Band, Composer Richard Band, Actor Michael Des Barres And Special Effects Makeup Artist John Vulich
    • Original Theatrical Trailer
    • — GHOULIES II —
    • New Interviews With Executive Producer Charles Band, Actors Kerry Remsen And Donnie Jeffcoat, And Special Effects Artist Gino Crognale
    • Rare Deleted Scenes
    • Original Theatrical Trailer

Get THE GHOULIES and other exciting releases in the Empire Pictures 18 film Bluray box set

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