1984, Movies

Ghoulies (1984, Luca Bercovici)

It’s been a long time since I’ve been this disappointed in a bad horror movie. It should be called Chokies or Undead Warlockies or something like that, not Ghoulies. The cover of this movie terrified me as a child in the video store and it turns out that the ghoulies barely do anything, they’re utterly superfluous. This is far from the worst ’80s horror movie you’ll ever see – the production values are better than many, for one thing – but the cover sets you up to think it’s an entirely different film, that even knowing it was going to be bad I was disappointed.

I’ve been meaning to watch this movie for years, simply because its cover terrified me as a child. And I really mean terrified. And so I guess I had some expectations.

When I was in university I was desperate to discover what movie inspired “Nightmare Cafeteria” from “Tree House of Horror V.” One day I thought I found it when I discovered a horror movie with a cover that claimed the people would turn inside out. “Aha!” I thought. And then I watched it. And…fish people. I was so disappointed. (I’m sorry to say I don’t remember which movie it was but it was bad.)

And it’s how I feel about Ghoulies. Ghoulies‘ cover promises little green monsters popping out of toilets and coming for our nether-regions. And, well, there is a very brief shot of a ghoulie in a toilet but it’s disembodied. Only a couple of the ghoulies actually look like the one of the cover, and others look like rats and stuff. And they really don’t do much. Eventually a couple attack some of the people in the movie, but that’s it.

The real story is about a man who is possessed by a book or a mansion in order to bring back his dead father who was some kind of warlock. Yup, that’s what the monster in the toilet movie is actually about. One theory is that this story was written and got greenlighted and then Gremlins was a massive hit and someone decided they should add the ghoulies and rename the film. I don’t know if that’s true, but it sure feels like it is, as the ghoulies are entirely superfluous and unnecessary to the plot of ghoulies. And it’s extremely frustrating to just not have any monsters eating people.


So basically nobody dies. Like Jack Nance dies, I guess. And the woman in the opening dies, and the warlock obviously has to die so that he can come back to life. But everyone you think is dead is not actually dead. And it is profoundly unsatisfying to watch a horror film in which there is basically no death. Of course something like this isn’t scary. I get that. But can we at least get some death? Isn’t that the point of a horror film if it isn’t scary?

This is also supposed to be a comedy and there are, at most, a couple of jokes recognizable as jokes. If you watch this film for the comedy instead of the horror, you will likely be nearly as disappointed.

So, since I’m spoiling things, the climactic battle is literally a dead guy and Jack Nance strangling each other for what feels like 5 minutes. Seriously.

Not the worst movie from a production standpoint and, honestly, I guess the plot in better hands might have worked (without the ghoulies). But a profoundly disappointing movie.


PS The score sounds like a million bucks and it was composed by two people who went on to long careers as film composers. Weird.

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