The 1980s was a bizarre time for horror as a genre as it often crashed head-on into comedy to deliver a lot of weird, wonderful and often terrible movies. Straddling all three on different levels is the Ghoulies franchise. Hitting the screens in 1984, the same year as Gremlins, Luca Bercovici’s creature feature sees evil little monsters unleashed on the unsuspecting party goers at an ominous mansion. Albert Band’s sequel (released in 1988) sees the evil beasties take centre stage as they begin to cause havoc in a carnival.
You could argue that Luca Bercovici didn’t quite know what he had with the original Ghoulies. The little monsters have relatively limited screen time in the 1984 film, but they’re given much more to do in the follow-up. The sequel has a Gremlins vibe and the Ghoulies have more personality. It’s akin to the way that Freddie Krueger became an anti-hero as the Nightmare on Elm Street series progressed. The latex puppets on display are far from photorealistic but there’s a comic book energy on hand as they take part in their onscreen antics.
The Ghoulies movies are silly to the extreme and they may be a little rough around the edges. However, it’s always fun to watch old horror movies and it’s likely that these have improved with age. The Ghoulies movies don’t take themselves too seriously – horror has become increasingly stoic in recent times and it’s refreshing to see the genre have some fun in the VHS era. You can’t deny these movies have a certain charm which makes them quirky viewing in this digital age.
The Ghoulies movies aren’t great movies and they pale in comparison to Gremlins. The Ghoulies can’t even compete with the Critters franchise but there’s fun to be had in the cynical-free way that these movies are presented.
The original Ghoulies comes with a short introduction and commentary from director Luca Bercovici. This is pretty cool considering the B-list nature of the film means that it could have gone without.