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The One-Line Summary: After nearly being sacrificed in a gruesome satanic ritual in which his own father attempts to kill him, Jonathon Graves (Peter Liapis) grows up in the care of another and eventually inherits the family’s mansion where, after moving in with his girlfriend Rebecca (Lisa Pelikan), he discovers the black magic books his father left behind and decides to try an incantation that will give him supernatural powers and unleashes tiny, toothy, demons that proceed to attack everyone in the house on his command.
The Two-Line Blurb: This horror comedy is ultra-low budget and features truly comical puppet monsters that are probably better known from the film’s poster and trailer than the actual film due to the clever images of one ghoulie popping up out of a toilet, which, iconic now, was the center of a massive controversy and letter campaign that had parents protesting because their children, after seeing the commercials and posters, were too afraid to go to the bathroom. Marking Mariska Hargitay‘s film debut, Ghoulies suffers from some bad writing and silly set pieces, but worse, has no charm, never embracing the premise and letting the comedy be inventive or clever like the film it tries hard but fails to emulate, Gremlins (1984), the Steven Spielberg classic that made little nasty monsters fun.
The Three-Line Set-up: This moment is about, well, cheap scares, which the movie tries to deliver throughout with tongue firmly in cheek but with silly dialog and actors that seem to take it far too seriously, as every “scare” is lost under the weight of too much set up, predictability, and aimless direction. Under Graves’ control, who has become a sort of possessed demon lord, he takes demon control over Rebecca using two little people dressed in medieval garb that he summoned earlier, and then throws a party with friends who become fodder for the possessed. In a film called Ghoulies that features a ghoulie on the poster, there is (perhaps happily) only a few scenes with actual ghoulies as the film is more about the dark arts and teenagers doing what filmmakers think teenagers do only far more exaggerated and not really at all what teenagers do.
The Four-Line Moment: In the back yard after nightfall, Mark, aka Toad Boy (Ralph Seymour) takes the lovely Donna (Hargitay) out for a walk by the marble pond where the young horny teens sit by the edge and act awkward until Toad Boy makes his move, which consists of the always successful and highly romantic, aggressive mid-riff tickling. She responds with ear-splitting screams of laughter that sounds suspiciously like ear-splitting screams of agony until her bracelet slips off and plunks into the water, which gives Mark the chance to be a hero and retrieve the jewelry and win her heart, or at least some other part of her body. Of course, we as the audience already know that this is the very same pond that Jonathon used to summon the little creatures and when Mark sticks his hand inside there is little surprise in seeing tiny monsters emerge and start biting away at his face while the stunned Donna strikes the obligatory girl-in-horror-pose and screams before they descend upon her as well, fooling the party-guests into thinking the two are engaged in wild sex rather than murderous carnage. The problem (one of many) is that the ghoulies are so small and look so completely non-threatening, it’s unintentionally (or maybe intentionally) funny to see them at all, let alone watch them defeat any human being, when clearly anyone could toss them aside like a sock puppet, stomp on with a shoe or just plain ignore by walking away.
The Five-Word Review: This somehow spawned three sequels.