Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Ghoulies II (1987)

I was taking a road trip a couple of years ago with my girlfriend, Sara, and we found ourselves in the small Cape Cod town of Sandwich Massachusetts. We were looking for a place to get some snacks and stopped at a convenience store which was luckily right next to a video rental store. It was a sad sight in there, like most rental stores these days. There were far too many copies of new releases and only one person inside, the owner. We browsed around to see if they were selling anything (they are usually good places to get used DVDs for cheap) and discovered an entire rack jammed with VHS tapes for $1 each. We decided we would each get five. Among my picks were Meatballs 2 + 3 (I almost picked up Meatballs 4 starring Corey Feldman) and Ghoulies II.

I first caught this movie on HBO when I was a kid. It was towards the end of the film and the only memory I had of it was the infamous “Ghoulie up the ass” scene.  The cover of the VHS copy I have shows the main Ghoulie popping out of the toilet bowl with another turd-like Ghoulie coming out of the toilet tank. The tagline is “Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the bathroom.” This is far different from the cover of the first Ghoulies which shows just one Ghoulie coming out of a toilet with the tagline “They’ll get you in the end.”

For the newcomers to the Ghoulie series, the filmmakers decided to give us a nice intro to fill us in on these creatures. The film starts with a panicked man running through the woods being chased by what are either KKK members in red robes, or Satanic cult members. Either way, this man is far too sly for these goons and is able to lose them by ducking into a closed gas station. The cult members look in the window, but since the door is locked, they decide he must not be in there. What is in there though is an old gas station standard, a giant open barrel of smoking, bubbling toxic waste. Perfect for dumping a bag of Ghoulies into, which luckily this man has. The bag goes in, but shortly after, a window is broken by a rogue Ghoulie that looks like a flying stingray. The man is knocked into the waste and dies instantly. If he had only lived for another minute, he would have seen that the toxic waste has no affect on Ghoulies and that he died in vein.

The Ghoulies crawl out and get into an unlocked truck outside that is bound for the carnival. The truck is driven by our young stud of a hero, Larry played by Damon Martin. Larry is accompanied by his Uncle Ned played by Royal Dano. Ned is an aging magician whose only trick seems to be turning alcohol into urine. Now, from this point forward there is a lot of talk of magic, but don’t worry, you’ll never see any performed.

The Carnival has just been taken over by P. Hardin, a no-bullshit businessman more suited for a Wall Street job than a carnival owner. He's in it for the money of course and is ready to shut down any act that doesn't start pulling in some serious cash. These carnies have just one weekend to get their acts together. The act voted most likely to be shut down is Larry and Ned's house of horribles, Satan's Den. It's not scary and looks more like a run down museum. How will they ever get people to come? Enter our unlikely heros, the Ghoulies.

That's right, the Ghoulies are here to save the day. How will they make a difference? Well, how about they kill a couple people and see how that goes over? Well, it goes over great. People think that the Ghoulies are part of the show and tell all their friends how cool Satan's Den is. Thanks Ghoulies, looks like Satan's Den wont be shut down after all.

 The Ghoulies continue to somehow capture people (they don't look very strong or hard to get away from) including, Uncle Ned! While pounding the booze, Ned discovers the Ghoulies and thinks he's conjured them up from Hell and it's time he sends them back where they came from. Luckily he finds a book in a box of props that tells him exactly how to do it.
Unfortunately these creatures are too clever and attack him. He gets cut in the neck by the bat (stingray) Ghoulie and stabbed through the chest with a switchblade by the cat Ghoulie. I know I thought he was done for, but luckily the knife just went through a deck of cards in his shirt pocket. “I’m a magician, you can’t kill me”, at least not yet. He first manages to draw a pentagram with his own blood and recite some of the spell to send the Ghoulies to Hell, but is stopped short when he gets electrocuted. The local police arrive on the scene and find dead Uncle Ned and declare it “a tragic accident”. They don’t comment on the switchblade or the bloody pentagram..

There is a love story here too with Larry and a belly dancer, Nicole, played by Kerry Remsen. Hardin is into her too and I don't think it's her looks. Maybe it’s her secret tightrope walking past that makes her appealing. That’s right, she’s a former tightrope walker, but it’s a secret. She says she just wants to make enough money to get out of this place. I don't blame her. I wanted to get out of there too. 

The movie drags at points, but never for very long, it's only 89 minutes, so it at least wont take up too much of your time. The problem is that the characters are all just kind of dumb. That is except for the Ghoulies, who you end up rooting for. They are ugly little bastards and definitely Gremlins knockoffs, but they coo like babies and have the potential to be funny. They just needed more screen time. They really should have made a sequel to this where, I don't know, maybe they go to college? Oh wait...

Out of the bowl...and totally out of control!

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