I have heard over and over that this movie is part of a rash of films that came out in response to Gremlins. Gremlins is a great little movie but it’s hardly very scary even when I was a little kid. It happens to be a pretty good movie because of the great direction and the good actors who help form fun characters. It’s good campy fun from beginning to end partly because it’s written by an earl of schlock named Chris Colombus. I never really watched Ghoulies or Critters because of this, although I did see Hobgoblins much to my regret. In fact, I forgot that the movie existed which is easy to do when you’re three years old when it came out. Also, it was free from Comcast OnDemand.
I had not realized the movie is made by Empire Pictures, a company founded by Charles Band. Charles Band is sort of like Roger Corman if he pretty much only focussed on horror. I have a history with Charles Band’s Fool Moon Productions. Last year I named one of their movies (Puppet Master) in my Top 11 and another of their movies (Evil Bong) in my Bottom 11. I’m not sure if he sets out to rip things off but the argument could be made. Whether this is his intention or not, he does it with enough new thought that he makes new franchises. Sure, they’re cheap and inferior, but they have a strange kind of heart. Of course, some of them have a lot of heart and no brains but we’ve all seen a lot of those kinds of horror movies anyway.
The movie follows a young man who gets sucked into the occult and starts summoning little monsters or demons. It’s not really clear. The titular “ghoulies” were created by Stan Winston, a legendary special FX artist. They look good, with plenty of slime and drool to let you suspend your disbelief and see them as real enough. Of course, I find the puppets both inherently funny and inherently creepy but that’s the danger of puppets. At least the puppets in Puppetmaster didn’t make noise which is for the best because hearing them giggle and growl makes them decidedly less scary.
As with any horror movie focused on monsters, you’re really only there for the monsters. However, monsters need victims so let’s discuss them. Usually, by the time the killing starts, you hate the victims and can’t wait for them to die. This was true of the people in this cast because from the first time they were on frame I was ready to write them off. Well, the female protagonist was a little less annoying. Also, Mariska Hargitay (of Law and Order: SVU fame) made her film debut in this long before busting perps in New York City.
Most of the humans get a sum total of seven lines each. The bulk of the movie is acted by Peter Liapis who portrays Jonathan. His dad was a generic Satanist wizard and now he has inherited the power. He’s a good enough actor as he portrays a young man whose curiosity makes him an easy target for the seductive abilities of forbidden power and knowledge. His power grows as he fights with his girlfriend who is confused as to what is going on with her boyfriend.
The main complaint I have is that the movie is exceptionally slow. In a movie about killer puppet monsters, you expect it to be almost wall to wall monsters. The movie is 81 minutes long with credits and, although they make appearances, the monsters only gear up in the third act. However, if you can hang in there until the end, the movie gets really goofy and creepy in a fun way. It may be a crappy horror film but that’s what I grew up with anyway. Give it a watch if you’re into that sort of thing.