New on Video: Garage-Sale Gremlins in Ghoulies and Ghoulies II

Oh, the Ghoulies franchise, such as it is. I'm not going to say that it's gone down the memory hole — especially because that would make it sound like I'm referencing the toilets featured prominently on the posters and I'm really not doing that at all — but it isn't spoken of fondly these days, either. Indeed, as tiny-creatures-on-the-loose movies go, I would argue that the cult around Troll 2 has largely overshadowed whatever impact Ghoulies might have had. Heck, the Critters franchise managed to pump out four movies, and Hobgoblins went on to become one of the best episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000.

The fact that Shout! Factory is releasing both films on a single-disc Blu-ray on April 21 may revive the fortunes of Ghoulies, but let's face it, it probably won't.

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The first Ghoulies film looks for all the world like a low-budget rip of Gremlins, but as director Luca Bercovici points out in his commentary, they were actually in production at the same time. But Gremlins beat them to market by several months, plus Joe Dante's film was produced by Steven Spielberg while Bercovici's was produced by B-movie impresario Charles Band, so they were kinda doomed from the start. Bercovici says they were even briefly sued by Universal, though I haven't been able to find any evidence of that online. (I'm fascinated by “Your movie is too much like my movie!” lawsuits, especially the famous incident of 20th Century Fox suing Universal over Battlestar Galactica being too much like Star Wars, though that one's been difficult to substantiate as well.)

According to Bercovici, Ghoulies was also supposed to be much darker and scarier than it turned out to be, but when he saw how goofy the creatures were, he pivoted it into a comedy, because he knew nobody could possibly take the monsters seriously. He also describes the film as having “an uneven quality,” which is a kind way to put it.

But there are two important details that validate Ghoulies. (Ghoulies II resists validation.)

The first is that the casting director is Johanna Ray, who would go on to cast David Lynch's films from Blue Velvet onward, thus accounting for the presence of the great Jack Nance, ol' Eraserhead himself. (Further knowing exactly what his movie is, Bercovici says that Ray's casting gave his film a “Lynchian sensibility, but nowhere near as intelligent.”) And the second? At approximately 15 minutes in, there's breakdancing, because 1984.

Oh, and a note to my 12-year-old self when I first saw the poster: “They'll Get You in the End” refers to the fact that the monster is coming out of a toilet. Think about it, kid.

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