That's why I stopped eating raw chicken and bath salts.

So, after literally weeks of looking for the movie with the monster that comes out of the toilet to mixed results, I finally turned to my truest friend, the internet, and found what movie it was that had weaseled its way into my childhood subconscious: "Ghoulies." I was thinking of playing out the gag longer, throwing more and more unlikely movies into the "ah, THIS is the movie with the toilet monsters!" to movies like "Cop and a Half" or "KISS Meats the Phantom of the Park," but, honestly, this whole gag was so unintentional that I knew I had to end it while it was still somewhat amusing to me. So here I am, writing about the movie that I have been waiting to see since Video Villa went under (or at least sold off all of it's VHS tapes to make room for DVD's) and how do I feel about that?

I'll get to that eventually, let's have a wrap session first, since this will be the last 80's horror movie I review for a few weeks. Pull up a chair.

Of course, imagine I am sitting like this. Also that I am A.C. Slater.
umm "Have Mercy?"

I have brought up in the past how much I love 80's horror movies, but I am not sure that I have ever really vocalized why I love them so much, seeing as almost every other genre of film (and music, art, architecture, fashion, cars...well, everything else save for action movies and DEVO) fell into a creative slump that produced terrible things that are, at best laughable today, and at worse filled with Jim Belushi.

The 80's for those of you who weren't around, or weren't coherent enough for a long enough period to remember them, were a period of out and out excess in American culture. Everything was bigger, louder, brighter and flashier than ever before, and, seeing as we were coming off of the disco era, where powder blue, polyester leisure suits were considered a fine thing to wear in public, that is saying something. But, being birthed right along side the terrible excesses of the public, were fantastic advancements in technology, computers and special effects. Those two factors, when put together ruined most every genre of film they touched, they congealed into an idea that every movie, no matter how small the story, had to have more going on than what was needed. There were no small stories anymore, no more than there were any small songs.

Quick example: take 1981's "Arthur", or more specifically, Christopher Cross' hit single from the soundtrack "Arthur's Theme." By all accounts this should be a small, romantic song, but listen to it, listen to all the effects put into the vocal track, all the echo, all the instruments. What we have is an 80's small song, in that it started intimate, but was so over produced that it became alien in it's execution. This is a very real, very 80's phenomenon, and it is what gave birth to the grunge era of music and film in the early 90's wherein everything was trimmed down to the bare essentials, and that was almost just as bad. For most genres this meant that films would become overburdened by their own productions and suffer for it. However, certain types of movie, namely horror and action movies, found a golden age in this time of excess, and flourished.

These were movies that worked wonderfully when paired with an "anything goes" attitude, because in these genres, the more outrageous the set piece, the more absurd the premise, the more enjoyable the movie ends up. We saw horror movie leave the realm of the psychological in the 80's and the term "slasher" come into being; as the movies were more about finding funny ways of offing the characters than they were about finding the deep seeded fears and the darkness that lies in the hearts of man. Not that there is anything wrong with those types of movies, as we started to see a reemergence of them in the 90's, but in terms of making a fun to watch movie, throwing caution to the wind and just having a good time is the best way to go, surely it is the only reason movies like "C.H.U.D.", or "Critters" or even "Gremlins" can still be just as enjoyable today, while so much of what was made between 1981 and 1989 is not.

"Ghoulies" is one of those movies, a movie where you can tell that it was made by people who were just out to have a good time and didn't have the budget to make a masterpiece. In the film, a young man and his girlfriend move into a spooky, rundown estate that was left to him by his father, who just so happens to be some sort of black wizard (in that he does black magic, not that he is black). The boyfriend (played by a Eric Roberts lookalike, quickly becomes obsessed with the black arts and starts raising hellspawn and midgets left and right. But can his powers protect him from what's to come? Ooooh. Thunder clap.

The movie was produced by Charles Band, who would later go one to form Full Moon Studios (of Puppet Master fame) and has a horror movie aficionado's wet dream for a IMDB page. Seriously, he produced, according to the site 259 movies, including "Re-animator," "Puppet Master," and "Robot Holocaust" (Pleasure Tubes!). The film is cheesy, much like other Band films, but is played totally straight, which makes it all the funnier to see hand puppets kill people. From a special effects stand point, all is well, as almost everything is either physical effects or rotoscoped in, save for one thing, the lead actors eyes start to glow green midway into the picture, but for some reason he still has pupils, which are off in crazy directions every time he looks at the camera. It is really distracting and makes him look doofy when he is supposed to look scary.
I cannot emphisize how distracting that is in dramatic scenes, seeing one eye looking straight and one eye going all off, doing it's own thing.

Not the best example, but the best I could find online, I will grab a screenshot when I get home from work and replace this. Probably.

The creature effects are fun and original, and (as far as "Gremlins" ripoffs go) memorable, and the characters are (while obviously stereotypes) unique enough to make you care when they die (not enough not to want it, but enough to register that it had, in fact happened). And all the staples of 80's horror are there too, we have stoner guy, stoner guy's slightly less stoned friend, jock, ditz, that lady from Law and Order: SVU with the really hard to pronounce name, and human traffic cones.

Things I love: When only one cast member of a film goes on to success, and it isn't even the main character.

We end up with a movie that, for all of its faults and cheapness (it was made for a budget of 1 million dollars, which, even in 1985 money, is next to nothing), is still fun to watch and knows exactly what it want to be. It is not grandiose, it is not trying to give us a moral, it is not trying to re-invent the horror movie wheel, it plays right into the established guidelines of the genre, and has one hell of a time running around.

In the end, despite the low budget and the backing of a guy who exists for the soul purpose of making cheap, disposable horror films, it spawned several sequels, which I will get around to reviewing, if only to get to the fantastically named "Ghoulies 3: Ghoulies Go to College," but I think I will get to work on killing my backlog of random, obscure films that might end up terrible first. Gotta kill my joy in life, then build it back up with "Killer Tomatoes" and "Ghoulies" marathons, because that is cheaper than Prozac.

Rating: B

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