1985 - 81m.
Ghoulies' biggest problem is that there's just not enough ghoulies. Given that the flick has one of the most memorable posters of the 80s - with a cute, toothy little bugger popping out of a toilet and the tagline "They'll get you in the end" - it's really too bad there wasn't more rubbery hand puppet monster bedlam. It's something that would be addressed in the next two sequels (yes, there's four of these things, if you can believe it) but what we get here is a pretty lame mix of the occult, mild attempts at humour, a couple of medieval midgets, and a few scenes of our ghoulies up to no good. As a Charles Band production, one of the first under his Empire Pictures banner, it's your usual case of concept/artwork before story but was (apparently) his most successful effort bringing in some decent money at the box office.
Things start off on the right foot with a Satanic ritual where our glowing green-eyed baddie Malcolm Graves (Michael Des Barres) is trying to sacrifice a baby in the basement of his gothic mansion. He is, of course, thwarted and we fast forward to many years later when his son Jonathan (Peter Liapis) has inherited the house and arrives with girlfriend Rebecca (Lisa Pelikan) in tow to clean it up. It's quite a mansion what with gravestones in the yard and a ceremony room in the basement.
Jonathan finds his dad's ancient spell book and decides to try it out during a house warming party. His attempts to conjure up some creatures seemingly fails (of course, it doesn't, as our ghoulies are brought back) and it doesn't take long for him to become obsessed with all the occult stuff littering the house. There's a lot more basement rituals, Rebecca looking all concerned at his obsession, the summoning of the aforementioned midget servants, and our ghoulies looking on while awkwardly moving their jaws. Eventually Jonathan ends up resurrecting his dead dad (in a pretty cool "back from the grave" moment) and that's when the mayhem begins as our evil dad and his ghoulie sidekicks attack all of Jonathan's friends who are there for a weekend party. There's some dull stretches, our actors clutching the monster puppets to their faces, and a clown doll that's obviously inspired by Poltergeist - and is given, by far, the best scene.
Given the fact he spends the entire movie with glowing eyes and wearing robes, Liapis is pretty passable in the lead role. Pelikan gets to mildly argue with him, act worried about him, and eventually get possessed but she's pretty bland, too. So it's a good thing that some of the supporting cast seems to not be taking things seriously amongst all the junkiness. As our pompadoured wannabe stud Dick, Keith Joe Dick gets a few chuckles and seems to be having a good time. Scott Thomson also amuses as the constantly stoned Mike and even gets to have a hilariously bad breakdancing moment. Rocker turned actor Des Barres camps it up as much as humanly possible and is fun to watch. Former Playboy Playmate Bobbi Bresee (Evil Spawn, Surf Nazis Must Die) shows up as a demonic temptress and gets the flick's best moment involving her evil tongue. And, yes, that's cult movie actor Jack Nance (Eraserhead) as the groundskeeper-with-a-secret Wolfgang.
It's also worth mentioning that some of the crew here would continue to work with Band. Editor Ted Nicolaou would later direct the Subspecies flicks and TerrorVision, executive in charge of production Peter Manoogian would make Demonic Toys and Seedpeople, and the ghoulies were created by John Carl Buechler who'd do effects for many of the horror flicks we grew up with as well as occasionally directing stuff like Cellar Dweller and the seventh Friday the 13th entry.
If you grew up in the 80s, you're sure to know about Ghoulies, but I doubt it's worth your time. If you saw it as a kid, don't bother refreshing your memory. If you've never seen it, skip to the next two entries as they'd deliver the cheesy monster tomfoolery this movie promised - Hell, I've even dubbed the third one "The Animal House of the Ghoulies movies." (Chris Hartley, 8/17/14)
Directed By: Luca Bercovici.
Written By: Luca Bercovici, Jefery Levy.
Starring: Peter Liapis, Lisa Pelikan, Scott Thomson, Ralph Seymour.