In a pre-credits sequence, we witness a Satanic cult meeting at a country mansion house where their leader Malcolm (Michael Des Barres) prepares to sacrifice his own infant son to a couple of drooling demons lurking in wait nearby.
The kid - labelled the "chosen one" by his own father - is saved at the eleventh hour by another cult member, and brought up in safety, oblivious to what happened that night or his Dad's true nature.
However, when Malcolm dies, the kid - now grown up into a man with a terrible quiff, called Jonathan (Peter Liapis), inherits the mansion. He and girlfriend Rebecca (Lisa Pelikan) begin to investigate the place, preparing to clean it up ready to live in it. No matter that groundskeeper Wolfgang (Jack Nance) is a creepy fucker.
While inspecting their new environment, Jonathan and Rebecca stumble across Malcolm's book collection: a veritable library devoted to black magic and the like.
That's not all: upon inspection of the attic, Jonathan uncovers a whole host of occult paraphernalia - including a pentagram engraved onto the floor.
Before he has a chance to mention this to Rebecca, she hits him with a great idea: a housewarming party. Without haste, the shindig is arranged and a group of friends duly arrive on the evening to party. Cue cheesy electro-pop music, big hair, bigger collars and the biggest earrings conceivable. Yes, this is 1984, right down to male characters wearing jackets with their sleeves rolled up to the elbows.
Anyway, I digress. After one reveller's suggestion of playing Trivial Pursuit is wisely rejected, Jonathan has an idea of his own: they should all head up to the attic and attempt to summon a demon. He's not sure how he knows how to conduct such a ceremony, the knowledge just suddenly comes to him. Alas, his ritualistic chants don't seem to have been successful, and the drunken partygoers leave laughing at him.
But, as Jonathan grows more and more drawn to his father's legacy of dark arts and the prospect of conjuring the demons, we learn that he hasn't been so successful after all. Of course, it takes everyone else a lot longer to catch on...
Director Luca Bercovici's GHOULIES will no doubt be fondly remembered by anyone who rented horror videos in the 1980s. An Empire production, it has all the usual ingredients you'd expect from a Charles Band flick: a jaunty Richard Band theme tune, bad fashions, cheesy dialogue, endearingly unconvincing special effects (a young John Carl Buechler was among the crew), a relentless pace and surprisingly good production values (the budget was reportedly $1 million).
It's pure hokum, of course, but it's all played out with such good-natured spirit that you can't fail but warm to it. It's also unexpectedly well-shot: something I never realised, having only ever seen it previously on murky pan-and-scan VHS.
As a horror film, it's about as scary as GHOSTBUSTERS. The diminutive demons don't look remotely threatening and performances are a little too rum to ever convince that characters are in jeopardy. But go along with it, and GHOULIES retains its ability to be effortlessly entertaining fare.
The film is presented on 101 Films' UK blu-ray in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio and naturally is 16x9 enhanced. The 1080p picture is housed as a credibly sized MPEG4-AVC file and looks very good. I was concerned during the pre-credits sequence by a couple of waxy-looking scenes: I feared an unhealthy amount of noise reduction may have been employed. Happily, that's not the case - the film looks organic, clear and well-defined throughout. For those, like myself, who haven't seen the film since the halcyon days of videotape, this pristine transfer will come as something of a revelation.
Clocking in at precisely 81 minutes in length (including the opening MGM logo), the film appears to be fully uncut.
Audio comes in an English 2.0 DTS Master Audio mix which is clean and consistent but occasionally limited by, I strongly suspect, the manner in which the soundtrack was originally recorded on the shoot.
The disc opens to a static main menu page. There is no scene selection menu but we do get remote-navigational access to the film via 8 chapters.
Extra features begin with a new 52-second optional introduction to the film from Bercovici. He's an affable chap who seems a little perplexed that people are still aware of his "silly" movie so many years down the line.
The director is on hand for an entertaining audio commentary track. This is moderated by Jason Andreason of "Terror Transmission". It's an honest, amiable track which provides plenty of detail with regards to actors, locations, troubles on set and so on. We learn of vomit-related deleted scenes, an alternate topless scene with Bobbie Bresee (who turns up later in the film as a demonic temptress) and much more.
GHOULIES is a great slice of daft fun, polished and attractive, and steeped in era-specific silliness. I really enjoyed revisiting it and it looks great on 101 Films' UK blu-ray.
Review by Stuart Willis
|Released by 101 Films|
|see main review|