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MGM Studios DVD presents
Ghoulies / Ghoulies II (1985/1987)

"Imps? Demons? It worked! The incantations, they worked!"
- Ned Prentiss (Royal Dano) in Ghoulies II

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: August 25, 2003

Stars: Peter Liapas, Lisa Pelikan, Scott Thomson, Ralph Seymour, Michael Des Barres, Jack Nanse, Damon Martin, Royal Dano, Phil Fondacaro, J. Downing, Kerry Remsen
Other Stars: Mariska Hargitay, Keith Joe Dick, David Dayan, Victoria Catlin, Carene Cathleen, Tamara De Treaux, Peter Risch, Bobbie Bresee, Dale Wyatt, Jon Maynard Pennell, Sasha Jenson, Starr Andreoff, William Butler
Director: Luca Bercovici, Albert Band

Manufacturer: DVCC
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for (language, gore, violence, drug use, black magic)
Run Time: 02h:50m:34s
Release Date: August 26, 2003
UPC: 027616888976
Genre: horror

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

Joe Dante's 1984 hit, Gremlins, brought new vitality to the horror-comedy genre and spawned a few imitators, including the double feature on this dual-sided disc. John Carl Buechler developed a set of nasty-looking little demons for these pictures that, despite some shortcomings, are still quite visually memorable.

The first Ghoulies picture features Peter Liapas as Jonathan Graves, who as an infant was going to be sacrificed by his father, Malcolm (rocker/actor Michael Des Barres). But he was rescued from this fate by Wolfgang (Jack Nance, Eraserhead himself). Now come into the inheritance of the old mansion, Jonathan with his girlfriend Rebecca (Lisa Pelikan) starts to clean the place up when he runs across his father's black magic paraphernalia. Soon he's summoning demon imps and animating the dead, but everything falls apart when he raises his wizard father from the grave.

Despite an amiable and bumptious main theme that sounds like it could have been written by Danny Elfman, the horror in this first installment tends to outweigh the comedy. In addition to the expected blood and gore, there are those twin terrifying concepts that strike fear into every man's heart. I speak, of course, of clowns and break dancing. The humor that is there is pretty forced and largely depends on the drug-addled nature of Jonathan's friends. The cast is mostly forgettable and the leads don't have much chemistry together. However, the film is worth watching to see Des Barres chew the scenery maniacally. The Ghoulies themselves are pretty crude and are obviously puppets without much animation or ability to move.

Things get better with the second installment, though, when a higher budget and better effects gave the Ghoulies a mobility they were sorely lacking the first time out. The surviving imps stow away with a carnival and install themselves in the house of horrors, Satan's Den, run by Larry Prentiss (Damon Martin), his drunken Uncle Ned (Royal Dano) and midget assistant Sir Nigel (Phil Fondacaro). Before long the destitute attraction is doing huge business due to the gruesome goings-on instigated by the Ghoulies. But the little imps aren't happy to merely be entertaining; they have blood on their minds.

The sequel puts the Ghoulies to better use, with stop-motion animation giving them freer rein and making them much more of a believable threat. The humor is a bit broader here, with the sources of the comedy coming from the situations rather than being forced out of the characters. The leads again are colorless and uninteresting, though character actor Royal Dano is entertaining. There's also a humorous anticipation of the Jurassic Park toilet gag. As sequels go, this one isn't bad. But at best these are affable timewasters.

Rating for Style: C
Rating for Substance: C-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The anamorphic widescreen transfers generally look decent. The title sequences of both films are noisy, with unnatural reds present in the live action portions of the title sequence of the second picture. Both are a bit on the soft side but the prints are clean and color other than the reds are decent. The sequel is very grainy and tends to shimmer a fair amount. Aliasing also tends to be more prominent on the sequel than the original.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: Ghoulies sports a fairly pedestrian 2.0 mono audio track that has substantial hiss and noise. There is also some significant distortion on louder sequences. There is, however, a surprising amount of bass behind the Ghoulies' tiny footsteps, which is itself a rather amusing effect. The sequel with its 2.0 Surround track sounds much better, with a broad soundstage and powerful surround activity. The audio track is much less noisy than on the original.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 32 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
2 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
1 Disc
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The sole extras are an anamorphic widescreen trailer for each feature. These are in surprisingly good condition.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

A weak set of Gremlins imitations with little in the way of extras but reasonably good transfers. Fans of the films should be pleased.


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