It’s something of a curiosity of transatlantic temporal mechanics that this cheap and nasty “Gremlins” rip-off actually reached the UK a month before Joe Dante’s Christmas classic but don’t let that fool you into thinking “Ghoulies” is a worthwhile watch. It’s not, despite what your heart may tell you from the porcelain-focussed poster (a marketing gimmick which was so successful, a corresponding scene was hastily written, filmed and inserted into the already completed movie).
Twenty-one years after his father was thwarted in his attempt to sacrifice him, Jonathan Graves (Peter Liapis) inherits his father’s estate. Returning to the house, he discovers several books on magic and a basement chock full of occult ephemera. He and his girlfriend Rebecca decide to throw a rowdy party and – for a lark – asks them to help perform one of the rituals from his father’s books – one he hopes will convey dearly departed dad’s diabolical powers onto him. But the ritual goes wrong and summons a legion – well, four or five – mini demons to wreak havoc upon the party-goers.
The eponymous demonic monsters are so poorly realised as to be laughable. Having apparently stolen the mold used to make the baby alien in “V: The Final Battle”, the production cranks out four or five copies, coats them in some moulted cat hair and fills their comically pointy-toothed mouths with KY Jelly beofre hurling them at the cast from off-screen. Still, even that’s better than the feeble attempts at puppetry which never fail to provoke an eyeroll.
The performances aren’t too bad, I suppose, and there’s no denying that Peter Liapis chews his way through the scenery like a cut-price Eric Roberts and there are some decent scenes on offer even if the execution is never more than inadequate (the return of Graves senior is a highlight), but it’s just too silly, too cheap and too fond of ripping off ideas and even dialogue from other films before ineptly jamming them together to be anything other than a footnote of eighties horror.
Somehow, though, this became one of the production company’s top earners, spawning three sequels. Somebody must have got it wet.