DirectorLuca Bercovici/Albert Band
Release Date(s)1985/1988 (April 21, 2015)
Studio(s)Empire Pictures/MGM (Shout!/Scream Factory)
- Film/Program Grade: See Below
- Video Grade: See Below
- Audio Grade: See Below
- Extras Grade: B-
One of Empire Pictures’ biggest money makers was Ghoulies (1985) which, its theatrical release aside, became a staple of the home video market. The movie’s ad campaign stirred up a bit of controversy with parents when its poster and TV spot depicted a green monster popping up out of a toilet with the tagline “They’ll get you in the end!” All this publicity did nothing but generate more revenue for Empire, enough to justify a sequel, Ghoulies II, which went straight to video in 1988. And although a pair of additional sequels were made, most regard the first two movies as the best the series has to offer.
Oddly enough, the first Ghoulies isn’t really about the monsters at all, despite being promoted as such. The plot is more about an evil sorcerer trying to come back to life by possessing his son and summoning evil forces in a dilapidated mansion. Truth be told, the monsters don’t play much of a part in the story until the last act, when all hell starts breaking loose, but it takes an eternity to get there. Ghoulies II throws all of that out the window and focuses on a group of down-on-their-luck carnies who are not only being terrorized by the Ghoulies, but discover that their customers are being murdered by them. Ghoulies II delivers on what the first movie promised, particularly the movie’s poster. There are also better characters, a more interesting setting, a spookier atmosphere, and improved make-up and animatronic effects. It’s actually the best movie in the series overall.
For Scream Factory’s Double Feature Blu-ray release, the transfers for both movies have their good and bad points, particularly Ghoulies. It’s a fairly soft presentation, with splotchy grain levels and not very good texturing or depth. Detail can be a little spotty at times because of this, but it’s more pronounced in the creature close-ups. Colors are good, but don’t really pop, and black levels are a bit deeper than they perhaps should be. Ghoulies II features a much more organic-looking presentation than its predecessor, with more evenly-layered grain levels and texturing, some surprising depth, and stronger detailing. Colors also pop a little more when given the chance, and blacks, while still deep, look a little more natural with more noticeable shadow detail. The image is very stable, though there is one really noticeable shot of lesser quality (at the 1:09:45 mark) that likely could not have been repaired.
Both movies feature English 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD MA audio. For Ghoulies, the 2.0 track is actually a better mix, with clearer, louder dialogue and a stronger score. The 5.1 track gives the music more room to breathe in the rear speakers, but sounds a bit hollow by comparison. There’s little in the way of distortion, or even major spatial activity, other than the music. For Ghoulies II, there isn’t much of a difference between the 5.1 and 2.0. It’s a mostly front-heavy presentation with clear dialogue, although lightly distorted at times. There’s also not much in terms of speaker-to-speaker activity, but there are some occasional spots of ambiance to be had. Optional subtitles are available in English for those who might need them.
GHOULIES FILM/VIDEO/AUDIO: C/C+/B
GHOULIES II FILM/VIDEO/AUDIO: B/B+/B+
As for the extras, they’re brief but well worth checking out. For Ghoulies, you get an audio commentary with director Luca Bercovici; the From Toilets to Terror: The Making of Ghoulies featurette; the original theatrical trailer; and a still gallery. For Ghoulies II, you get the More Toilets, More Terror: The Making of Ghoulies II featurette; a set of alternate scenes; the original theatrical trailer; and a still gallery. It’s worth noting that the version of Ghoulies II featured on this release is the PG-13 version, even though an R-rated version does exist. However, the trimmed shots are included in the alternate scenes. Their non-inclusion in the final film was due to licensing issues, not creative one.
Ghoulies remains one of the more fun franchises to come out of the Gremlins knock-off trend of the 1980s and early 1990s. The first movie is fairly cheesy, but the second improves upon the formula. Scream Factory’s Blu-ray release may not be the best these movies will ever look or sound, but it’s nice having them paired up together in one package.
- Tim Salmons