Monday, January 26, 2009

Film Review: GHOULIES III: GHOULIES GO TO COLLEGE (1991, John Carl Buechler)

Stars: 2 of 5.
Running Time: 94 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Kevin McCarthy (INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS), Jason Scott Lee (MAP OF THE HUMAN HEART, ALADDIN TV Miniseries), Stephen Lee (ROBOCOP 2). Directed by John Carl Buechler, director of TROLL 1 and FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VII: THE NEW BLOOD.
Tag-line: "Out of the bowl... and TOTALLY out of control!" (as opposed to just merely "Out of the bowl...and out of control" as was the case with the previous film) AND "Everybody's favorite troublemakers are on the loose again!" You would think that they would come up with a collegiate-related tag-line given the setting, but the GHOULIES series was never known for its attention to detail... but wait, they did! At the end of the trailer, the announcer says "They put the animal back in the house!," which I guess should count.
Best one-liner: "They drank our brews! This means war!"

Alright, let's stop kidding ourselves here. You're probably thinking it: anyone with the desire to see this film is probably a bad person. Time is a precious commodity, and anyone who would invest 94 minutes of it watching GHOULIES III is likely just as cavalier with other resources and likely is contributing to the downfall of society. Well, I'll have you know that that's not necessarily true. I even contributed to the global economy by purchasing the used VHS from Australia via eBay. But what was the initial hook? Perhaps I do owe an explanation. Maybe I was won over by the fact that B-horror legend Kevin McCarthy stars in it. Maybe I was just won over by the fact that the Ghoulies are depicted on the cover wearing little caps and gowns and tassels and such. Regardless of the specifics, I ended up with GHOULIES III: GHOULIES GO TO COLLEGE. But let's not beat around the bush. How is the movie? The movie is bad.

So our tale is spun on a college campus where Kevin McCarthy is the dean of students.

"You won't get away with those foolish pranks THIS year."
The campus is besotten with pranks of all kinds; and nary a moment can pass without someone being struck with an egg or water balloon, or some poor, unsuspecting mark slipping on grease or oil slick, invariably with a whole lot of important papers and books flying about, and the pranksters themselves celebrating with a ritualized high-five.

Kevin McCarthy decides that the best way to deal with these pranksters is to summon the Ghoulies to put an end to them; which, had he seen GHOULIES 1 and 2, he would realize is a terrible idea, since the Ghoulies themselves are basically the pranksters to end all pranksters. I guess from that, you could logically derive the idea that the Ghoulies would then 'put an end,' to the pranksters themselves, but would not, in fact, put an end to the pranks themselves, which the Ghoulies would be proliferating exponentially as soon as the pranksters themselves were dead. Basically what that all means is, strap yourselves in, folks, cause there are going to be a whole lot of pranks going on. Some of the pranks, especially those perpetuated by the Ghoulies, are going to be deadly. And that's going to put a bad taste in your mouth if you're the sort of person who enjoys viewing pranks without moral consequence.

Now, the Ghoulies themselves talk in this one, tossing around colorful words like "schmuck" with reckless abandon. Though in 2, they were given a higher degree of sentience, and frequently would high-five each other and have fun perpetuating violence, here, they're dropping bad one-liners, engaging in panty-raids, and drinking beers as they sow mayhem.

It's a little disconcerting to see the Ghoulies cracking jokes like Borscht Belt comics, but, I suppose, it ought to be considered par for the course at this point.

There's a really clever running gag where the Ghoulies open up cupboards or closets or refrigerators, and a whole ton of stuff falls down on them, and they moan and groan as if they didn't really expect it to happen.

And hilarity ensueth.

The film does succeed at building a certain type of atmosphere. A kind of creepy, jokey, eerily childish worldview where murders-by-pranking-monsters don't seem out of place. It's almost a supercilious view of death, so by-the-numbers and matter-of-fact, that it partially succeeds in being unsettling. It reminded me of films like the original GHOULIES, Stuart Gordon's DOLLS, and WAXWORK, all of which are far superior. Kind of like the cinematic equivalent of gummy candy in the shape of eyeballs or bloody brains; gross, puerile, and slightly visceral, yes; but ultimately leading to unnecessary feelings of disgust. It all adds up to something kind of depressing. Kind of depressing for all the panty raid victims who had to be naked as they were killed by plungers and whatnot; kind of depressing for Kevin McCarthy, who, though he hasn't always made the best career choices, is a fine actor, and something of an icon for B-horror enthusiasts; and, ultimately kind of depressing for the people who made the time investment to watch the film, and all they're actually taking away from it are hazy half-memories of monsters dropping one-liners, ridiculous collegiate pranks, fog machines, and glowing green toilets. Still, though, I must give it two stars on account of the little guys posing in tiny caps and gowns for the promotional photos. And with that rating comes the admission, that, yes, I do suppose I must be a bad person. But at least I haven't been yet tempted to view GHOULIES IV. (Probably just because it doesn't possess a subtitle. If it were entitled: GHOULIES IV: GHOULIES GO TO GRAD SCHOOL... I cannot lie- a copy would currently reside on my shelf.)

-Sean Gill

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