Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Film Review: GHOULIES II (1988, Albert Band)

Ghoulies: A lot more than two.
Running Time: 89 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Directed by Albert Band (I BURY THE LIVING, PREHYSTERIA!). Produced by Charles Band (TRANCERS, TROLL, TOURIST TRAP) and Frank Hildebrand (ROBOT JOX, THE TREE OF LIFE). Written by Charlie Dolan and Dennis Paoli (RE-ANIMATOR, FROM BEYOND). Music by Fuzzbee Morse (DOLLS). Cinematography by Sergio Salvati (THE BEYOND, ZOMBI, CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD). Starring Damon Martin (PEE-WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE, NORTHFORK), Royal Dano (THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES, THE RIGHT STUFF), Phil Fondacaro (THE GARBAGE PAIL KIDS: THE MOVIE, WILLOW, RETURN OF THE JEDI), J. Downing (ROBOT WARS, VIPER), Kerry Remsen (PUMPKINHEAD, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2), Sasha Jenson (DAZED AND CONFUSED, HALLOWEEN 4).
Tag-lines: "Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the bathroom!"
Best one-liner(s): "Bon appetit, mutherfuckah!"

The question: What do you get when you combine the talents of Stuart Gordon's writer, Lucio Fulci's cinematographer, Terrence Malick's production manager, a composer named Fuzbee, and the Band brothers (of Full Moon Pictures infamy)? The answer: GHOULIES II, apparently.

GHOULIES is a franchise founded on two pillars. The first is a desire to make a quick buck off of the success of GREMLINS. The second is a profound enthusiasm to provide an audio-visual platform for little monsters who bite people's bums while they're trying to go to the toilet.

In lieu of a traditional review, I've decided merely to describe––with a minimum of editorializing––a dozen events that take place within the world of GHOULIES II. Possessing merely the facts, you will be free to engage in a your own personal evaluation of the picture. It's an exercise in objectivity, really.

 #1. The legendary Phil Fondacaro, playing a career carny, encounters his insufferable rich-kid boss (J. Downing)

He's sort of a Kushner-type

and counters by quoting KING LEAR:

"They know not how their wits to wear, their manners are so apish."

 #2. A cat-faced ghoulie gleefully rides the swinging blade of a pendulum, cackle-meowing all the while.


#3. A rat-faced ghoulie vomits green goo onto a child's shirt, prompting him to fling a ninja star at the ghoulie's face. The ghoulie proceeds to eat the ninja star, prompting the child's friend to exclaim:
"This place is better than Epcot Center!"

#4.  The cat-faced ghoulie and the rat-faced ghoulie give each other a righteous high-five while enthusiastically cheered by a crowd.

#5. Sasha Jenson essentially plays the exact same character he plays in DAZED AND CONFUSED,
thus proving that Richard Linklater is a closet GHOULIES II fan.

#6. This carnival employee (on the left, in the blue polka dots), explains to her friend that she will not be quitting the carnival despite the ghoulie infestation. She explains this decision by saying:
"Me? I can't do nothin' else but sling these old bones around!"

#7. Royal Dano attempts Shakespearean posturing, but he cannot hold a candle to Phil Fondacaro's, (though he does possess a certain old man charm).

#8. At one point our male lead (Damon Martin), in a moment of frustration, accuses his friend Phil Fondacaro of being "a second-rate hobgoblin!"

I believe this carries some form of meta-commentary, as in my mind, there is an ouroboros-like succession of little-monster-related activity throughout the 1980s. The GREMLINS series was ripped off by the GHOULIES who were ripped off by the CRITTERS who were ripped off by the MUNCHIES who were ripped off by the HOBGOBLINS. So perhaps this is a shot at the HOBGOBLINS series (which was launched in 1988), or perhaps it's just an excuse to show us more of Phil Fondacaro's "John Oates pathos face."

Naturally, Fondacaro responds to this by quoting more KING LEAR.

#9.  The cat-faced ghoulie shoves a red plastic boombox off of a table, breaking it into two pieces.

The cool kids––to whom it belonged––freak out, naturally:

"They broke my tunes!"

Later, another tunes aficionado discovers the broken boombox and, like Hamlet considering Yorick's skull, holds it aloft and says:

"Dude... your tunes!"

Much later, when all hell has broken loose, the owner of said busted tunes brings a policeman and explains the gravity of the situation:

"My tunes are still in there!"

 #10. Set in part to the wild hair metal strains of W.A.S.P.'s "Scream Until You Like It," the ghoulies run roughshod over the carnival. This includes––but is not limited to––the cat-faced ghoulie commandeering the shooting gallery:

A ghoulie playing hit-and-run driver with a bumper car (I'm not sure how that's possible):

And the dunk-tank clown being eaten by the ghoulie in what resembles a Great White Shark attack:

#11. Speaking of sharks, the latter half of this film has a very JAWS vibe, except it's the rich-kid owner of the carnival (J. Downing) who is fulfilling the role of JAWS' mayor, the guy who wants to keep the beach open at all costs. But don't you worry––in living up to the series' core premise, a ghoulie (inspired by THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON) gets this heartless capitalist in the end.

 #12. Finally, as is customary in every GHOULIES picture, the ghoulies can only be defeated by the summoning of a gigantic ghoulie who proceeds to eat the rest of them.

It's poetic biology

So happy 241st birthday, America––I can't think of a more appropriate present than a movie about selfish, accidentally-summoned mischief-making toilet monsters who lay waste to our carnival, threaten our collective "tunes," and who are destroyed by carnies and amateur Shakespeare enthusiasts. After, we survey the destruction the ghoulies have wrought, and declare with stoicism: "We can't do nothin' else but sling these old bones around."

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