Monday, December 20, 2021


PHENOMENALITY: *marvelous*
CAMPBELLIAN FUNCTION: *metaphysical, psychological*

In my review of the first GHOULIES, I observed that, in contrast to the GREMLINS series, the emphasis wasn't placed upon the nasty little titular characters, but upon the evil magician who summoned them. Director Albert Band (one of the producers of Empire Pictures, which helmed the first two ghoul-flicks) goes back the other way, giving the ghouls center-stage. What's surprising, though, is that the script by Charlie Dolan and Dennis Paoli gives the human opponents of the little monsters a nice level of complexity for a DTV movie.

There's no attempt to line up the events of GHOULIES II with its predecessor. For some reason the diminutive demons are on the loose, though a couple of them get captured by a priest who tries to destroy the pair, only to be killed by other Ghoulies. This short sequence exists only to cause the malevolent muppets to cross paths with a traveling carnival-troupe.

The four major characters of the troupe are a young guy named Larry, his sottish uncle Ned (formerly a magician called "the Great Fausto"), Larry's love-interest Nicole, and Shakespeare-spouting dwarf Sir Nigel Penneyweight. None of them are even aware that the demons have hitched a ride on their trucks, for Larry in particular is worried that the carnival may go under for lack of funds. In addition, the owner, yuppie prick Hardin is also putting the movies on Larry's object of desire. 

Uncle Ned is the first to see the mean munchkins, and he gets the idea that he somehow summoned them up. The demons pay no attention to his orders and take up residence in the carnival's horror-house, "Satan's Den," and it's not long before they knock off some of the customers, just for fun. The Ghoulies conceal their murders at first, probably to prolong their ability to sucker in new victims, but they finally get tired of Ned's delusions of being a modern-day Faust and kill him. This development leads Larry, Nicole and Nigel to start investigating the suspicious disappearance of customers. Ironically, though no one in the film makes any Faustian bargains, Larry and Nigel have to play the role of magicians in order to send the Ghoulies back to perdition.

Though this is the first time that the Ghoulies star in a film with their name above the title, their deadly pranks aren't overly inspired, and the puppetry involved in their animation is forgettable. But Royal Dano and Phil Fondacaro, who respectively play Ned and Nigel, provide some strong character moments, and even though the young lovers aren't all that distinctive, Nicole has her own character-arc, in which she has to overcome a deeply held fear in order to help banish the demons. This ranks with many of the "funhouse gone deadly" films, which as usual achieve a level of irony when uncritical customers think they're only seeing playful carnage, but this schtick is less interesting than the script's ability to portray the often tedious existence of the carnival-players, creating exotic illusions but still stuck in the downbeat carny life for all that.


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