Thursday, April 23, 2015

GHOULIES II (1988) Blu-ray Review

Ghoulies II (1988) d. Albert Band (USA)

In the traveling Hardin Carnival, the Satan’s Den haunted ride is facing financial issues, and money-hungry Philip Hardin (J. Downing) is ready to cut bait, much to the disappointment of washed-up boozehound magician Ned aka The Great Fausto (screen veteran Royal Dano) and his nephew Larry (Damon Martin). But when four of the titular creatures, which we saw escaping the isolated mansion at the end of the first film, take refuge amidst the mechanical mummies and monsters inside of the Den, things get a lot more lively . . . and deadly!

Working from a story by Charlie Donan (and the uncredited Luca Bercovici and Jefery Levy’s characters from the 1985 original), Dennis Paoli (Re-Animator, From Beyond, The Dentist) conjures a story perfectly suited to the Empire vein with lots of cheesy gags, wacky hijinks, entertaining subplots, and most importantly, MORE GHOULIE ACTION.

The human characters are also more fleshed out, such as Phil Fondacaro’s diminutive Sir Nigel Pennyworth, Ned’s verse-spouting sidekick with aspirations beyond that of the funhouse circuit, or the belly dancing Nicole (Kerry Remsen) who harbors a dark family secret and a bad case of acrophobia (fear of heights). While Martin is a bit of a wet blanket as our token young hero, Dano is a blast as the loopy Ned, caterwauling and whooping or simmering with malcontent.

Shot in Italy on the Empire lot by Charlie's dad Albert (probably best known for his terrific black-and-white chiller I Bury the Living), it may surprise and impress viewers to learn that the entire carnival set was built on a sound stage (so the “exteriors” are actually not!), and like all good '80s sequels, this one is bigger in every regard, with oodles more screen action and gags. The cinematography chores are rendered this time by Lucio Fulci’s main man, Sergio Salvati (who also did Puppetmaster and Crawlspace for Empire), and monster maker John Carl Buechler is back with a vengeance, demonstrating the difference a few years - and dollars - can make.

The merry latex band members are exponentially more expressive and polished (particularly the Lizard Ghoulie) and more Gremlin-like in behavior and manner, dismantling carnival rides and imprisoning patrons in torture devices. (Stop-motion wiz David Allen even provides several scenes of the beasties moving about.) The finale is a bit labored, with the appearance of a giant (i.e. human-sized) Ghoulie, but this is a much more satisfying beer n’ pizza flick overall, representative of Empire/Full Moon’s golden years.

There are fewer extras for the sequel on Shout! Factory's Blu-ray, but the “More Toilets, More Terror” making-of is passable fun, with Remsen (Pumpkinhead), Donnie Jeffcoat (The Wonder Years), Charles Band, and f/x man Gino Crognale on hand. In addition to learning about the sound stage factoid, probably the best piece of trivia is that Jeffcoat – who delivers a nasty side kick to an unfortunate mummy onscreen – now runs a martial arts studio. A few deleted scenes and theatrical trailer are also included.

Ghoulies and Ghoulies II are available now from Shout! Factory as a double feature and can be ordered HERE.

--Aaron Christensen, HorrorHound Magazine


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