Ghoulies (Not Gremlins) May Not Be Essential Viewing, But It’s Definitely 80s Horror

Fewer decades produced more spirited, fun, and silly horror B-movies than the 1980s. The Evil Dead. The Toxic Avenger. Then there’s Night of the Creeps … and Night of the Comet. Alligator. The Stuff. Killer Klowns from Outer Space. Humanoids from the Deep. Maybe it’s not surprising that the neon decade of decadence inspired so many guilty pleasures. Somewhere amidst all these cheesy titles, Ghoulies occupies a strangle place. There’s a good chance you’re familiar with the movie even if you never saw it. At some point, you probably saw or grabbed the VHS cover off the shelf for its cover art. And no, that’s not a Gremlin on the cover though it’s likely there were a handful of video store customers who made that mistake. Too bad critics weren’t fooled by the superficial similarities. Ghoulies may not be a good movie, but is it just a ‘bad movie’ or is it ‘so bad, it’s good’?


Years ago satanic cult leader Malcolm Graves was prepared to sacrifice his own son, Jonathan, for unlimited power. But in a last minute change of heart, Jonathan’s mother, Anastasia, saved him by placing a protective talisman around his neck. With the ritual disrupted, Malcolm instead sacrificed Anastasia and entrusted Jonathan to the care of one of his followers. Twenty-five years later Jonathan inherits the same old mansion and moves in with his girlfriend, Rebecca. When Jonathan discovers his father’s book of black magic, he slowly descends into the same dark world of the occult, putting Rebecca and his friends’ lives at risk

Ghoulies Doesn’t Quite Take Advantage of Its Silly Premise

Not many 80s horror movies benefited as much from their own promotional material as Ghoulies. How many people picked up the Ghoulies VHS cassette just for that image of ‘not quite a Gremlin’ popping up from a toilet. Too bad it feels like you’re waiting quite a while to get to that money shot. And that’s probably the most immediate problem for Ghoulies. Even at just 81 minutes, the Luca Bercovici-written and directed horror comedy drags. This is a B-movie that overestimates how much silly humor and over-the-top horror it actually has to sustain even the most modest of runtimes. Stupid B-movies can be a lot of things, but they can’t be boring.

Even at just 81 minutes, the Luca Bercovici-written and directed horror comedy drags.

Fortunately, Ghoulies is never quite as bad as suggested by its reviews and reputation. There’s actually quite a bit of low-budget, cheesy charm in the movie. Anyone who’s a fan of 80s movies and horror should enjoy Ghoulies. Certainly, this movie dates itself with its VHS production values and 80s fashion and music. If you’re a certain age, just the nostalgia factor alone will help you coast through this one. In spite of the obvious visual parallels between the title creatures and Joe Dante’s Gremlins, Ghoulies feels more spiritually connected to another 80s cult classic – the Canadian-produced The Gate.

Ghoulies Has Enough Low-Budget Charm to Sustain Its Runtime

What keeps Ghoulies from hitting the same marks as the underrated The Gate is Bercovici’s inability to settle on a tone. Based on its promotional material, Bercovici should have fully embraced the full silliness of its potential. Had Ghoulies gone the same route as The Evil Dead or Night of the Creeps, more horror fans might still be talking about it. Instead, Bercovici bounces back and forth from comedy to more straight-faced horror – the two styles never gel. Occasionally, some of the humor hits its mark. Whether that’s intentional or not is debatable.

Yet in spite of all these limitations and misses, Ghoulies is a kind of charming little movie that ultimately doesn’t wear out its welcome.

Unlike The Gate, however, Ghoulies never achieves that kind of midnight movie atmosphere. Don’t expect much in the way of scares or gory death scenes either. Yet in spite of all these limitations and misses, Ghoulies is a kind of charming little movie that ultimately doesn’t wear out its welcome. With its lower budget, the opening black ritual actually feels kind of fun rather than outright silly. Malcom’s resurrection also emulates the same kind of B-movie horror that Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things achieved a decade earlier. Though the appearances of the ‘ghoulies’ never reaches the kind of outrageous fun you’re expecting, it’s still a fun scene.

Ghoulies May Not Be Essential Viewing, But 80s Horror Fans May Want to Check It Off Their List

Bottom line, Ghoulies isn’t a good movie on any technical or objective standard. Maybe it was intentionally channeling Gremlins to cherry pick an audience. And you wouldn’t be wrong if you argued it falls short of other 80s cheese horror movies like C.H.U.D. or Killer Klowns From Outer Space. But I’ll go to my grave arguing it’s at least better than Critters. In fact, Ghoulies is a painless, silly, and fun B-movie that really only makes the mistake of taking itself a little too seriously in parts. Even setting aside nostalgia for 80s horror, this is still absolutely a ‘guilty pleasure’ viewing experience.


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I am a Criminology professor in Canada but I've always had a passion for horror films. Over the years I've slowly begun incorporating my interest in the horror genre into my research. After years of saying I wanted to write more about horror I have finally decided to create my own blog where I can share some of my passion and insights into the films I love.

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