The Films (2.5/5, 3.5/5)
It's not that I particularly had any desire to go back and see the Ghoulies films. Between 1993-2001, I lived at video rental stores in my suburban Florida area, with nothing but a mad desire to see all the cult horror and sci-fi and straight up violent weirdness I could get my hands on. The one common denominator that most of these stores had in common was most of them had VHS copies of Charlie Band's toilet dwelling monstrosities. I remember renting the Ghoulies films (all 4 of them) at various times during my childhood, but never being overly impressed by the series, but never leaving 12 year old me with the final critical say on a film, I found it was time to go back now that Scream Factory has seen fit to release the first 2 films on to Blu-ray.
The first 2 Ghoulies films are a perfect example of what Charles Band does well as a producer, and I'm not referencing the fact that both films are populated with the small bizarre creatures that Band has seemingly made a trademark in his cinema. No, they exemplify his ability as a producer of franchises, and being able to take a decent concept which works "alright" on the first go-around, and actually polish and improve upon it within subsequent sequels. Band would do this again and again in his career with sequels to Puppet Master, Subspecies, and Trancers, and Dollman from his Full Moon era.
The first Ghoulies film is an interesting little film, that is more of a supernatural horror tale dealing with generations of black magacians than the micro-monsters on the box. The story starts with a prologue 20 or so years before the films main events when an evil wizard is stopped from sacrificing his new born child at a very public ceremony. A few decades later that boy has grown into quite an obnoxious young man, Jonathan, who with his wife/girlfriend Rebecca have moved into a mansion he has inherited. The house is packed with occult manuals, and Jonathan becomes obsessed with the tomes, and becomes a practicing black magician. In the process he spawns the titular creatures, and resurrects his sacrifice-happy Father from the dead, who still although he is far from a newborn wants to sacrifice him, and his friends too in an effort to gain more power.
The film takes that Hammer/Corman/Band school of filmmaking where they find a big interesting location, and make a film around the place. The film essentially takes place entirely in and around the mansion, it's grounds, the basement, library, etc. Outside of the film’s dynamic opening minutes, the first hour or so is quite slow moving with mostly the relationship between Rebecca and Jonathan being established and falling apart, and Jonathan trying to establish his place as a black magician. We do get glimpses of the Ghoulies, but rather than violent and scary movie monsters they end up being more like supernatural servants to the up and coming wizard. It is only in the last act that the horror truly begins, with Jonathan's Father being resurrected in a moment that recalls Peter Cushing's most famous scene in Amicus' Tales from the Crypt anthology, and attempting to regain his evil powers through mass sacrifice.
If you haven't seen Ghoulies I don't want to spoil it so please stop reading. However, I would declare that Ghoulies is a near perfect horror film for a growing horror fan. Not that it's a particular good film, but the violence is mostly tame, and in the end it's mostly undone. There is no nudity, and the one attempt at sex in the film is disrupted by the fact that is was an attempt at a black magic ritual. It also looks more modern (even being 30 years old) than most classic horror fare one might introduce to a younger fan.
Ghoulies II sees the titular creatures leave the mansion for a traveling carnival. A haunted attraction called Satan's Den that is run by a trio Sir Nigel (Phil Foncadero), Ned (Royal Dano), and Ned's nephew Larry (Damon Martin) as the story begins the trio find from the Carnival's yuppie corporate owner that Satan's Den has been doing fiscally terrible for over a year, and they have until the end of the weekend to pull thing around or be cut from the carnival. Ned decides to pull out a series of occult text he has to make things a bit more "realistic" and ends up bringing the Ghoules into the carnival. Monster mayhem begins happening, and although the new scares are good for business, customers dying is not, and the Ghoulies must be stopped.
Ghoulies II is Albert Band's first directorial feature since 1979's western She Came to the Valley, the elder Band had been in the business of exploitation and horror cinema since the 1950's and brought his camp showmanship to the production of Ghoulies II. The film has a much better pacing than it's predecessor, with the monsters really appearing front and center in this one. The violence is vastly improved as well, although being the PG-13 variation of the film on this Blu-ray do not go in expecting wall to wall violence. The setting is also much more interesting and colorful than the mansion of the first film, especially the Satan's Den attraction itself which although is supposed to be a fiction is loaded with medieval torture devices that appear to be in working order. There is also more of a sense of humor in this film than was in the prior film, much like in an Evil Dead to Evil Dead II way, with the exception that Evil Dead was legitimately a good film.
Audio/Video (3/5, 3.5/5)
Scream Factory working in conjunction with MGM have presented the first 2 Ghoulies films on Blu-ray in 1:85:1 1080p transfers. The Blu-ray's look about as good as can be expected. I would guess that these were older HD masters provided by MGM, but they still are improvement from the DVD releases. Clarity and detail is improved, blacks are solid as our colors, this is especially the case for the second film where the carnival setting makes colors much more prominent. The audio is presented by Scream in a series of DTS-HD MA mono tracks in English with optional English subs included. The dialogue, score, and effects come through nicely, and I did not detect issues with the audio track.
Scream Factory have included extras on both films including interviews with Charles Band on both films, commentary tracks on both films the first film with the director, the second film with Band himself. We also get interviews with the cast and crew of both films, deleted scenes, and trailers for both films.
The Ghoulies films are decent little monster films, that offer a bit of fun, but not much more. The Blu-ray looks and sounds quite decent, and it comes with a nice extras package. RECOMMENDED.