Ghoulies (1984) was a huge hit—it made 35 million from a 5-million-dollar budget. So, of course there was a sequel that focused on the reason bought their tickets—those toilet dwelling ghoulies. Now, in my review of the original, I defended the “Gremlins knockoff” films of the 1980s, claiming that just because a popular element (i.e. small mischievous creatures) is used, it doesn’t mean that the film is a knockoff. Ghoulies II is a pure Gremlins (1984) knockoff. The rampaging beings behave exactly like the transmuted mogwai, down to the head backwards maniacal laughter after causing destruction.
I do, however, feel that there is nothing wrong with it being a knockoff. It’s different enough, and in a unique enough setting to set it apart from Joe Dante’s masterpiece.
Far away from the haunted mansion and demonic rituals of the first one, Ghoulies II takes place in a carnival—a failing carnival. The business that owns the amusement park wants to see profit and has sent a yuppie to make sure that the staff knows that any attraction that doesn’t make a profit while he is there, will be shut down. Capitalism is the real villain of the story. One attraction that is one the chopping block is the funhouse “Satan’s Den,” run by Larry (our protagonist) with the help from Uncle Ned (our sad drunken ol’ fool played by Royal Dano, who did this role in a few 80s horror flicks) and a Shakespearian actor turned carny Sir Nigel Penneyweight (portrayed by the always great Phil Fondacaro)
As luck would have it, the ghoulies are still around and after a failed attempt by a priest to kill them, they end up in the carnival. Increasing its popularity and population. Mayhem ensues.
Since the ghoulies are now the star attraction to the film, a lot more care has been placed in their creation. They were pretty cool in the first one but are great in this one. We still have the rat one, the cat one, the frog(?) one and the creature from the black lagoon one (the one coming up from the toilet), with the addition of a bat one. We even see them walking about with the help of 80s green screen technology.
They didn’t have much to do in Ghoulies except lurk in the shadows, but Ghoulies II gives them access to all kinds of carnival related items to use to kill, and make no mistake, these are demon creatures. They kill for fun. Mostly horny up-to-no-good teenagers, but then they expand their blood lust to more innocent victims. All the deaths are fun for us, the viewers.
Charles Band, the producer, got his dad Albert Band (who made a few schlock films himself) to direct and Dennis Paoli to write the screenplay. Paoli wrote a lot with Stuart Gordon in the 80s and 90s, both on films Gordon directed like Re-Animator (1985) and From Beyond (1986), and the fantastic third Invasion of the Body Snatcher film Body Snatchers (1991).
Ghoulies II turns the critter action up to eleven in an all-around fun carnival horror show. This is a cheesy schlock horror film, and it doesn’t try to be anything else. It’s made to be entertaining and it succeeds. If you like that, like I do, then you will like this creature feature.