Unwatchable #22: “Ghoulies IV”

Your fearless – and quite possibly senseless – movie janitor is watching every movie on the IMDb Bottom 100 list. Join us now for another installment of Unwatchable.

Ladies and gentlemen, the once-mighty Unwatchable project is in disarray. We’re so close to the top (or the bottom, I guess), and yet so far. I could give you excuses. I could say I was busy writing a book that is coming out very soon, which you should buy in large quantities and distribute to needy children in your area. The truth is, however, I watched the latest entry in this countdown of the crapulent, Ghoulies IV, several months ago. Since then I have managed to lose my meticulous notes, and now that I’ve given up on finding them, I’m just going to have to reconstruct my review from memory.

As the title subtly suggests, Ghoulies IV is the fourth in the Ghoulies series of motion pictures. And as seems to happen so often around these parts, I have no knowledge of the first three installments in this venerable franchise. I do vividly remember the poster for the first Ghoulies movie, which depicted a little green man with sharp teeth emerging from a toilet bowl. Despite the many times this image enticed me from the VHS rack at various long-defunct video emporiums, however, I never followed through with a rental, assuming it was another quickie Gremlins ripoff along the lines of Critters, Hobgoblins, and the like.

Apparently enough of my fellow cineastes succumbed to the allure of this greasy little toilet-dweller to make the movie a hit, or at least enough of a hit to spawn Ghoulies II (the poster for which, of course, featured two beasties ensconced in the porcelain throne), Ghoulies III (Ghoulies Go to College), and finally, number four in the series and number 22 in our survey. The Wikipedia entry for the Ghoulies series is uncharacteristically sparse, but I did learn that the original Ghoulies was supposed to be directed by schlock-meister Charles Band, best known for the Puppet Master and Trancers series. Why Band bailed on the project is a mystery, but his influence is still felt, as “he was tasked to come up with a great campaign to promote the film. During a brainstorming session he came up with the idea to have the Ghoulie popping up from the toilet. The idea was a huge success and the scene was then shot for the film after the fact.”

The big question unanswered by Wikipedia is, “What are the Ghoulies?” Further research indicates that they are demons summoned by black magic, and that they are portrayed by some rather unconvincing hand puppets. That’s true of the first three movies, at least; by the fourth film, the puppets have been replaced by little people in costumes bearing almost no resemblance to the earlier Ghoulies. This doesn’t matter so much, as the creatures are barely present in Ghoulies IV. I suppose they appear just often enough to justify the title, but they have no particular bearing on the story, such as it is. (Bonus trivia: One of the Ghoulies is played by Tony Cox, who you may recall as the foul-tempered elf from Bad Santa.)

As I alluded above, my recollection of the plot is spotty at best. It has to do with a cop investigating a black magic ritual, some sort of powerful amulet, and a leather-clad Satan-worshipping dominatrix. The filmmakers take all of this more seriously than I would have expected, with the occasional Ghoulie antics serving as comic relief. I’d love to make fun of it in greater detail, but since my memory won’t cooperate, I’ll simply list some of the titles from director Jim Wynorski’s filmography instead: The Bare Wench Project. The Witches of Breastwick. Cleavagefield. The Devil Wears Nada. And the upcoming SyFy movie of the week, Piranhaconda. Sad to say, every one of these sounds more entertaining than Ghoulies IV.

Previously on Unwatchable:

23. Manos: The Hands of Fate
24. Police Academy 7: Mission to Moscow
25. Santa Claus
26. Going Overboard
27. Bottoms Up

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