Saturday, June 30, 2012

Ghoulies III: Ghoulies Go to College (1991)

Lionsgate, the purveyor of Artisan's current catalog, has slipped under the radar an 8-pack of horror films which contains four out of eight titles so far unreleased to DVD. Theses are 976-EVIL 2, Ghoulies III, The Unholy and C.H.U.D. II: Bud the Chud. Reportedly the included but already released Waxwork is the R-Rated version while the stand alone DVD version Lionsgate put out seemingly is the uncut version. What's made this release especially difficult to find is that so far it is a Wal-Mart exclusive with limited distribution. Not only that, Wal-Mart has decided nation wide to toss most of them in giant bargain bins while only a few sites have dedicated self space. The good news is that when you do find it this retails at only $5.00. After months and months of dumpster diving in Wal-Mart bargain bins Lionsgate will finally offer the disc set to the open market on September 4th. Here below lies the most overwrought blog posting about Ghoulies ever transcribed.

Ghoulies Go to College is admittedly my main goal in picking up this disc set. As a fan of Charles Band's work I seek out all that I can which includes the Ghoulies series. Band had little if any involvement in Ghoulies 3 but never the less this is a curiosity worth seeking out. The original Ghoulies from 1985 is an oddly accurate portrayal of medieval familiars in the guise of "ghoulies." Summoned by their occult master they perform tasks to assist in their master's witchcraft. Familiars could be portrayed as standard animals, the typical being a black cat, but they can look like nearly anything. So a coven of satanist brewing up a bunch of familiars isn't as goofy as modern audiences might imagine. This is especially the case with Ghoulies.

After Charles Band disbanded Empire Pictures the producers decided to take Ghoulies in a less serious manner. I say "manner" because Band's original approach to them was not all together serious but Charles Band has a knack for keeping the balance between effective horror and wide eyed fantasy with light comedy. Horror has a history of using comedy to balance out the gruesome and when done properly can actually strengthen effective horror. However this third entry in the series abandons any semblance of true horror for an entirely comedic tone. Normally you'd read the words "however" in such a paragraph and continue in dismay but in this instance the current producers made a wise choice. By sticking with what must have been their strengths they've produced a college comedy that plays it closer to the book than many of the standard college comedies glutting the market. The body count is low for horror, cartoonish in tone and all too brief to be considered horrific but that fits rather well in the overall tone of the film.

The film opens 21 years earlier in about 1970 (it's worth noting that Animal House is set in 1962) as a fraternity member calls forth the power of the ghoulies by reading out loud from a comic book. The character gives the impression of knowing full well what he is doing although is quickly assailed by the demons. Originally the first film used the sight gag of a ghoulie springing from a toilet bowl which was then heavily run in adverts and its use continued into Ghoulies II. Now in this third entry a toilet bowl is shown to be a caldron of ancient origin which is used to summon the familiars with the phrase, "open now the porcelain vessel." The filmmakers have incorporated the franchise's main selling point into a Gothic center piece which they showcase right away to slate the audience. The masterless familiars proceed to jam the would be sorcerer into the toilet "Super" bowl business end first. Before he can be disposed of our hapless victim manages to proclaim, "Transform me now into consuming fire!" Destroying the assailants and himself in the process. This is an effective opening sequence with an old school faux rain storm, model fraternity house, nod to EC Comics and jumps straight into the phantasmal fantasy of the film. It also quickly and handily establishes the crux of the story.

Ah... College.

Back to the present day, 1991, the film establishes right away that this is prank week here on campus. A little bit can go along with school age pranks and this over shoots the mark with a long drawn out series of episodic pranks during the opening credits much like Superman 3. Not a great way to follow up a smash opening and just dares its viewers to press the eject button.

Break away tiles for emergency reading material essential to any dorm.
Is this a toilet fetish or a fetish toilet?

After the credits have rolled through we are immediately teased with the ghouls when a fraternity member stumbles upon a secret cache in the bathroom concealing the comic book from the opening sequence. How it got there is a bit of an unanswered question but someone still alive in 1970 must have know its significance. Our frat boy reads a few incantations out loud causing the ancient toilet tomb in the stall next to him to boil and bubble. But alas he puts the comic tome away to read in the day during classes.
Hey Kev you've got li'l thing on your shoulders there...
No, no, Mr. McCarthy... It's just this li'l thing... there...
In no time flat the film establish its main protagonist Skip Carter who is the self claimed expert on pranking; called "yanking" on campus. This is of course a ghoulies' dream week for wreaking havoc and, while somewhat underutilized, carries all throughout the film rather well. From playing the hero in Invasion of the Body Snatchers to the villains for 90's horror Kevin McCarthy plays the curmudgeon dean of the school. McCarthy really seems to relish these roles as can be seen here and in UHF (1989). With his first breaths McCarthy threatens to expel our protagonist if he catches him trying to pull one more prank.

Ah... Never mind... Looking good. Sir!
Our hero is of course innocent of the latest accused yank pulled upon on the dean but was the victim of a rival fraternity looking to keep its unrightful hold on the yanking crown for yet another year. The wrong man motif is always a great way to quickly get the audience on the protagonist's side and was a favorite of Hitchcock. Within mere minutes our entire plot is well established and as cliche ridden as possible. The audience can spell out the words before even connecting the dots. This is a classic college hijinks plot that needed little explanation just set up. Such concise storytelling leaves plenty of room for our ghouls to yank the night away in our remaining running time.

K thru C doesn't change much.
Eva La Rue gives a nice nod to fantasy myths.
We're next introduced to the love interest of our protagonist Erin Riddle, played by brown sugah Eva La Rue. Some more short cuts are made for the audience by establishing their relationship only to break them apart when we first see them. Her desire to see him quit yanking so much and spending more time with her is a complaint I'm sure all the ladies out there can relate to. Naturally she's turned to the Aryan head of the rival fraternity to console her. Of course in the end Skip recants his yanking ways while Erin comes to love to yank with him.

"Class let us set aside a few moments to study in detail this exemplary body of work."
While Eva's role in CSI keeps her around dead bodies she's mostly strayed away from horror although she seems to have maintain a parallel distance with Sarah Michelle Gellar as the godmother of her daughter. It's nice to see siren sisters sticking together. Also Eva La Rue and Hope Marie Carlton not only shared a dorm room in this film but also shared screen time with Freddy Krueger as Hope appeared in Nightmare On Elm Street IV and Eva made a TV appearance on Freddy's Nightmares.

Tobin's Spirit Guide chapter on Ghoulies
Un-Holy Shit!
It doesn't take too long before our titular title characters enter the scene via the dean happening upon the occult comic with supernatural powers. McCarthy's made out to be a sadistic dean through and through. The years of taking abuse from the students has clearly taken its toll and the dean seeks his revenge. Using his knowledge of mythology he's able to unlock the secrets of the comic which was copied verbatim from a medieval text. The Ghoulies make for a fitting instrument for the dean's plans for revenge and this makes for a welcome twist on the stock evil dean character.

Even "Reindeer Games" takes on new meaning at college.
Hey babe why don't you Do-Re-Mi.
Our first set of victims are laid out before us when the freshly conceived ghouls immediately happen upon a copulating couple. It had been well established since John Carpenter's Halloween in 1978 and throughout the 80's that any fornication spells almost immediate doom for any students. The sex antics here are especially childish and immature with 20 minutes of foreplay amounting to ridding an exercise bike mixed with running on a tread mill. The inexperience but youthful playfulness is used to keep the comedic tone while maintaining an R-Rating. America cinema has a history of accepting sex and nudity only so long as it has little to actually do with sex and nudity. Violence on the other hand is given more of a free pass. This is a perplexing fact for Europeans who cut sex a lot of slack while toning down on violence.

Keeping with the comedic spirit our second murder sequence is a repeat of the pre-credits opening with our post-copulated male being dispatched first with a toilet bowl scrub brush to the testicles and then flushed down the toilet. This is inter-cut with a dissatisfied girlfriend working out while she frustratingly waits for him to return to bring her satisfaction. Once again exercise equipment substitutes for sexual coitus. Of the five murders in this film three of them take place in a bathroom. The toilet accessories are also later used again as a murder weapon. The combination of sex, genitals and bodily waste is rarely so intermixed in horror unless used for comedic effect.
"That's right ladies work it."
"Bend and Stretch. Bend and Stretch."
The bulk of the film now switches between Skip, the dean and the Ghoulies plotting and counter plotting yanks against each other. The well developed part of this script is the misunderstandings built up between all the characters. The dean thinks Skip is targeting him (he's not), Skip thinks the rival frats destroyed their house (they didn't), the rival frats think Skip destroyed their house (he didn't), Erin thinks Skip is yanking the dean, the rival frats and other girls on campus (he's mostly not), Skip thinks Erin is more than yanking a rival frat, etc, etc. Good comedy is based on misunderstandings and bad assumptions. When the audience is in the know they're able to both sympathize with the characters better and builds the anticipation which makes for easier laughs. An audience wants release so the key to good horror and comedy is creating the tension for release. This seemingly simple script is able to play multiple different characters against each other. The additional advantage of having so many players is that it makes a dense layer of plot lines from which you can cut between to keep the pace lively which is integral to good comedy.

Do mine eyes deceive me?
To raise the stakes for our protagonist his ex-girlfriend stays out all night with her new bow; the alpha male of the rival fraternity. Her chastity is what's placed on the line as the audience knows Skip to have been faithful although teases Erin by having him appear compromised with other women. Her chastity is what's made important and becomes the focal point. There seems to be little need in leading the audience on as to Skip's fidelity and this feeds into the somewhat common belief that a man is expected to run around with other women while he still can. There is more need to show him has honest to the audience and keep the suspense on whether she's remained faithful.



The dean plans to pit the rival fraternity against each other by having the ghouls steal the yanking crown. There is a certain  jealousy for the dean; probably because short spans of  yearly stupidity is rewarded by this crown while his years of study and high position garners little respect from the student body. The dean put these years of study into good use to unlock the power of the Ghoulies and figures out that the comic book is linked to the familiars. Any harm to the book is harm to the Ghoulies. There is a certain amount of irony that all his volumes of texts cannot equal the power of a collection of funny pages. The dean also figures that if he were to merge with the Ghoulies he would become a powerful creature able weld their dark powers directly. In order to do this he plans to have the ghouls kill their summoning master; himself.


After killing his personal assistant Marcia Wallace, who really was on Bob Newhart, against his wishes the dean sends the familiars to the Greek sorority house. The specifics of why are not given but the implication is that by the killing his female assistant he somehow feels the need for revenge against the world by having his minions kill another female. His own nonacceptance by the younger opposite sex, who flocked to the younger boorish boys, must also have been a irksome notion as well that need to be reprimanded. The Ghoulies NSFW antics at the Greek house will follow after the jump.

"Let us pause in a moment of silence for our fallen comrades; the dead soldiers."

When laying a trap...
Be sure to use fresh bait.
Another key component of any college set comedy is the inevitable panty raid. The young modern women of the 90's decide they're not going to play the hapless victims anymore and set a trap for the expected panty raid. They lay the bait by setting out a laundry basket full of panties topped off by a freshly worn pair and set the snare. The plan works beautifully as the co-eds don't have to wait long before three frat boys open a window and sneak into the laundry room. In fact the trap may have been sprung a little too soon as apparently the girls had little time to put on their nighties and so pounce on their prey while they're half naked. A trope of scantly clad girls pummel the horny boys with feather down pillows which burst open in a characteristic explosions. They then proceed to de-pants and presumably remove their boxers to run up the flag poll.
Although turning the tables is always a key component to any battle of the sexes this hardly plays out like a feminist's dreams and instead the film makers take the opportunity to stage their own fantasy fulfillment of any panty raid. The montage of events is overplayed by a rock siren singing "Nothing hits the spot like a modern romance." The implications of this turn of events as "modern romance" was perhaps not as intentionally ironic as today's audiences may think.

To a certain degree this can be seen as progress for feminists. Exerting power over males even if it is somewhat sexually degrading is an age old portrayal. Young boys trying to take advantage of these young girls soon find themselves crawling on the floor while our modern women topple over them taking advantage to beating them into submission... PILLOW FIGHT!

Miss July '85
The resident nymphomaniac Veronica, played by Playmate Hope Marie Carlton, has an entirely different plan altogether. Already decked out in her li'l black dress she tells her sorority sisters that she's got a date tonight. She then goes into her room, locks the door, opens the bedroom window, cranks rock ballad 'Modern Romance' to eleven and slowly undresses seductively to the beat. Obviously Veronica's idea of a date is different from what the rest of the ladies had in mind.

Disappointed to find no Peeping Toms.
Pantyhose counts as panties right?

She clearly doesn't seem to mind playing the hapless victim and seems confident enough that she'll get the part because she uses the phase "have a date" to affirm the notion as a fact. This role reversal not only makes for a contrast to the accompanying panty raid but also contrast to the typical woman in distress by intentionally placing herself in danger and welcoming her place as sexual exploitation for men.

Her exhibitionist tendencies aside the very notion of the scene is that she's asking for whatever comes her way. The question "what where you doing dress like that in that part of town" becomes apt in any horror film where's a character's sexual forays get them brutally killed. Veronica invites trouble from the worst kinds of creatures and succumbs to the very demons which inhabit her sex craved soul.

This behavior pattern is especially fraught as panty raiders are notoriously made up of undesirables like perverts or just stereotypical geeks. Indeed the panty raid party caught that night is made up of a pasty white guy, a pasty fat guy and a Japanese techie geek. So obviously Veronica doesn't mind being taken advantage of by such perversions. When she hears, "There's a whole herd of horny men waiting outside," her eyes light up.

Of course you can't have a horror movie without a shower scene anymore than you can have a college comedy without multiple girls showering in a sequence. Its use in horror is rather self explanatory as a way to make a victim seem more vulnerable. Being stark naked and distracted is a clear way to indicate to an audience that a character is not prepared to react in a dangerous situation and helps to build the suspense.

Female intuition kicks in for two of the three.

This one stays behind even after all the creepy sounds flushed out the other two.

The girlfriend's death uses three different shots to emphasize the appliance for the special effects to make it more and more extreme. Iterations of three is a good rule of thumb for comedy and they follow that here. Toilet humor has been a mainstay for comedy especially in a college setting. For horror it is a little less common although comedy itself has had a rocky road in horror films. While films like Young Frankenstein or Scary movie have been successfully the mixture of these two genre's rarely equal box office success.

As mentioned earlier three muders occur in a bathroom in this film and two involve toiletries. Her murder scene is not unlike that of her dearly departed boyfriend's. The near naked boyfriend is dispatched by first having a toilet brush rammed into his groin and then has every bone in his body broken so that he can be flushed down a toilet alive. Similarly the girlfriend has a plunger jammed into her face over her mouth and is impacted against the tile wall. Presumably she dies from asphyxiation but perhaps her internal organs were also forced up through her body through suction causing massive internal injuries. Both deaths are especially cartoonish in nature with special care taken to give squash and stretch effects to the girlfriend as well as appropriate Carl Stalling styled sound effects.

At first glance the girlfriend's death can appear gratuitous in nature but both death scenes are very similar when broken down into their basic elements. The deaths also follow scenes of coitus or in the case of the girlfriend sexual behavior. Both are punished for their sexual proclivity in similar circumstances characteristic of slashers of the era. An interesting change is that the assault on the boyfriend's genitalia is not repeated on the girlfriend. A man can be hit in his testicles for comedic effects but a shot to the vagina would only be seen as a sexually violent act not unlike rape. This would be out of bounds for a comedy. So instead the girlfriend's mouth takes the abuse. The comparison to fellatio is clear but the action of taking a plunger to a woman's face is more like irrumatio. "Giving head" is also another common term for oral sex and "head" is also slang for a toilet. A woman naturally wears lipstick to attract attention and labia has often been compare to lips. Some women even apply lipstick to their labia minora to give it a similar appeal. The association of toilets, sex and death are made repeatedly in this film. By circumventing the taboo actions of penetrating a woman's genitals by a weapon the film actually seems to be making a more de-rogatory comparison that society as a whole would find more accepting and even humorous.

She died the way she lived.
We're now at the hour mark in the movie and it's time to get the Third Act into gear. The dean is fully off his rocker and gives a lecture on how great evil and power is (I'd take that class). Skip is finally thrown off campus by the dean and declares that he will find the "comic who did this." Some nice word play by the writer there. Skip finally makes a full character turn and disowns the yanking crown. Our little boy is finally a man. A man that the dean thinks is a danger to his own plans and sends his familiars out to kill him. While knowningly playing with fire the dean had not yet given a kill order so his character has given himself fully over to evil not just for revenge but to maintain his hold on power.

Up until now the plot point has been in question since Erin spent all night out with another man leaving Skip to believe she had sex with him. Keeping her wits about her Erin reveals that she had not slept with another man as earlier supposed and that her maiden head is intact. Now the movie can't kill her. Also she pours fresh hot coffee down the pants of her rebound man emasculating him further. There is no pair safe in this college down.

Then she sleeps with Skip so now she can be killed again and so can he. Breaking the rules here in the early nineties was a nice touch that reaffirms a healthy attitude towards sex. Although a vacuum cleaner is introduced to the scene it's more of a callback joke and it can be seen as perhaps the first step toward adult domestication. The fact that they reference the fact that her would-be suitor did not have his own vacuum seems to re-affirms that. Now that Skip knows the whole truth together they will confront the dean to get Skip re-instated. This proves more difficult that originally anticipated as Erin's cast aside has plans as does the dean. The plot's able to burn our heroes at both ends which helps to build a frustratingly tense finale.

There's some pretty good bondage action as Eva La Rue is tied up like in a library sexual fantasy, stripped down like Fay Wray and has "Overdue" stamped violently on her midsection. There is a special kind of humiliation to branding and one of the Ghoulies even says, "I'll give her my stamp of approval" with the usual sexual connotations. The phallic blows to her womb can also feel like outright rape. The woman in serialized distress is further emphasized by having a dangling light fixture about to fall on our helpless maiden's head. A classic staple in the thriller repertoire. It's also a bit of a callback to another Empire Picture Re-Animator.

In the end Kevin McCarthy merges with his familiars and becomes the thing he most hates; a colossal douche bag wearing the yank crown. He's flushed down the toilet along with his comic book to return to the womb of hell from which his familiars were spawned. There's also a nice hellfire finish in the end; smelling like a lighted fart to be sure. Skip's rival nemesis is thrown out of college for a stunt didn't really do (which fits well with the actual crime) but kinda did (but doesn't fit so well with the actual crime) and Skip earns the yanking crown after all. Which seems to indicate that it doesn't really matter what your woman wants so long as you show her you have other qualities she'll approve your boyish behavior (now and then).

Everything culminates rather well with this and the second ending is enough of a twist to please audiences as this still comes in at under 90 minutes. As Kevin Smith is often familiar with saying you never want to make a comedy that's over an hour and a half because it'll outstay its welcome. Sometimes simple storytelling is the best story telling if you can keep the action moving. By having a lead character involved in pranking, wooing back a love interest, trying to stay in college, battling a dean, battling a rival frat, battling his own frat brothers and finally a supernatural force which could very well be fate itself this keeps the audience's attention for the brisk ninety plus minutes.

Product Placement; like flushing your money down the toilet.


  1. I really gotta see this one again. It's been forever... and man, all those boobs.

  2. Excelente post amigo, muchas gracias por compartirlo, da gusto visitar tu Blog.
    Te invito al mio, seguro que te gustarĂ¡:

    Un gran saludo, Oz.