Ghoulies 3: Ghoulies Go To College (1991)

The moment when Charles Band sold the rights to “Ghoulies” to Vestron Video, a company formed by an asset-stripping former HBO executive, was probably the best thing that ever happened to the franchise – not a terribly high bar to clear, admittedly. Although Vestron were no more committed to quality than Band, it turns out that just having someone else do it was it all it needed to turn the little rubber puppets into comedy stars.

This is given further credence by the choice of director being one of the Full Moon “stable”. John Carl Buechler was a special effects guy, who did a lot of the Full Moon movies (“Dungeonmaster”, “Trancers”, the “Ghoulies” themselves, “Terrorvision”, etc. etc.) and even real normal mainstream efforts (later sequels in the “Nightmare On Elm Street”, “Halloween” and “Friday the 13th” series, making him perhaps the answer to an obscure trivia question). He’d previously directed a few things, including the original, not-famous-for-being-terrible “Troll” and “Friday the 13th Part VII”, too.

ASIDE: I’d be interested to know who the script was actually by – it’s credited to Brent Olson, and given it’s their only IMDB credit of any kind, I’m guessing it’s a pseudonym for a writer who was under contract to another studio, or who was either in or not in the union (depending on what sort of production this was).

So, we’re off to college! This time, the Ghoulies are literally born out of a toilet, completing the journey of that one particular prop from being on the poster but not in the movie in part 1, to being the scene of a death in part 2, to being their home in part 3. A drunk frat boy finds a comic hidden inside the wall of his toilet, starts to read the dialogue of it, the special carved toilet starts to bubble and shake, a green light emerges…then he’s called away and the ghoulies go back (this gag is repeated).

It’s a classic college raunch comedy, as we have a frat who’s on probation for doing too many pranks. Led by Skip, with support from Mookey and Kyle, they’re in competition for the Prank Week crown with the evil frat, led by Jeremy Heilman (a sort of Nazi joke, I guess). There’s the humanities teacher who’s obsessed with the occult, Professor Ragnar, the woman who wants Skip to be normal, Erin, the insanely slutty Veronica, Barcus the security guard, and so on.

The ghoulies are eventually summoned by Ragnar, although neither he or anyone else realise they’re there for a while. He demands they kill Skip, they sort of half think about doing that while killing a few other people and getting involved in the Prank Week spirit themselves. The body count is very low (four people, I think?), and while there’s the occasional bit of goo and rubbery special effects as body parts are pulled beyond normal length, there’s not a drop of blood.

There’s not a ton more to say, plot wise. I will say that the Ghoulies now talk, and are a constant Three-Stooges-esque wisecracking presence in their own scenes – this is absolutely a good thing, as their puns keep a few scenes from going flat. It’s really a comedy that uses the trappings of horror, without ever being all that gross or scary.

It’s the acting where “Ghoulies 3” really excels, though. Chief among them is movie legend Kevin McCarthy as Ragnar – he was in the late period of his career, where he was just having fun being a goofy over-actor, and he dials it up to 10 (even by his own standards) here. Evan McKenzie is a bit of a non-entity as Skip, looking like every hero of every 80s comedy combined; but the rest of the cast! Patrick Labyorteaux, soon to be a TV mainstay on a decade-plus of “JAG”, is Mookey, and Jason Scott Lee, recently seen by us in “Timecop 2”, plays completely against type as the nerd-ish Kyle. Griffin O’Neal, shortly before giving up on the movie business altogether, is excellent as one of the evil frat guys; and weirdly pleasing to the ISCFC, having a great time as Veronica is Hope Marie Carlton, who you may remember as “Taryn”, star of the early Andy Sidaris series (“Hard Ticket To Hawaii” and so on).

Much like part 2 had a famous screen debut – Mariska Hargitay – so does part 3, with a first-ever performance from Matthew Lillard, two years before his next role (he signed on as an extra, right out of high school, but someone must have liked him I guess).

I guess my main problem with “Ghoulies 3” is how the entire cast, minus the dead ones and Ragnar, doesn’t realise anything weird is going on until 74 minutes of the 93 minute running time. Not so much as “drunk guy who no-one believes” – so it goes comedy, comedy, comedy, comedy, wow there are dead people and the Professor summoned Ghoulies, end. I don’t think it works all that well, structurally. But, it is genuinely funny, the set dressing is superb and the effects (from Buechler himself) are great, it’s not boring, and is by a million miles the best Ghoulies movie so far. Well, I say so far, part 4 is directed by Jim Wynorski and all the Ghoulies are just midgets in rubber outfits, so I’m going to call it now and say part 3 is the best of the franchise.

Rating: thumbs up

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