Ghoulies 4 (1994)

So we come to the end of another horror series, one which (due to its chequered ownership history) appears unlikely to come back in the form of a remake, soft reboot, part 5, anything like that. Thank you, complicated entertainment law!

I have complained, often, about horror movies which don’t really feature the titular creature or villain, which just use the name to sell a few extra copies. The later “Hellraiser” and “Witchcraft” entries are the best examples of this, but there are dozens of others, and to that long long list we must add “Ghoulies 4”. The ghoulies are 100% entirely irrelevant to the plot, show up maybe three times, and interact with the main cast once.

Kudos for this and other puzzling choices must go to the director, ISCFC’s old friend Jim Wynorski. I once won a $10 voucher at a trivia night for knowing about “Chopping Mall”, so for that and the excellent LP I bought with the voucher, thanks Mr Wynorski, but those of you with long memories may remember my less-than-kind words about him and the other more recent movies he’s made. Since the millennium, he’s given us “Cleavagefield”, “The Witches of Breastwick”, “The Hills Have Thighs”, numerous entries in the “Bare Wench Project” series, and “House On Hooter Hill”, among lots of family movies presumably destined to trick undiscerning grandparents doing Netflix searches for their grandchildren; and sub-SyFy Channel efforts like “Dinocroc vs Supergator”.

I find him, David DeCouteau and Fred Olen Ray to be among the worst that B-movies have to offer, as their sole purpose in life – certainly since the fall of Blockbuster – appears to be to spit out “content” for late-night cable channels that are obliged by some obscure clause in their charter to make X hours of original programming a month. Two hours (with adverts) of a Wynorski movie is cheaper than sending a film crew to show topless women at mardi gras, one presumes – and while I don’t think they’re to blame for the state of low budget cinema, they certainly eagerly participate in its worst excesses.

But that’s a subject for another time. We’re here to talk the last Ghoulies movie, featuring a return from Peter Liapis as “Jonathan Graves”, star of part 1. He’s now a cop, because why not, and is the sort of loose cannon that we bad movie afficionados know and love, with the added wrinkle that his Captain is his ex-partner and ex-girlfriend, Kate (Barbara Alyn Woods). He gets a new partner, who’s a complete imbecile; and he’s also got a girlfriend who’s a prostitute, and he seems happy with her plying her trade while the two of them are an item. This does seem to be a thing in American horror cinema, even though this might be the last example of it (I guess STDs and the massive prevalence of hard drugs in that “community” have changed opinions).

Into this fun and games steps another ex-girlfriend, Alexandra (Stacie Randall), from way back in Jonathan’s life, back when he was still messing with the dark arts. Wait, says the viewer of part 1. His girlfriend back then wasn’t called Alexandra, and his entire life in the dark arts was documented in that movie – he wasn’t into it before, and as all his friends nearly died, one would assume he’d stop messing with it afterwards. So why has he got an ex who he clearly did black magic with? Shhh, dear viewer. Think not on such conundrums. Anyway, Alexandra is trying to find a special jewel with which she can summon a sexy male demonic entity called Faust – she loses the first jewel because she’s an idiot and Faust gives her poor instructions, but our old friend Jonathan has the second one, hung round his neck.

Jonathan investigates the theft of the first jewel, which is how he gets involved in the plot, and the aborted attempt to summon Faust causes an open door, through which come two ghoulies. Well, I call them ghoulies. Unlike the puppets of parts 1-3, Jim Wynorski just decided to hire two midgets and have them run around in largely identical outfits (save for a few shades of colour) that look absolutely nothing like the other ghoulies. They chat, crack “jokes” and seem, in a rather odd 180 from previous instalments, to be good guys.

What else to say? My notes include “anti-Bechdel test”, which is a conversation between two women so intently focused on one man that it was almost a joke. There are boxes in one scene labelled for delivery to Miskatonic University in Arkham, MA, aka the place where lots of HP Lovecraft stories are set. There’s a weirdly light-hearted scene where Kate gets a full condom thrown on her from another car, by accident.

A few words about Jonathan, who’s now sort of an alcoholic. Imagine you have to go through the stuff he’s gone through, and being an alcoholic would be about the best case scenario – but I do wish he’d taken better care of that jewel round his neck. He fights an Asian dude near the end for absolutely no reason, and the reveal of who Faust actually is is pointlessly undercut by a few lines of dialogue about ten minutes before. Same old, same old.

It’s just not very good, even if it’s not particularly obvious that Wynorski was going cheap on the making of it. It’s just a bunch of stuff that happens, with no consistency in tone and no good jokes. Best that this series is now retired.

Rating: thumbs down


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