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


National Lampoon Presents: Surf Party (2013)

Their photoshop guy was off sick that day

Their photoshop guy was off sick that day

I feel like I’m in some sort of Emperor’s New Clothes situation with this movie, where it screams comedy from the cover and promotional material, but it’s just not funny at all. Am I actually in a conformity experiment? If I say “well, it was pretty funny” will a buzzer sound and footage of me be used in a TV show?

For those of you who see “National Lampoon” attached to the front of a film but have never bothered to find out about it, it was a satirical magazine that ran from 1970 to 1998. Genuinely boundary-pushing at its best, it started many great careers and its stage / radio spinoffs featured most of the original “Saturday Night Live” cast. But the films it put its name to is where it probably found the most fame – from “Animal House” to the “Vacation” series.

At some point, a little before the magazine shut up shop for good, the name was sold and then became a thing you could licence for a one-off fee, because those early films were such big hits the effects can still be felt today. This explains the sheer volume of National Lampoon movies – check out these titles and see what past 1995’s “Senior Trip” (which I quite liked) fills you with anything but dread.

All this goes to explain what a thoroughly bizarre experience “Surf Party” was. Past the first five minutes, there’s no surfing and no parties; and not only is not funny, at all, but there aren’t even bits where jokes are supposed to be. It’s a fairly low-key coming-of-age drama, with a couple of OTT performances bolted on, and has the biggest bummer of an ending.


Yet more not-talking-about-the-film: this is, I discover, a repackaged version of “Endless Bummer”, which was released in 2009. To whoever decided to do this: this is why people pirate movies. Because you, the people who make these films, are awful money-grubbing assholes who deserve to be left destitute for trying to basically defraud movie fans.

The plot? A kid is paying for a surfboard in installments from master board-maker Mooney, and then the first day he takes it out, he loses it on a big wave and then it gets stolen; clearly, he’s been mentioning this board to everyone he meets, because everyone, no matter how tangentially related, asks him “hey man, where’s your board?” So, he and his two friends, Lardo (who’s not fat at all, which might be a joke) and Sparky go to get it back, which they do with relatively little incident, then on the way back the board falls out of the back of their car and is crushed by another car which seems to swerve deliberately to break it. The end.

Top-billed, but clearly just hired for a day to elevate this “film”, are people like Matthew Lillard, Joan Jett, Jane Leeves, Vanessa Angel and Lee Ving. But the performance that clued me in to the non-2013 filming was Allison Scagliotti, from TV show “Warehouse 13”. She’s only 24 now, and looks a great deal younger in this; also, it’s just weird seeing the punky hipster girl from TV as a bikini-clad hottie. She’s very obviously a great deal older in 2013’s “Chastity Bites”, which we loved.

I think this film would have been far better served by dropping the National Lampoon title and selling itself as a little indie comedy-drama about growing up in the mid-80s. It’s the expectation of comedy that’s so jarring; as an example, Sparky is the wild-card best friend, but his wildness is played as a fairly severe mental illness and not normal adolescent over-excitement. Then there’s the ending. Oh my god! As star JD carries his broken board to the beach to throw it into the ocean, we get the 30 years later voiceover which has bored us throughout the film telling us what happened to the characters. Most of them have happy family lives, although why the film feels the need to tell us this in such excruciating detail is never really mentioned. But in the middle of these happy tales, we find out Sparky died a short time after the film was set. What the hell is wrong with these people?


I’d genuinely like to ask the people who made this what they were going for. Did someone with the rights to the National Lampoon name buy an unreleased surfing movie, sight unseen, to exploit for a few dollars? Was this three-quarters made as a completely different sort of film, then stopped due to lack of funds, and bought up by someone who whacked an awful voiceover on it and just shoved it out into the world? Or did someone genuinely think that “From National Lampoon, the masters of raunchy comedy, comes a summer tale of beers, babes, and bros!” was a realistic way to describe this?

I’ve just got no idea. Even ignoring the lack of jokes or funny situations in this comedy, it’s really not that good a film. The stakes are so low as to be virtually nonexistent and aside from Scagliotti it’s populated by nasty stupid caricatures. Avoid both versions of this at all costs.

Rating: thumbs down