Though it was shot around the same time as Gremlins, Ghoulies was accused of being a Gremlins knock­off. The title and mar­ket­ing cam­paign did it no favors but the first install­ment of this series was actu­al­ly a black-magic/possession flick where the tit­u­lar midget beast­ies were just a side attrac­tion. It wasn’t until Ghoulies II that this series real­ly picked up on Gremlins-style mon­ster mis­chief. Along the way, they cre­at­ed a lit­tle mon­ster movie pot­boil­er that will amuse the ‘80s hor­ror fan­base.

Ghoulies2-posGhoulies II shifts the tit­u­lar crea­tures to a car­ni­val set­ting. A fair­ground haunt­ed house attrac­tion run by Uncle Ned (Royal Dano) and his nephew Larry (Damon Martin) finds itself in trou­ble when the trav­el­ing car­ni­val they work with is tak­en over by snooty yup­pie Hardin (J. Downing). The new boss demands prof­its and threat­ens to cut any strag­glers loose.

However, there’s a secret dan­ger the heroes and the rest of the car­ni­val don’t know about: the tit­u­lar crea­tures hitched a ride on Uncle Ned’s train and are soon run­ning amuck on the fair­grounds. It’s up to Damon to take them down with the help of danc­ing girl Nicole (Kerry Remsen) and actor-turned-bark­er Sir Nigel (Phil Fondacaro). It’s gonna be a slimy night on the mid­way.

Ghoulies II is the kind of mod­est, fan ser­vice-mind­ed “hor­ror lite” fare that it seems to be: the sto­ry­line is built around famil­iar char­ac­ters and plot devices, there’s plen­ty of goof­ball campy humor in the approach to hor­ror and it leans heav­i­ly on its pup­pet mon­sters to keep the action going. However, none of the­se things make it a bad film. In fact, Ghoulies II has a “com­fort food” appeal to any­one who appre­ci­ates the kind of ‘80s hor­ror fun that a lot of Empire Pictures pro­duct embod­ies.

As usu­al with an Empire film, the solid sense of craft is part of the appeal. Veteran film­mak­er Albert Band han­dled the reins here and he goes for a straight­for­ward, pace-con­scious approach that keeps its mind on cheap thrills. It looks very good as it was shot by reg­u­lar Fulci cin­e­matog­ra­pher Sergio Salvati. The script is also a lit­tle bet­ter than you might expect because they got Re-Animator/From Beyond scribe Dennis Paoli to do the hon­ors. He inGhoulies2-01vests the pro­ceed­ings with above-aver­age dia­logue for this kind of film and the occa­sion­al moment of effec­tive dra­ma, par­tic­u­lar­ly with the Ned/Larry rela­tion­ship.

However, the mon­sters are the thing in Ghoulies II and John Buechler’s effects team deliv­ers all the charm­ing­ly cheap latex mon­sters you could ask for. The designs are a lit­tle more com­plex and inter­est­ing here and there’s even some bits of stop-motion effects in a few places. The final reel is non-stop mon­ster mash mate­ri­al, com­plete with a giant ghoulie.

In short, Ghoulies II is the kind of tasty cel­lu­loid junk-food that Empire Pictures built its cult rep­u­ta­tion on. As far as Gremlins-inspired mini-mon­ster riffs go, this is one of the most amus­ing and the per­fect kind of thing to watch at 2 a.m. when you need a fun hor­ror quick­ie to close out the night.