Thursday, February 7, 2019

Ghoulies II (1988)

... aka: Duhovi II (Ghosts II)
... aka: Ghoulies 2
... aka: Ghoulies II: Il principe degli scherzi (Ghoulies II: The Prince of Jokes)

Directed by:
Albert Band

Ned Prentice (Royal Dano), formerly a stage magician called "The Great Fausto" but now a washed-up, grumpy old drunk, runs a traveling carnival spook show called Satan's Den. His teenage nephew Larry (Damon Martin) has decided to tag along with him for the summer in hopes of learning the magic / carnival trade and ends up having to both pull all of the weight and keep the showing going. He's helped by dwarf Sir Nigel Penneyweight (Phil Fondacaro), a Shakespearean actor who used to perform at the Old Vic but is now slumming dressing up in monster costumes. Little do they know, but they're about to get some unwanted additional help when they pull their overheating truck into a closed gas station late one night. Prior to their arrival, a priest (Anthony Dawson) being chased by some red-cloaked gnomes ducked into the station and threw a bag full of ghoulie demon puppets into a smoking drum labeled "extremely toxic." However, the corrosive waste didn't even phase the critters and one managed to knock him into the barrel, quickly reducing him to a skeleton. Attracted by the horror art on the side of the Satan's Den truck, the ghoulies decide they've found a new home and quietly sneak on board.

Ned, Larry and Nigel arrive in the small town of Greenville and start setting up with the rest of the acts. Head of accounting Phillip Hardin (J. Downing), whose father owns Hardin Enterprises, shows up to audit all of the company's holdings, which include the carnival. And he's planning on shutting down any act that doesn't show a profit by the time he leaves. That puts added pressure on the old fashioned Satan's Den, which hasn't been performing well for the past 16 months since contemporary kids can get all of the monsters and gory thrills they want at the local cinema. If they're not able to pull it around in a couple of days, Phillip's going to replace them with a ladies mud wrestling tent. However, never underestimate to power of mischievous, murderous little demons to help boost your sales!

After a couple of little boys encounter one of the ghoulies, which spits sticky green goop and chews through a ninja star, word gets around and soon everyone's flocking to Satan's Den to see them. Some customers don't make it to the exit. There's death by razor, pendulum and electrocution, but most of the mild carnage takes place during the big finale when the ghoulies decide to leave the spook show and wreak havoc on the entire carnival. There are some fun bits involving the rides and carnival booths, including bumper cars, the shooting gallery, the dunk tank and ring the bell. One even removes a screw holding a ride together, sending the car two people are riding in flying off. During the finale, a spell book is used to conjure up a "demonic intercessor," which is basically a big man-in-a-suit ghoulie that runs around eating the smaller ones.

Even though they're basically stuck with a bunch of sub-Gremlins gags, the creatures are given more screen time and more to do here, which is an improvement over the original. They also made the smart decision to only feature five of them, each patterned after a regular animal, which helps give each a bit more personality. There's a bat one that flies, a rat one that spits green slime, a cat one that can imitate a cat's meow to lure victims, one that looks like a baby doll crossed with a fish and a squatty one that (I think) is supposed to look like an alligator. They head bang to W.A.S.P. (who even released a tie-in Ghoulies music video for "Scream Until You Like It"), give each other high five's, laugh, belch and do other silly things in between killings. Of course this is all incredibly silly and juvenile, but creating something that would appeal to young teens was, I think, obviously the whole point here.

Filmed at Empire Studios in Rome, this utilized a mostly Italian crew and mostly Italian actors serving as extras and filling some of the smaller parts, including former spaghetti western regular Romano Puppo as the strongman. The DOP was Sergio Salvati, veteran of many Lucio Fulci films. John Carl Buechler was again in charge of the creature design and, though he sticks closely to the designs of the first film, they're given a bit more mobility this time out, which is helped even further by a few stop motion animations courtesy of David Allen. Charles Band was the executive producer and Dennis Paoli (Re-Animator) wrote the script.

The cast is littered with familiar faces from 80s horror, including a wasted Starr Andreeff (Dance of the Damned), William Butler (Friday the 13th Part VII) and Sasha Jenson (Halloween 4) as some of the obnoxious teens, Kerry Remsen (Pumpkinhead) as the harem dancer love interest, Donnie Jeffcoat as a cynical, foul-mouthed little kid (so basically the same role he had in NIGHT OF THE DEMONS), fx man Michael Deak as a clown who gets his arm torn off, Dale Wyatt as a dancer, Donald Hodson and Mickey Knox.

While this was given a limited theatrical release, it did most of its business on home video and cable. A tiny bit of gore was removed to secure a PG-13 rating, which not only helped get this regular play on cable, but also made it perfect filler for premium movie channels that were always desperate for PG and PG-13 films they could run before 8pm. This one fit the bill so it was on TV all the time back in the day. There have been multiple DVD releases, plus a 2015 Blu-ray courtesy of Shout! Factory, which comes with the 17 minute documentary short Ghoulies II: More Toilets, More Terror.

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