Friday, February 8, 2019

Ghoulies III: Ghoulies Go to College (1991) [filmed in 1989]

... aka: Duhovi III (Ghosts III)
... aka: Ghoulies: Ghoulies Go to College
... aka: Ghoulies 3
... aka: Ghoulies III - Anche i mostri vanno al college (Ghoulies III: Monsters Also Go to College)
... aka: Ghoulies Go to College

Directed by:
John Carl Buechler

GHOULIES (1985) was a surprise money-maker despite not being a very good film. Whether or not its makers were deliberately trying to cash in on Gremlins when they made it is irrelevant to the fact it clearly wouldn't have been nearly as successful had Joe Dante's film not been such a hit itself. GHOULIES II (1988) was also profitable in addition to being a slight improvement over the first. So why was producer Charles Band suddenly not involved in this third film in the lucrative franchise? By the late 80s, Band's Empire Pictures was in financial dire straights due in part to a string of less-successful theatrical releases in 1987 and Band spending tens of millions of dollars to set up shop in Italy. In an effort to raise money to try to save the studio, he sold off what he could, which happened to include the rights to the "Ghoulies" brand name. It didn't help matters and Empire was pretty much over by the end of 1988.

Hoping to cash in were Lightning Pictures, the production arm of Lightning Video and both subdivisions of parent company Vestron Inc. / Pictures / Video. Like Band, who was a major supplier of video product through his Wizard Video, Vestron was doing just fine distributing other people's films. Their undoing came when they started trying to compete with major studios by financing their own. While they did hit pay dirt with the corny Dirty Dancing in 1987, most of their subsequent in-house productions - like Steel Dawn (1987) with Patrick Swayze, Midnight Crossing (1988) with Faye Dunaway, Far from Home (1989) with Drew Barrymore and Catchfire (1990) with Jodie Foster, Dennis Hopper and Vincent Price - were commercial and critical failures that didn't even come close to making back their budgets in theaters.

By 1991, Vestron too had filed for bankruptcy and their entire catalogue went to other distributors. A few years before that happened, they'd purchased the rights to Ghoulies and produced this sequel for the home video market. Buechler, the man behind the fx of the first two films, was brought back again for same and they even let him direct this time, too. They also managed to get together a better-known cast to appeal directly to video renters. Seems like a surefire video hit, right? Nope. This was one of their titles that got caught up in the financial problems. It was shot back in 1989, but not released until two years later. By that point, the distribution rights had already been handed over to Taurus Entertainment, who also released Class of 1999 (1990); another Lightning production.

A college professor manages to resurrect the ghoulies from their "porcelain vessel" (a toilet) by reading a comic called "Ghoulish Tales" and pays the ultimate price for it. Twenty-one years later, a student using the john manages to find a copy of the comic and history's about to repeat itself once an incantation contained within the comic's pages is read aloud. The demon puppets have picked the perfect time to make a return trip from hell: It's "Prank Week" at Glazier College! You pretty much know what to expect. Eggs will be thrown at houses. Toilet paper will be hung from trees. Pies will be flung into faces. Water-filled condoms will be sling-shotted off of balconies. Goats will be hoisted up flagpoles. Blow-up sex dolls will drive golf carts. And uncredited Kane Hodder butts will be stuck in rolling mop buckets. All the usuals.

There are two rival frats hoping to earn the coveted title of "Yank King" (for some reason they call pranks "yanks" here): the popular and homogeneous rich kids and jocks of the Gamma frat, and the more accepting and diverse, yet only slightly less obnoxious, Beta Zeta Theta frat. The former is led by bleach blonde "Hitler youth" snob Jeremy Heilman (John R. Johnston) while the latter is fronted by wise ass Skip Carter (Evan MacKenzie). Good luck determining which of these two is the least likable. Even though they want us to root for Skip, they sure as hell don't make it easy on us during the first half of the film. The Beta frat is painted as the more unpopular one as they accept a guy wearing glasses, a fat guy, a black guy (who doesn't even get any dialogue) and an Asian guy (who is so obsessed with electronics he can't get laid). Oh, the 80s.

Skip somehow manages to be dating the pretty, studious Erin Riddle (Eva La Rue) who, let's face it, is clearly out of his league. But because he's so obsessed with his "yanks" he stands her up, which prompts her to start going out with Jeremy just to piss him off. Meanwhile, the mean and increasingly more unhinged Professor Quinton Ragnar (Kevin McCarthy), who's sick of the "yanks" and basically sick of all the students period (can't say I blame him), gets his hands on the Ghoulish Tales comic. He does some research, recites the incantation and summons the ghoulies up through a toilet in the Beta house. Ragnar also discovers that because he called them forth, he can also control the creatures and uses this to his advantage.

This time out there are only three of the creatures: the fish, cat and rat ghoulies. The creature design is somewhat different, too, as they're larger than in the previous two films, though not as big as the dwarfs-wearing-masks from the next sequel. But the biggest change is that the ghoulies now talk. Of course it's almost exclusively terrible one-liners but, hey, what do you expect, Shakespeare?

The antics of the ghoulies this time include getting drunk on cheap bear, eating pizza, drinking Drain-O, belching, farting, breaking lots of stuff, watching a couple have sex, watching a woman strip, watching women take showers, watching a topless pillow fight and partaking in a panty raid. So basically they're not much different than regular frat guys. However, in this entry, the ghoulies seem more intent on destroying personal property and vehicles than people. They do at least manage to flush someone down a toilet, smash a head with a skillet, pull off a face with a bathroom plunger and strangle Marcia Wallace to death with her own tongue after making a Newhart joke.

Unlike the previous entries, which seemed geared more toward tweens, this is a strictly R-rated college sex comedy with lots of tasteless gags and female nudity. If you accept it on those terms and are just looking for some dumb, lowbrow fun, this pretty much delivers on that. It's fast-paced, energetic, has fun special effects and there's at least always something going on... even if that something is usually embarrassing and moronic! While the cast is pretty grating at first due to the writing, the two leads do at least grow on you a bit by the end. As an added bonus, it's great seeing veteran McCarthy in a major role here and looking like he's having a lot of fun. He even turns into a mutant with a giant bulldog head on his stomach (!) at one point.

Much of the nudity is provided by sexy Playboy Playmate Hope Marie Carlton, who has a (played for laughs) sex scene, a strip tease scene and a shower scene. She spends so much time naked most people probably won't even realize she also possesses pretty good comic timing and creates an amusing character here. Others in the cast include Patrick Labyorteaux (Heathers) as Skip's best bud, Stephen Lee (Dolls) as a security guard in love with his golf cart, Jason Scott Lee (who'd get some attention a few years later for the Bruce Lee biopic Dragon) and Griffin O'Neal (APRIL FOOL'S DAY). This was also the film debut of Matthew Lillard (billed as "Matthew Lynn"), though he's stuck in the background the entire time so you may not even notice him.

Unlike the first two films, this hasn't been given a spit-shined special edition Blu-ray, though there's been a (bare bones) DVD release from Lionsgate.

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