Cast & Crew
A young man discovers he has the ability to conjur up satanic spirits.
David Dayan Fisher
Keith Joe Dick
Michael Des Barres
Douglas B Arnold
G W Brown
Linda Lee Franklin
Cathy Mickel Gibson
William James Murray
Judith Fiske Stockley
However, one film inspired by a recent Hollywood hit would prove to be one of their biggest theatrical and video hits: 1985's Ghoulies, a PG-13 monster film aimed at the same preteen demographic that made a smash out of the previous year's Gremlins. (The influence of the then-popular Garbage Pail Kids isn't too difficult to spot, either.) The film was originally planned under the title Beasties in 1983 with Band as director and future Oscar® winner and Parasite veteran Stan Winston handling effects, but scheduling demands instead prompted Band to inexplicably hand the directing reins over to first-time director Luca Bercovici, a New York-born actor (and also a Parasite alumnus) who still remains busy acting for films and television today.
Special effects and creature designs became the responsibility of John Carl Buechler, still a relatively new name from a trio of Roger Corman films (Sorceress and Android [both 1982] and Deathstalker, 1983) as well as portions of Empire's notoriously messy debut film, a semi-anthology fantasy from 1984 called The Dungeonmaster. Buechler quickly became a familiar name among the Fangoria crowd after the success of Ghoulies and worked on most of their horror and science fiction films for the next three years. He also earned directing duties on the next year's Troll (whose primary cultural contribution is introducing the character name "Harry Potter" into the vernacular), Cellar Dweller (1988), the troubled and heavily censored Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988), and the direct-to-video Ghoulies III: Ghoulies Go to College (1991). The effects team on Ghoulies also includes several names who would appear again in the genre many times including Kenneth J. Hall (future co-writer of Puppetmaster  and director of the beloved 1987 VHS trash classic, Evil Spawn) and Howard Berger, now one of Hollywood's most in-demand make-up artists with credits including Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds (2009), Robert Rodriguez's Sin City (2005), and David Lynch's Mulholland Dr. (2001).
Speaking of Lynch, one of his most consistent character actors, the late Jack Nance, has a memorable role in Ghoulies as Wolfgang. A wide-eyed, fidgety presence, he was one of the final contenders for the lead role in The Graduate  and was related by marriage to the family of Dick and Jerry Van Dyke. Nance didn't find cinematic immortality until several years later as the lead in Lynch's debut feature, the midnight hit Eraserhead (1976). He appeared in nearly every Lynch project on the big and small screens until his surprising death in 1996 due to head injuries sustained in a fight at a donut shop.
A number of scream queens pepper the cast of Ghoulies including Lisa Pelikan (star of 1978's killer snake film Jennifer and the screen's second Mattie Ross in the same year's made-for-TV version of True Grit). Also look for Bobbie Bresee (a much-touted, busty regular in horror magazines after starring in 1983's Mausoleum). However, the most familiar actress in the cast now is Mariska Hargitay, the daughter of Jayne Mansfield and Mickey Hargitay who went on to earn an Emmy starring in the still-running Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.
The music of Ghoulies also bears a special mention as it's one of Empire's more unusual patchwork creations. Much of the score was comprised of stock music from past Band productions, often written by his composer brother Richard, while the late composer Shirley Walker (who also wrote additional music on The Dungeonmaster) was brought in to fill in the gaps. Richard Band even contributed a small handful of new tracks, too, which were later released as part of a deluxe edition of his Re-Animator score on CD.
Much of Ghoulies' financial success can be easily attributed to its unforgettable ad campaign, which ranks with the previous year's Silent Night, Deadly Night as one of the decade's most eye-catching horror poster designs. The image of a ghoulie popping out of a toilet above the tagline "They'll Get You in the End" famously frustrated many peeved parents trying to toilet train their traumatized toddlers, and the VHS cover made it a hot title for many years to come. The PG-13 rating also proved to be a canny move (achieved by trimming a few quick seconds to appease the MPAA), and though it took three years for Ghoulies II (1988, this time directed by Albert Band) to hit the screen, some violence had to hit the cutting room floor once again. Subsequent ghoulies installments bore only a vague relationship to each other, with the much-derided last entry, Ghoulies IV  from director Jim Wynorski, tossing in science fiction elements and leather kink for a decidedly R-rated end product.
Charles Band managed to keep the Empire Pictures flag flying for four more years after the release of Ghoulies, but the plunge in value of the Italian lire and the country's rapidly changing tax regulations forced an end to both Band's arrangement and most of the circumstances that had allowed Italian horror to flourish for the previous three decades. Band reestablished himself in the States again in 1989 with his most famous company, Full Moon, which still releases films to this day and over the course of two decades established numerous sub-labels to handle its non-creature feature output. Band's subsequent franchises like Puppet Master and Subspecies may be the ones that ensured his immortality in the history books of drive-in filmmaking, but Ghoulies was the one that made it all possible in the beginning.
Producer: Jefery Levy
Director: Luca Bercovici
Screenplay: Luca Bercovici, Jefery Levy
Cinematography: Mac Ahlberg
Art Direction: Wayne Springfield
Music: Richard Band, Shirley Walker
Film Editing: Ted Nicolaou
Cast: Peter Liapis (Jonathan Graves), Lisa Pelikan (Rebecca), Michael Des Barres (Malcolm Graves), Jack Nance (Wolfgang), Peter Risch (Grizzel), Tamara De Treaux (Greedigut), Scott Thomson (Mike), Ralph Seymour (Mark (Toad Boy)), Mariska Hargitay (Donna), Keith Joe Dick (Dick).
by Nathaniel Thompson
Released in United States Winter January 18, 1985
Released in USA on video.
Released in United States Winter January 18, 1985