Ghoulies II is exactly what I had always assumed the original was: a low budget Gremlins riff. I can roll with that though, especially when it happens to be goofy fun for the majority of its running time. How could it not be with little slimy puppets making silly sounds and occasional stop-motion sequences of them running about?
This time ‘round we cold-open with a priest, played by veteran Brit actor Anthony Dawson (Dr. No, Death Rides A Horse) running frantically with a sack full of our titular creatures. He attempts to dispose of them in a vat of toxic solvent at an abandoned auto repair garage (?!), but to no avail. They fight back, and he is left a gooey mess. Lucky for them, transportation arrives not long after in the form of part of a traveling carnival. They sneak onto a truck and hitch a ride to the carnival grounds, taking refuge in their haunted house attraction.
From here on out they mostly run around the horror-themed sets in the attraction, goofing around the torture chamber area and occasionally spooking and killing both customers and carnies. That’s the fun part of the film. Unfortunately there’s also a running side plot about the company who owns the carnival auditing the attraction and the dude they send (the owner’s son) being an all-around douche to the carnies. That gets old rather fast and bogs down the film. Naturally he gets what’s coming to him in the end, but I wish that had happened sooner. At least someone finally received a toilet death though!
The film is wisely kept to a confined setting for the majority of its running time, which allows for more money to be spent on a carnage-filled cornball climax. Hell, we even get a giant ghoulie stomping around wreaking havoc at the end! Between that and the stop motion work, I’ll bet returning FX maestro John Carl Buechler had a ball on this one. The cast is mostly serviceable, though there is some fun scenery chewing courtesy of Royal Dano (Killer Klowns From Outer Space, The Dark Half) and Phil Fondacaro (Willow, Troll), as well as an appearance from late ‘80s/early 90s regular Sasha Jenson (Halloween 4, Dazed and Confused).
This ultimately turned out to be the last entry in the franchise produced by Charles Band. He apparently sold the rights off to help bail his production company out during one of his numerous financial down periods. It will be interesting to see how the next two turn out. Perhaps Charles got out while the getting was good? I will know soon enough.
Ghoulies II isn’t as good as the original, and dropping the satanic warlock aspects of the franchise makes for a less interesting story. That said, it’s still fairly well-made for the kind of film it is, and a lot of that thanks should likely go to Charles’ father, director Albert Band (Doctor Mordrid, Robot Wars), and writer Dennis Paoli (Re-Animator, From Beyond), as well as the aforementioned Buechler. It’s an entertaining lightweight sequel and a ride that I didn’t mind taking. So far, this Ghoulies adventure has been one that I haven’t regretted.