“Open now the porcelain portal!”
Oh boy. Folks, this beauty opens with a decades-ago prologue where some dork is in an attic reciting a summoning curse from a Tales from the Crypt-style comic. Naturally our titular little fiends show up, this time talking and going full-on Three Stooges. In case you were wondering, the iconic green ghoulie is the Moe Howard of the group. Instead of at least partially dabbling in terror and the arcane, it’s an all-out comedy.
Ghoulies III: Ghoulies Go To College is exactly what it sounds like: a college-set slapstick romp. Every prank-filled college opus needs a crotchety, humorless teacher out to foil the fun. Lucky for me, it’s Kevin McCarthy, and he is none too fond of “Prank Week” at Grazier College, where two frats full of white, privileged douchebags goof off at the expense of those around them who are actually trying to learn. I’m for having a good time when given the opportunity, but every single lead in this entry is an absolute asshole. The sooner they all get maimed, mutilated and murdered, the better.
Lucky for me, there’s Kevin McCarthy. You see, one of the aforementioned d-bags finds that old copy of Ghoulish Tales and brings it to class, where it is promptly confiscated by our wonderfully vindictive Professor Ragnar. He jokingly reads it a bit in class, and we are teased that the ghoulies will rise from their ancient stone-carved toilet (!) that now resides in one of the frat house’s bathrooms. Unfortunately, he stops just short of completing the incantation.
Bummer, right? Wrong! I was rooting for McCarthy from the moment he appeared on screen, but when he purposefully conjures the diminutive demons later on in his study that night and intentionally sets them upon the jackass fratboys, I was practically cheering. Comeuppance is dished out in short order. It’s also dished out with a hefty dose of crude but extremely childish humor. Given the cheapness of it all and the almost universally-terrible acting, I guess I’ll take what I can get. Lucky for director/franchise vet John Carl Buechler, I have a soft spot for puppets. And Kevin McCarthy.
In addition to stuffing bros down toilets and terrorizing the moronic campus security guard (played by RoboCop 2’s Officer Duffy), the ghoulies trash the ever-living shit out of the frat houses and frame them for vandalism on the campus. Low-rent DTV sequel or not, an occult-obsessed professor waging war against fraternities with the power of darkness is a concept that I can easily get behind. I just wish it were the focus of a better and slightly more serious horror outing. I would also prefer it be a film that wasn’t sending so many mixed messages by glorifying the more destructive and misogynistic fraternity activities while also condemning them.
Ghoulies III is not a good movie by any stretch of the imagination. It’s actually pretty awful from top to bottom and contains very few charms that could make it a worth spending your time on. (One of those charms: a grand-finale Quato-esque ghoulie mutant version of … you guessed it …
Frank Stallone Kevin McCarthy!) But even McCarthy and the promising basic concept just aren’t not enough. Unless you are hellbent on exploring the entire franchise, you’re better off just watching the first two and skipping this one. As it stands though, I’m beginning to wonder if Charles Band exiting after the second film was ultimately a death knell for the series. Here’s hoping Jim Wynorski’s Ghoulies IV proves me wrong.