Release: May 30, 1985

Joe Dante's box-office fantasy Gremlins had barely left American cinemas before Charles Band's B-movie factory, Empire Pictures, rushed out this cheap knockoff. While Dante's film benefited from the director's wry sense of humor and the high-concept clout of executive producer Steven Spielberg, Band's tawdry little creature feature boasts lower production values than a high-school haunted-house fundraiser. The title monsters are a pack of obnoxious demons — enacted by a handful of rubber dolls covered with KY jelly — summoned up by the metaphysical shenanigans of college student Jonathan Graves (Peter Liapis) after he discovers his late father's occult paraphernalia at the family estate. Jonathan later invites a group of annoying friends to participate in an all-night party, during which he intends to perform an elaborate parlor trick — actually a satanic ritual through which he hopes to acquire his father's supernatural powers. This doesn't sit well with Dad, who bursts violently from his grave (a nice touch) to have a chat with his wayward son while legions of ghoulies (well, four or five, anyway) descend upon the revelers. Considering the entire production revolves around the antics of the ghoulies themselves, the alleged puppetry involved is laughable — the inarticulate puppets do little more than open drooling mouths full of pointy teeth before offscreen stagehands fling them at the heads of cast members. The film's main points of interest lie with the supporting cast, which includes Bobbi Bresee as a supernatural seductress (sporting an eight-foot tongue!) and Eraserhead's John Nance as a bizarre gardener. Somehow, this became one of Empire's top moneymakers, spawning no less than three sequels.

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