Ghoulies 2 (August 18/03)
If nothing else, Ghoulies 2 finally delivers on what virtually every image associated with the series has promised: A ghoulie pops out of a toilet...while someone is sitting on it.
Ghoulies 2 has absolutely no connection to the original, aside from the presence of those titular monsters. This time around, the story's set at a moving carnival that's on the brink of being shut down because it's just not profitable. Larry (Damon Martin) and his uncle Ned (Royal Dano) have been carnies all their lives, so the prospect of finding other jobs is a grim one. But when Ned stumbles upon a book of spells and conveniently reads from it, he summons the ghoulies from the resting place in Hell. As it turns out, the presence of diminutive monsters turns out to have a positive effect for Larry and Ned, as they run a house of horrors. But it doesn't take long before the ghoulies manage to escape and wreak havoc on the rest of the carnival.
Ghoulies 2 does manage to improve upon the original (which doesn't take much, considering how lousy that movie was), primarily because it allows the ghoulies themselves to take center stage. The first film made the fatal error of focusing on a non-ghoulie character for the majority of the story, with the ghoulies only appearing sporadically throughout. Here, there's a prolonged sequence towards the end that features the ghoulies running amok through the carnival that's pretty much the highlight of the entire film. There's absolutely no denying that the behavior of the ghoulies has been "inspired" by Gremlins, with the small monsters giggling and generally acting mischievous in such a way that it's impossible not to think of that Joe Dante classic.
But the movie also spends far too much time developing the human characters, when all we really want to see is the ghoulies destroying things. There's even an evil character in the form of a carnival owner that wants to shut down certain rides because they're not profitable enough (gee, wonder if he'll live to see the end credits?) At the film's core is a relationship between Larry and a fellow carnie, who - in a sequence that's shockingly similar to Gremlins - reveals a tragic moment from her past. But really, who cares? The acting, while not terrible, certainly isn't at a point where we have any attachments to these characters; they're essentially all ghoulie bait.
If you're willing to sit through the first hour of Ghoulies 2, which is chock full of meaningless exposition, you'll be rewarded by a final 30-minutes that's packed with ghoulie carnage. And isn't that all one can ask out of a movie like this?