Movie review by
Barbara Shulgasser-Parker, Common Sense Media
Ghoulies Movie Poster Image
Cheesy, low-budget '80s horror film has violence, cursing.
  • PG-13
  • 1985
  • 81 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

No positive messages.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Jonathan is the son of an evil black magic adherent. He falls into the same role as soon as he moves into his father's evil-ridden home. His actions rouse bad spirits who kill people with their sharp teeth.


On-screen violence is not intense, but many scenes suggest nasty goings-on offscreen. A man tries to kill his baby son with a dagger in a black magic ritual. The baby is saved. Evil spirits with pointy teeth are summoned by a man with mystical powers. They become his servants and bite people to death for no apparent reason. Blood is seen on the victims. Screams of victims are heard. A woman's chest starts to split and bleed. A woman falls down a flight of stairs to her death but is then revived.


A couple kiss in bed. She wears a negligee and a nipple shows through. He wears underpants. A man refers to "quim" he "poked" the night before.


"S--t," "hell," "damn," "quim," and "bastard."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults drink wine and smoke cigarettes and marijuana.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Ghoulies is a 1985 low-budget horror film that spawned three more evil installments in the series about a black magical evil underworld in which evil dead get the living to bring them back for the purpose of doing more evil. A baby is saved from a sacrifice ritual led by his father. Twenty-five years later, the baby grows up to inherit dad's evil house and the act of him moving in brings out the power-mad evil in him. More rituals unleash bloodthirsty creatures under the young man's control, and friends are bloodily attacked.  Adults smoke marijuana and cigarettes and drink alcohol. A couple kiss in bed. The woman wears a negligee and a nipple shows through. A man refers to "quim" he "poked" the night before. Language includes "s--t," "hell," "damn," and "bastard."

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What's the story?

GHOULIES begins as a man with eerily glowing green eyes and wearing a long robe tries to sacrifice his own baby son before a crowd dressed in white, KKK-ish robes. The baby is saved and the action flashes forward 25 years to the grown son's arrival at the spooky house where the aborted ritual was staged. Jonathan (Peter Liapis) has no idea who his parents were but slowly the evil of the house seeps into him until he's spouting Dad's mumbo jumbo in a Hebrew-Latin mix and calling up bloodthirsty creatures from the ground and water on the property. These guys have sharp yellow teeth and drip saliva while grinning at the prospect of evil to come. Jonathan becomes obsessed with gaining the power his deceased father relinquished in death. He gets his minions to hypnotize girlfriend Rebecca (Lisa Pelikan) into being his accomplice. More rituals unleash creatures under the young man's control and they bloodily attack house guests. Jonathan seems to want to make love to Rebecca while creatures watch, but she says uh-uh and leaves. Two Little Persons in Viking-like costumes rein in Rebecca and get her to host an evening that leaves some friends dead and raises Jonathan's dad, Malcolm (Michael Des Barres), from his grave. Malcolm just wants his kid to kiss his dear old dad so he can drain the youth from his son's lips. Jonathan, Rebecca, and their one still-living friend escape in a car that is, unbeknownst to them, full of grinning creatures.

Is it any good?

It would be a surprise if the director, producers, or actors involved in the making of this movie had any interest in cinematic excellence. If they did, surely they abandoned it pretty early on. According to the director's claims, Ghoulies' "unevenness" arises from the fact that he only saw the actual special effects creatures shortly before filming began. He realized then that they were too silly-looking to be used in the serious film he supposedly originally planned, so gags were added (a creature pops up from a toilet -- so hilarious!) to create the supposed "horror-comedy" that resulted. Bercovici also denies that this was a rip-off of the earlier Gremlins. In any case, the movie doesn't make sense, as a whole or even by its own internal logic. Is it a comedy? It certainly seems unintentionally funny, but that's not really how comedy works. Watch out for Mariska Hargitay of Law & Order: SVU in a small role.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why audiences like horror films. What do you think is the appeal of watching bloody, scary, and/or violent movies?

  • Do you think Ghoulies was meant to be funny, or does it just seem amusing because it's so poorly made?

  • What's your favorite scary movie? How does this one compare?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love horror

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