Ghoulies,” a 1985 horror-comedy film directed by Luca Bercovici, is a notable entry in the realm of cult cinema. Known for its mischievous creatures, supernatural elements, and a blend of horror and humor, “Ghoulies” has managed to carve out a niche for itself in the horror genre. Despite receiving mixed reviews from critics upon its release, the film has garnered a dedicated fanbase and spawned several sequels. This article delves into the plot, characters, themes, and legacy of “Ghoulies,” examining why this film continues to be a subject of fascination and nostalgia for horror enthusiasts.

Plot Summary

Ghoulies” follows the story of Jonathan Graves, a young man who inherits a creepy mansion with a dark past. Unbeknownst to him, the mansion harbors malevolent forces that he inadvertently unleashes, leading to a series of supernatural and terrifying events.

Act 1: The Inheritance

The film begins with a flashback to a satanic ritual being performed by a man named Malcolm Graves (Michael Des Barres). The ritual is interrupted, and a baby boy is saved from being sacrificed. Fast forward to the present day, Jonathan Graves (Peter Liapis), the grown-up baby, inherits the mansion from his estranged father, Malcolm. Jonathan and his girlfriend, Rebecca (Lisa Pelikan), move into the mansion, hoping to start a new chapter in their lives.

As Jonathan explores the mansion, he discovers his father’s occult paraphernalia, including books of dark magic. Intrigued and curious about his father’s mysterious past, Jonathan begins to delve into the world of the occult, despite Rebecca’s warnings.

Act 2: Summoning the Ghoulies

Driven by a desire for power and knowledge, Jonathan conducts a ritual that inadvertently summons a group of small, demonic creatures known as Ghoulies. Initially, the Ghoulies appear harmless and even playful, but their true nature soon becomes apparent as they begin to wreak havoc in the mansion.

At the same time, Jonathan’s friends come to visit the mansion, unaware of the dark forces that have been unleashed. The group includes Mark (Ralph Seymour), Toad Boy (Scott Thompson), Donna (Victoria Catlin), Robin (Charene Cathleen), and Dick (Keith Joe Dick). They become unwitting participants in Jonathan’s descent into darkness.

Act 3: The Haunting and Malcolm’s Return

As the Ghoulies’ mischief escalates, Jonathan’s behavior becomes increasingly erratic and sinister, influenced by the dark magic he has been practicing. The Ghoulies begin to attack Jonathan’s friends, leading to a series of frightening and deadly encounters.

Malcolm Graves, thought to be dead, returns to the mansion, revealing himself as the true antagonist. Malcolm’s resurrection adds another layer of danger, as he seeks to complete the ritual he started years ago, using Jonathan as a pawn in his quest for ultimate power.

Act 4: The Final Confrontation

The climax of the film centers on a showdown between Jonathan and Malcolm. Jonathan, now realizing the true extent of his father’s malevolence and the danger of the occult, tries to resist Malcolm’s influence. With the help of Rebecca and his surviving friends, Jonathan attempts to banish the Ghoulies and stop Malcolm once and for all.

In a dramatic and chaotic final battle, Jonathan manages to destroy the magical amulet that gives Malcolm his power, thereby banishing the Ghoulies and Malcolm back to the netherworld. The mansion, now freed from its dark influence, stands as a testament to the horrors that transpired.

Act 5: Epilogue

In the aftermath of the climactic battle, Jonathan and Rebecca decide to leave the mansion and put the dark past behind them. The film ends with a hint of lingering menace, as the camera pans to a hidden Ghoulie that survived, suggesting that the malevolent forces may not be entirely vanquished.


Ghoulies” features a diverse cast of characters, each contributing to the film’s blend of horror and dark comedy.

  • Jonathan Graves (Peter Liapis): The protagonist, a young man who inherits a mansion with a dark past. Jonathan’s curiosity about his father’s occult practices sets the stage for the film’s supernatural events.
  • Rebecca (Lisa Pelikan): Jonathan’s girlfriend, who becomes increasingly concerned about Jonathan’s obsession with the occult. Rebecca’s love and support play a crucial role in helping Jonathan resist the dark forces.
  • Malcolm Graves (Michael Des Barres): Jonathan’s estranged father and the primary antagonist. A practitioner of dark magic, Malcolm’s return adds a new level of danger to the story.
  • Mark (Ralph Seymour), Toad Boy (Scott Thompson), Donna (Victoria Catlin), Robin (Charene Cathleen), and Dick (Keith Joe Dick): Jonathan’s friends who become entangled in the supernatural events at the mansion. Their interactions with the Ghoulies provide moments of both horror and humor.
  • The Ghoulies: The small, demonic creatures summoned by Jonathan’s ritual. Though initially playful, they quickly reveal their malevolent nature, causing chaos and terror.

Themes and Style

Ghoulies” explores several themes common in horror cinema, while its stylistic choices contribute to its unique appeal.

The Dangers of Curiosity and Power

One of the central themes of “Ghoulies” is the danger of unchecked curiosity and the pursuit of power. Jonathan’s fascination with his father’s occult practices leads him down a dark path, unleashing forces he cannot control. The film serves as a cautionary tale about the risks of tampering with unknown and malevolent forces.

Family Legacy and Inheritance

The film also delves into the theme of family legacy and inheritance. Jonathan inherits not only the mansion but also the dark legacy of his father. The struggle between Jonathan and Malcolm highlights the idea of confronting and overcoming the sins of the past.

Blending Horror and Comedy

Ghoulies” is notable for its blend of horror and dark comedy. The film’s mischievous and grotesque creatures, combined with moments of slapstick humor and absurdity, create a unique tonal balance. This blend allows the film to entertain and unsettle the audience simultaneously.

Reception and Legacy

Upon its release, “Ghoulies” received mixed reviews from critics, with some praising its campy charm and creature effects, while others criticized its thin plot and uneven tone. However, the film’s unique blend of horror and comedy, along with its memorable creatures, helped it gain a cult following over the years.

Cult Status

Ghoulies” has become a cult classic, beloved by fans of 1980s horror and camp cinema. Its quirky charm and nostalgic appeal have led to repeated viewings at midnight movie screenings and horror conventions. The film’s enduring popularity is a testament to its ability to entertain and intrigue audiences despite its initial reception.

Sequels and Franchise

The success of “Ghoulies” led to several sequels, including “Ghoulies II” (1988), “Ghoulies III: Ghoulies Go to College” (1991), and “Ghoulies IV” (1994). Each sequel continued the blend of horror and comedy, exploring new settings and scenarios for the mischievous creatures. The franchise has become a staple of cult horror, with each installment adding to the lore and legacy of the original film.

Influence on Pop Culture

Ghoulies” has left a lasting impact on pop culture, influencing other horror-comedy films and media featuring mischievous creatures. The film’s distinctive style and memorable characters have inspired references and homages in various forms of entertainment, from movies to television shows and even music videos.


Ghoulies” is a film that exemplifies the charm and appeal of cult horror cinema. Despite its mixed critical reception, it has captured the imaginations of audiences with its unique blend of horror, comedy, and supernatural intrigue. Through its memorable characters, quotable lines, and mischievous creatures, the film continues to entertain and inspire, standing as a testament to the creativity and ingenuity that can thrive in the world of independent filmmaking. Whether you’re a longtime fan or a newcomer to the genre, “Ghoulies” offers a nostalgically thrilling cinematic experience that transcends its humble origins.



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