Ghoulies (4K UHD Review)

  • Reviewed by: Tim Salmons
  • Review Date: Sep 27, 2023
  • Format: 4K Ultra HD
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Ghoulies (4K UHD Review)


Luca Bercovici

Release Date(s)

1985 (September 12, 2023)


Empire Pictures (MVD Rewind Collection)
  • Film/Program Grade: C
  • Video Grade: A-
  • Audio Grade: B+
  • Extras Grade: B+

Ghoulies (4K UHD)



One of Empire Pictures’ biggest money makers in 1985 was Ghoulies which, despite having a theatrical release, became a staple of the home video market. The ad campaign stirred up a bit of controversy as its poster and TV spot depicted a monster popping up out of a toilet with the tagline “They’ll get you in the end!” However, the publicity did nothing but generate more revenue for Empire, enough to make a sequel, Ghoulies II, which was released in 1987. Though two additional sequels were made, most regard the first two as the “best” that the series has to offer.

The plot involves the evil sorcerer and leader of a satanic cult, Malcolm Graves (Michael Des Barres), trying to come back to life by possessing his son Jonathan (Peter Liapis) and summoning evil forces in a dilapidated mansion than Jonathan and his girlfriend Rebecca (Lisa Pelkan) have recently inherited. After inviting some friends over for a party, Jonathan enacts a ritual that brings a pair of subservient dwarfs, Grizzel and Greedigut, along with several of the tiny titular monsters. Rebecca soon falls under Jonathan’s devilish spell as he attempts to resurrect his father, not knowing that he’s using him to carry out his own sinister deeds.

Oddly enough, Ghoulies isn’t really about the monsters, despite being promoted as such. They don’t really play much of a part in the story until the last act when all hell breaks loose, which takes an eternity to get to. The performances are laughable, the melodrama between Jonathan and Rebecca is interminable, and the puppets representing the Ghoulies are blatantly obvious. The film definitely shows its budget, or lack thereof, try as it might with decent cinematography and an appearance by David Lynch favorite, the late Jack Nance, who portrays a wizard of sorts forced into a battle with Malcolm Graves. Ghoulies II is the more enjoyable film by far, but the chintzy and low tech nature of the first film can be oddly charming at times. Just not always.

Ghoulies was shot by director of photography Mac Ahlberg on 35 mm film using Arriflex cameras and spherical lenses, finished photochemically, and presented in the aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The MVD Rewind Collection brings the film to Ultra HD for the first time with a new 4K 16-bit scan and restoration of the original camera negative, graded for High Dynamic Range (Dolby Vision and HDR10 options are provided). MVD offers a shockingly excellent presentation of the film, meaning that after having seen the film for years in lower quality, it’s amazing how film-like this low budget production can look. The newfound clarity certainly doesn’t hide the lesser aspects, but it’s a more organic presentation than we’ve seen previously. It also appears to be hands off when it comes to grain, which can be inconsistent due to the opticals, but perhaps a minor amount of reduction could have ironed out some of the variances. The grain can be heavy, especially in darker scenes, but less obvious in others. Some may find this off-putting, but given the nature of the production, it almost seems apt. The picture is also stable with a high bitrate and only minor speckling. Saturation is excellent, which the HDR grades take full advantage of, soaking up detail and boosting various hues, while giving prominence to shades of red, green, and blue. Blacks are deep with terrific contrast and potent shadow detail. Comparing to the Blu-ray included with this release, it looks a little hot at times, but nothing that stands out dramatically. It’s amazing to see Ghoulies given such lush treatment, but with the advent of UHD, I suppose anything is possible.

Audio is included in English 2.0 Mono DTS-HD Master Audio with optional subtitles in English. The Scream Factory release also featured a 5.1 option, but the Mono track is more than adequate with good support for the varying elements. Dialogue is clear and discernible, while both sound effects and score have plenty of heft to them.

Ghoulies on 4K Ultra HD sits in a black amaray case alongside a 1080p Blu-ray and a single-sided poster featuring the original theatrical artwork, which is also used on the insert and slipcover. The following extras are included on each disc:


  • Archival 2015 Audio Commentary with Luca Bercovici
  • Archival 2016 Audio Commentary with Luca Bercovici and Jason Andreasen


  • Archival 2015 Audio Commentary with Luca Bercovici
  • Archival 2016 Audio Commentary with Luca Bercovici and Jason Andreasen
  • Optional Introduction by Luca Bercovici (HD – :51)
  • From Toilets to Terror: The Making of Ghoulies (HD – 29:49)
  • Editing an Empire: An Interview with Ted Nicolau (HD – 27:31)
  • The Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Waste: An Interview with Scott Thomson (HD – 22:03)
  • Just ‘Cos of the Chick, Man!” with Luca Bercovici (HD – 33:46)
  • Trailer (SD – 1:55)
  • Ghoulies II Trailer (HD – 1:23)
  • Still Gallery (HD – 39 in all – 3:32)
  • TV Spots (Upscaled SD – 4 in all – 1:25)

The majority of the extras are carried over from the Scream Factory Blu-ray release, although a few are new to the US. In the first audio commentary, director Luca Bercovici manages to keep things on track with an insightful discussion, only dropping out occasionally. In the second commentary, he’s joined by Jason Andreason of the Terror Transmission podcast for a more lighthearted Q&A-style discussion. Aine Leicht’s From Toilets to Terror is a retrospective look at the making of the film, featuring interviews with composer Richard Band, executive producer Charles Band, special effects makeup artist John Vulich, and actor Michael Des Barres. Three interviews from overseas Blu-ray releases are newly-included: Editing an Empire features editor Ted Nicolau, The Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Waste features actor Scott Thomson, and “Just ‘Cos of the Chick, Man!” features director Luca Bercovici, all of whom separately discuss their backgrounds and their careers, but more importantly, working at Empire Pictures. Last are trailers for the first and second films in the series, 4 TV spots, and a Still Gallery containing 39 stills of behind-the-scenes photos and posters. Unfortunately, an additional interview with producer Jefery Levy and two TV versions of the film could not be included from the Umbrella Entertainment Blu-ray release. Otherwise, everything is accounted for.

MVD Rewind’s UHD upgrade of Ghoulies is certain to please long-time fans with better picture quality and a more extensive extras package than the Scream Factory release. For them especially, this release comes highly recommended.

- Tim Salmons

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