For the last four years I’ve done a local Halloween portrait drive series. I block out the last week of September and my whole October, take reduced commissions, and churn out spooky themed portraits. It’s picked up over the years to where I’m drawing at least a 100 portraits per drive. I’ve never really advertised it as such, but it’s the main way I fundraise the print editions of Tourist Unknown. It’s a reliable way to do it without the anxieties of crowdfunding. That said, it can be a pretty brutal affair. Not so much the drawing front as you might imagine. But mostly on what is effectively dealing with a dozens upon dozens of unique clients in the course of a month. Honestly? The drawing? That’s the fun part. I sit and draw all day every day anyways, and I find a noticeable uptick in my ability to shorthand unique faces. Which hey, turns out that’s a mega helpful skill for comics.

But it’s not the most intellectual work. My mind wanders pretty easily on the eighth Lydia/Beetlejuice couple portrait. Which isn’t an issue when I’m trying to make storytelling decision on a comic page. That sort of fog requires some problem solving of its own to combat. Usually? It’s tv. A lot of tv in the background. Yet even sitcoms tend to wear as you get too in-depth with their own rhythms.

This year I’m trying to switch things up a bit. I’m taking a stab at blowing through the schlockier end of horror franchises instead. B movie franchises tend to only get wilder as you go, lending themselves to a nice dose of consistent bafflement. As I finish a series, I’ll pop up a quick thing on the blog about it, ranking its entries and any other stupid notes. Nothing elaborate really. There’s a lot going on outside of the blog with the portraits as is, and I’m just trying to stay a little mentally engaged with the holiday season.

All this to say one day into drawing portraits and I had already watched all four movies in the Ghoulies franchise back to back.

Ghoulies as a series is pretty much the ideal way to start something like this. Each entry has a drastically different setting, new characters, and weird slimy puppets. My catnip. I’d also only truly seen one entry prior, Ghoulies: Ghoulies Go To College. But even that was in a packed bar in the before times. Though honestly? Probably a perfect way to be introduced to it. Now I’d always been aware of the series thanks to at least one entry of the series was on a shelf at what was Bob’s Supermarket rental section located in the nearest small rural town. I’d tell you which entry, but I can only remember that the VHS art included hideous puppets grinning from a toilet bowl. Which to the beauty of this series, doesn’t narrow it down.

Ghoulies is largely a series about magic rituals having the side effect of bring about some awful little goblins who like to reek havoc and mischief in their chosen setting. The first film largely being more about a house party that’s secretly about inducing a warlock’s spell than the Ghoulies proper. But hey when you see what lands you might as well lean in for the sequels right? And what worked best in Ghoulies?

The following two sequels still have aspects of the occult and black magic, but really its about taking a setting and dropping these chaos slime puppets in and seeing what happens. Ghoulies II takes them to a traveling carnival to great results.

And the pinnacle of the franchise, Ghoulies: Ghoulies Go To College needs no explanation. Except to say that higher learning seems to be a theme given the Ghoulies can now talk and wear beanies and varsity sweaters. It also breaks out from horror convention and straight into those of a college sex comedy. Where the residents of hell have been enlisted in a fraternity prank war. A green goblin in a beanie demands beer and it’s hard for me not fall for that. It also represents the curious trend I noticed. The strength of any individual Ghoulies film depends on their proximity to toilets. Each successive film of the initial trilogy leans into the tagline of the first movie “They’ll get you in the end!” To the point that their updated origin in Go To College involves an occult toilet with their little gargoyle faces sculpted around the bowl.

Quality differences aside I had a blast with the first three. Solid series for the b-movie set.

Unfortunately Ghoulies IV bucked the trend by somehow feeling longer than the first three entries combined despite running what should be a tight 84 minutes. It makes a fatal error in trying to return to the black magic plotlines through a returning character from the first movie. Also none of our little goblin friends return. Instead two new Ghoulies that take a costume approach versus a puppet one. They don’t really even cause problems, just commentate on the movie with the precision of 90s movie site comments section. Which man, I’m here for the Ghoulies doing Ghoulie stuff. Not an LA cop with an occult past that’s greatest opponent seems to be an abuse of a cartoon sound effect library. And to continue my findings? No toilets man. Not in the poster not in the film. No toilets, no Ghoulies.

And as such my definitive Ghoulie rankings.

Ghoulies: Ghoulies Go to College

Ghoulies II



Ghoulies IV