The '80s were full of Gremlins clones by the likes of Ghoulies, Munchies, Critters and Hobgoblins, and as you probably guessed from the title, this film is a micro-budget throwback to the glory days of the aforementioned films. Ghastlies makes a strong effort at reliving the glory days of the tiny monster flick with its mixture of mindless teenage fodder, occult dealings and low-rent puppetry, but it isn't without its share of missteps along the way.
Ghastlies gets things rolling with a a U.F.O. dropping off a gang of toothy aliens who immediately interrupt an ongoing Satanic ritual that's being held in a barn. Following an intro of Satanist slaughter, we jump five years into the future where three sorority sisters are planning an initiation for their nerdy friend during a secluded cabin getaway. Things don’t go exactly as planned when they accidentally stumble upon the trio of extraterrestrial ghastly ghouls! Armed with only their boyfriends and sorority wit, they resolve to send these pint-sized gatecrashers back to the stars, but can our heroines survive this night of rather dodgy puppetry?
In many way Ghastlies pulls off what it attempts to do, it's got that goofy retro vibe going on, there's gore, hokey comedy, and the film is fully aware of its own absurdity. Adding to the fun of the film is a synth score by Tomb Dragomir, with the titular monsters even having their own whimsical theme, and some fairly solid performances from a genuinely likable cast. The creatures themselves are simple, mostly inanimate puppets and though they lack the technical prowess of some of the more well-known movie monsters, they do have their own certain charisma, similar to newer, low-budget Full Moon offerings.
On the flipside, Ghastlies does fall flat several times throughout its hour and fifteen minute runtime (with credits). It takes out titular monsters way too long to reappear after the film's intro, with nearly thirty minutes going by before they rear their ugly (arguably adorable) heads again. But I like a lot of creature screen time in my creature features, so your issue with this aspect may vary. The special effects are also a mixed bag, with some of the gore reaching gross-out levels of greatness, and other instances looking deliberately fake and ludicrous.Though I have to give the film props for mostly sticking with practical effects.
All in all, director Brett Kelly's homage to some of horror's most beloved little critters is created with plenty of heart and manages to keep things fun despite its shortcomings. Though its issues may hinder it from becoming a camp classic, Ghastlies offers up a fun experience for nostalgia seekers and those with a taste for shot-on-video affairs.
Released on Blu-ray by Camp Motion Pictures in 2017, Ghastlies looks fantastic in HD and comes with a handful of extras to sweeten the overall experience. First up, we have an audio commentary with Director Brett Kelly and Actor Trevor Payer, an informative and fun listen that delves into the inspirations behind the film and examines the overall production of the film. On the featurette side of things, we get "Going Ghastly FX" and "Tomb Talks Tubular Music", both brief but enjoyable looks behind the scenes of Ghastlies. Also included, "They're Ghastlies" is a music video by Dragomir and the disc features trailers for Ghastlies, My Fair Zombie, Spyfall, Homicycle, Call Girl of Cthulu, Amityville: No Escape, and Land Shark.
As a whole, if you love cheesy fright flicks from the '80s, you can't go wrong with checking out Ghastlies. It's available now from Camp Motion Pictures.