Color, 2016, 75 mins. 51 secs.
Directed by Brett Kelly
Starring Kim Valentine, Eric Deniverville, Joel Elliott, Jessica Huether, Julie Mainville, Kyle Martellacci, John Migliore, Stephanie Moran
Camp Motion Pictures (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9)

As Ghastliesyou can probably Ghastliesguess from the title, this micro-budget production shot on prosumer HD video is a throwback of sorts to the heyday of films like Critters, Munchies, and especially Ghoulies with its mixture of teens, the occult, and rampaging monsters. This time you get a little sci-fi thrown in as well right from the outset as, "five years ago," some satanists holding a ritual in a barn are scared out of their wits by the arrival of some aliens with their sights set on Earth.

Jump to the present day where some sorority sisters with a very, very '80s fashion sense head out to the country for a weekend cabin getaway (after one of them does aerobics for her pervy boyfriend and provides some gratuitous T&A). At first things seem nice with some swimming, valley girl lingo, and heartfelt confessions, but soon a nocturnal walk in the woods leads to the discovery of an abandoned van and an ominous videotape with a girl warning about a threat to the entire planet. Soon the night turns to terror as cackling, clawed alien puppets are splattering the trees with blood, and after some boyfriends and a pizza delivery guy show up, the potential body count climbs even higher.

Fully aware of its own absurdity, Ghastlies will obviously appeal to a select audience with a taste for more recent shot-on-video tactics mixed with a goofy retro feel that mixes gore and silly comedy. (Yes, Ghastliesthe Ghastlieskiller puppets have their own whimsical theme that might as well have been written by Richard Band.) Director (and frequent horror actor) Brett Kelly knows his way around the genre, as shown in films like the goofy My Fair Zombie, and he has fun tweaking some of the conventions -- even going so far as to add on a goofy, violent ghastlies cartoon at the end. The effects are about as lo-fi as you get can, of course, with felt puppets serving as the title monsters (complete with actors flailing around trying to hold the inanimate critters to their heads) and lots of practical gore effects, some of them surprisingly squishy and others deliberately fake and ludicrous (such as a torn spinal cord).

Released on Blu-ray in 2017 by Camp Motion Pictures via parent company Pop Cinema, Ghastlies looks pretty stellar in HD with loads of dazzling retro colors in the outfits and fine detail visible throughout; as the filmmakers explain in the extras, they considering manipulating the footage to give it a more film-like appearance but (correctly) decided it wasn't necessary. The Dolby Digital stereo track sounds fine for what amounts to a very Ghastliesbasic sound mix.

A Kelly commentary track with actor Trevor Payer takes a breezy walk through the making of the film (inspired by aspirations to do a legitimate Ghoulies sequel, with Ghastliesother inspirations like Killer Klowns from Outer Space playing a role) including the identity of the ghastlies' voices and the reason one actresses gleefully offered to do nudity. On the featurette side, "Going Ghastly FX" (2m19s) features actor and effects artist John Migliore chatting about his extensive zombie movie experience that led to other genre projects like this. Then "Tomb Talks Tubular Music" (3m1s) has composer Tomb Dragomir explaining how his lifelong enthusiasm for Jerry Goldsmith's Gremlins score informed his work here (including a demonstration with a stuffed Gizmo), while a "They're Ghastlies" music video has Dragomir and guest vocalist Emma hamming it up with 3-D glasses. In addition to the original trailer, the disc also features bonus trailers for My Fair Zombie, Spyfall, Homicycle, Call Girl of Cthulu, Amityville: No Escape, and Land Shark.

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Reviewed on November 26, 2017