In today’s Film Geek Journal, we’re going to look at Rick Sloane’s two HOBGOBLINS films. Originally a rip-off of GREMLINS (as Sloane himself acknowledges) in this spirit of CRITTERS, GHOULIES and MUNCHIES, Sloane’s killer furballs risked being forgotten after their 1988 debut. But then, because of a certain television show that introduced it to a new generation of exploitation movie fans, the film has developed a cult following. This following exists in two camps: the people who don’t get it and don’t want to and the people who do get it and want more. Guess where I am?
Midway through writing today’s Journal, I realized that any review I could write for HOBGOBLINS would also apply to HOBGOBLINS 2. So, instead of splitting each review up, we’re going to describe each film and then review them both afterward
DAY 26: FEBRUARY 28, 2013
HOBGOBLINS (1988) – Old man McCreedy (Jeffrey Culver) guards a film studio, which was abandoned and fell into disrepair years ago. McCreedy keeps telling the young punks he’s stuck with the never go in the vault, but they never listen and McCreedy winds up having to hide their bodies. When the latest recruit, Kevin (Tom Bartlett), chases an intruder back where the vault is, he escapes with his life, but McCreedy’s secret becomes known. The vault is where he has kept the hobgoblins locked up all these years. These tiny, furry creatures came down from outer space years ago and started granting everyone they came across their fondest wishes. But usually, these wishes wound up killing the starry-eyed humans and if they didn’t, well the hobgoblins would take care of that themselves. Now that the hobgoblins are loose, Kevin has to track them down before sunrise. Good thing that the hobgoblins just happen to run over to Kevin’s friend’s house for a little hell-raising.
HOBGOBLINS doesn’t have a pretentious bone in its body. The film is a silly mess, filled with characters you understand before they even start talking. You’ve got an Army jerk who would be pretty flattered by that description, a loser whose relationships solely consist of conversations on a decidedly non-sexy phone sex line, a goody two shoes who never loosens that chastity belt and an uber-skank who will lift her skirt for anyone but has a particular thing for the Army jerk. One by one, the hobgoblins start tormenting them and the quest to dispose of the beasts soon takes them to the adequately-named Club Scum.
HOBGOBLINS 2 (2009) – In the sequel, McCreedy is still around. He’s been confined to a mental institution because of his stories about the hobgoblins and the way in which he decided to dispose of them. A group of students enrolled in what has to be the easiest College of Medicine course ever are taking a tour of the premises when the de facto group leader (Josh Mills) hears McCreedy’s tales and suddenly he starts seeing hobgoblins stalking him and his friends. Rick Sloane changed the rules this time out. Now, in order to summon the monsters, you merely need to say “hobgoblins” three times in a row, just like Bloody Mary or Candyman. Instead of granting you your fondest desire, the hobgoblins now prey on your greatest fears.
The group of people who make up the heroes in HOBGOBLINS 2 seem like the same bunch of kids from the first film. They have the same names and character traits. But this is all homage (and likely an updating of the original HOBGOBLINS script which was written closer to the original film’s release). So, all of the things you either loved or hated about the original film’s characters are repeated once more, with slight variations. The phone sex pervert is now addicted to internet porn for instance, and the virginal girl is even more uptight than usual. Actually, everyone’s character is amplified from the already broad portrayals in the first film.
So, how did this sequel get made? Well, it was supposed to be made years before but as Sloane instead worked on films like the long-running VICE ACADEMY series, HOBGOBLINS 2 got shuffled to the back burner. But then in one of the show’s last seasons, MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 riffed on the original film, which Sloane submitted to the show himself. The film gained a whole new following, which allowed Sloane to create the film he would have made back in 1990 if he had the chance. In fact, he brags that any sophisticated technique he may have learned in the last twenty years was purposely forgotten to make this as much a true follow-up as possible.
I had an advantage over people who stumbled on HOBGOBLINS by accident. I was already intimately familiar with the films and more importantly the technique of director Rick Sloane, thanks to being a big fan of the first few VICE ACADEMY films (I realize that I have missed the last couple, something I will be rectifying soon) . He shoots all of his films himself and has certain trademarks. These include bad jokes, sparsely-populated sets, cartoonish characters and a certain kind of charm where I wind up having a good old time during the flick, saying, “Alright Rick, what’s next?” He’s a guy who makes his films cheesy on purpose, often enjoying the audience’s reaction as they wonder, “Is it supposed to be bad?”
What is surprising about these films is that they aren’t explicit at all. Yes, there are jokes about sex, but there is no nudity. Nor is there a heavy body count or copious amounts of gore for either film. People expecting sex and violence might wind up disappointed. What the HOBGOBLINS films do have is a certain attitude that if you’re receptive to it, might just make you want to give the films a big hug. They aren’t firing on all cylinders. For instance, I think trimming about five minutes from each film could have quickened the pace nicely. But all in all, good fun.
The HOBGOBLINS films don’t get a pass because they are great cinema. They get a pass because they’re not trying to be great cinema and hence the films accomplish everything it sets out to do. The special effects are terrible? Absolutely and they’re supposed to be. Most of the hobgoblin attacks are accomplished by crew members throwing the furry things at the cast from off-screen. That’s fun to watch. The jokes are bad? Yes again and they’re kind of supposed to be. This isn’t the type of comedy that you crack up at it’s original humor. It’s the type of comedy where you roll your eyes, shake your head, but then you smile and laugh anyway because all of this is just part of the charm. And yes, I did laugh.
Some of you will beat your head in frustration. For those of you that do, I’m afraid I don’t speak your language. I dig exploitation cinema and this stuff is just more fuel for the fire. Read it and weep, haters. Both films: ★★★ (out of ★★★★)
The following films were watched for review on an upcoming episode of FILM GEEK CENTRAL PRESENTS: THE FILMS OF 1985. This is our podcast in which we review every film released in American theaters during 1985, on its corresponding weekend in 2013. Check out the shows we’ve already done and look at some of the films yet to come, including:
9 DEATHS OF THE NINJA (1985) – A group of secret agents, which includes a disgraced ninja, travel to the Philippines in a race against time. Their mission: to rescue a group of kidnapped tourists from a crippled Nazi drug lord and his mercenaries, a seven foot tall Muslim terrorist and the lesbian leader of a group of all-girl freedom fighters. Lots of kung fu and espionage abound in this kooky flick from Crown International.
THE BENIKER GANG (1985) – Andrew McCarthy breaks a bunch of kids out of an orphanage and sets up house in a small town. Living without parental supervision, McCarthy and the kids have to rely on one another for support and go to great lengths to keep their living conditions from prying authority figures. This was a live-action G-rated film released by the children’s book company Scholastic.
CAT’S EYE (a.k.a. STEPHEN KING’S CAT’S EYE) (1985) – This Stephen King anthology features three stories, all linked together by a cat who is on a quest to save a little girl. In the first story, James Woods plays a man desperate to quit smoking. But when he finds out that the group he went to uses mob tactics, his life becomes a nightmare. In the second segment, Robert Hayes must navigate the narrow ledge of a building in order to escape a mob boss’ wrath. In the third segment, the cat finds the little girl (Drew Barrymore) and must save her from a goblin (again with the goblins!) living in her wall.
GIRLS JUST WANT TO HAVE FUN (1985) – A teenage girl (Sarah Jessica Parker) dreams of breaking out of her strict private school and her even stricter military dad and be a featured dancer on Dance TV, the hottest music show in Chicago. She trains with a cute guy (Lee Montgomery) to win the contest, but is being thwarted by a spoiled rich girl (Holly Gagnier – BAYWATCH) who is also out to win the prize. This film has developed a cult following over the years. It co-stars Helen Hunt, Jonathan Silverman and Shannon Doherty in early roles.
LADYHAWKE (1985) – In 14th century France, an evil bishop places a curse on two lovers. By day, Navarre (Rutger Hauer) is human while she takes the form of a hawk. By night, he becomes a wolf, while she the human Isaboe (Michelle Pfieffer) once again. The two are kept together forever but eternally apart. But with the help of a young pickpocket (Matthew Broderick), Navarre travels back to confront the bishop once and for all. This fantasy film is directed by Richard Donner and boasts a controversial musical score.
A PRIVATE FUNCTION (1984) – Michael Palin stars as a foot doctor in post-war Britain who is shunned by the well to do people in town. Everyone else seems to be forgoing their rations and living well despite their times. With his wife (Maggie Smith), the good doctor comes up with a plan to steal a pig and therefore start living like they feel they should. But this is a pig set aside for a major royal gala, so the upper crust won’t go down without a fight.
A TEST OF LOVE (a.k.a. ANNIE’S COMING OUT) (1984) – This Australian film tells the true story (the names and places have been changed) about a woman who works with disabled children and begins to suspect that they aren’t mentally challenged (or “severely retarded,” as was the unfortunate wording back then) after all. The film exposes the harsh conditions in these children’s wards and the fight to secure freedom for one promising young girl and hopefully more to come.
Total films watched in 2013 so far: 92