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January 24, 2017

Movie Review: Hobgoblins (1988, Vinegar Syndrome)

The 1980s were a weird time, man. Seriously. I was there for all of it. Bizarre. Near the beginning of the decade, Joe Dante made a little movie you may have heard of. It was called Gremlins. It was modestly successful. I kid. It was a huge and caused a MONUMENTAL TIDAL WAVE OF MONEY to crash into Steven Speilberg. That began a trend. A trend that continues to this day. A trend that we all wish had gone away forever: the cute, mischeivous and ultimately evil gaggle of little creatures film. Gremlins spawned Munchies, Critters (1 through 4), Ewoks: The Battle for Endor, Troll, Ghoulies (1 through 3), the list goes on. The least of which, by all accounts, is one of the final entries on the list. Hobgoblins. Written, produced and directed by Rick Sloane, Hobgoblins took advantage of the mini-creature fad to the best of it's ability. Most of the time, when the biggest selling point of your movie is Mystery Science Theater 3000 infamy, that is a sure sign to stay away. Not so fast, kemosabe. Hobgoblins, and the blu-ray treatment from Vinegar Syndrome is worth a shot.


The story, in toto, really isn't much to write home about. On a desolate movie lot, Kevin (Tom Bartlett) inadvertantly releases the wish-granting hobgoblins (really aliens) from a vault. The mini-monsters are attracted to a party that Kevin's friends are throwing and grant some wishes. These include: losing sexual inhibitions and the desire to become a stripper (Paige Sullivan), being part of a massive military raid (Billy Frank) and others. The catch? Well, every one of those fantasies that the hobobglins create have a horrible ending in store for the fantasizer. The hobgoblins are stopped, of course, and put away forever and everyone uses their cardboard acting skills to emote a little bit.

As you can see, this isn't the film to watch for narrative proficiency. It has heart, though, and that was important... especially in the 1980s. This isn't a shot on video pile of crap. This is on REAL FILM and that means someone had to love this a great deal and have a great deal of patience in order for it to live. The writer/producer/director, Rick Sloane, is that person. It isn't easy to make a real FILM. It takes a very long time, and lots of razor blades and tape.

Furthermore, the film is funny. Many critics have indicated that they believe Sloane only called the film a comedy after it's initial reception. I call shenanigans. This was a comedy from the very beginning... it wasn't very funny, but that doesn't seem to matter! Proof comes in the form of Sloane's Vice Academy series (which is also some campy fun). Rumor has it that Sloane actually submitted the film to the fellas over at MST3K and loved the episode so much, he used elements of the episode in 2009's Hobgoblins 2.

The Vinegar Syndrome blu-ray treatment is on full display here. With a beautiful transfer and lots of goodies, like multiple featurettes (and that transfer from the camera negative), this is the definitive edition. It screams THE EIGHTIES at the top it's lungs... but is that really a bad thing? If it is, you can gag yourself with a spoon.

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