Rick Sloane's HOBGOBLINS make the leap to high definition with Vinegar Syndrome's Blu-ray/DVD combo.
For thirty years, McCreedy (Jeffrey Culver, BAD GIRLS FROM MARS) has served as night watchman at a long disused motion picture studio, guarding a terrible secret hidden away in the film vaults. When curiosity gets the better of him, new guard Kevin (Tom Bartlett) opens up the vault and unleashes the "hobgoblins", GREMLIN-like creatures from outer space that grant the wishes unsuspecting victims for a deadly price. Coincidentally, the creatures happen upon Kevin's home and go after his friends: girlfriend Amy (Paige Sullivan), shy virgin Kyle (Steven Boggs), party girl Daphne (Kelley Palmer, THE VISITANTS), and her macho marine-in-training boyfriend Nick (Billy Frank, GROTESQUE). One by one, Kevin's friends are tempted and lured away with their deepest desires – repressed Amy to headline a strip show at Club Scum, Kyle to meet his phone sex fantasy Fantazia (Tamara Clatterbuck, MIND, BODY & SOUL), Nick an opportunity to play Rambo, and Daphne to entertain the troops with more than her body – and Kevin must save them and destroy the creatures before daylight.
Too late to be a GREMLINS cash-in and too early to be one for the 1990 sequel, HOBGOBLINS could really have used the Charles Band in the producer's chair to employ the likes of David Allen or John Carl Buechler to animate the neat-looking though incredibly immobile creature designs of Kenneth J. Hall (NIGHTMARE SISTERS). Instead, director Rick Sloane works with a VICE ACADEMY series budget – the widescreen image reveals hands shaking a car to simulate movement in an even more impoverished version of the "Poor Man's Process" – minus the T&A and gives us something that falls considerably short of even SORORITY BABES IN THE SLIMEBALL BOWL-O-RAMA (to name another contemporary feature with a wish-granting demonic creature). Culver and the younger cast members (most of whom never worked again) adequately carry the film, which is enlivened by the Club Scum setpiece which features an infections live performance of "Kiss Kicker 99" by The Fontanelles. CREEPOZOID's Ken Abraham appears briefly as a thug who breaks into the studio.
Released theatrically by American Cinema Marketing (SYNGENOR), HOBGOBLINS was released on VHS first by Trans World Entertainment in 1988 and later as an LP release from Star Classics and has had a rather active life on DVD from Rhino's MST3K version to a 2002 Retromedia fullscreen DVD, their 2007 Morella triple feature with THE CREMATORS and HOUSE OF TERROR, to an anamorphic 2008 special edition from MicroWerks which is the source of the "archival" commentary and making-of featurette carried over to Vinegar Syndrome's Blu-ray/DVD combo. The 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.85:1 widescreen transfer is derived from a new 2K scan of the original camera negative, revealing bolder colors and crisper detail apart from a couple night scenes where the combination of low lighting, shallow depth of field, and lagging focus. The DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mono track sports clear dialogue and music, with the punk numbers coming through with some good depth. Optional English SDH subtitles are included.
Extras start off with the aforementioned DVD audio commentary by director Sloane who is well aware of the film's reputation over the years, and he covers the challenges of the film's small locations (the studio setting being next to an active crack house), one-take-only shots, having to use boom microphones instead of wireless mics on the film, and the unconvincing creature attacks (the first death occurs offscreen because he thought it looked too cheap too early in the film). He also points out scenes that were edited out of the MST3K version, some additional sound effects, and also reveals that he tried to get John Carradine to play the studio owner (his agent wanted Carradine to play McCreedy instead and wanted more money). He also discusses the elements of the film of which he is proud, from the score to his own cinematography (this was the last of the films he photographed himself).
Also ported over from the DVD is "Hogboblins: The Making of a Disasterpiece" (27:38) with Bartlett, Bonds, Frank, Palmer, Clatterbuck, prolific voice actor Daran Norris (STARGAMES) who played Club Scum's MC, Hall, and Sloane. Sloane discusses his attempts to track down the cast members for a twentieth reunion interview, revealing that Duane Whitaker (PULP FICTION) flatly refused him, he was school friends with Palmer, and that he found Barlett through his nephew who posted in a discussion on the film. The actors discuss the experience of working on a Sloane film, slagging it off in a good-humored fashion while Clatterbuck recalls the phone sex lines that she did not want to say. Hall reveals that the concept design of the Hobgoblins was something between the GREMLINS and the Mogwai, and that he could only afford to puppetize one of the creatures, while Sloane recalls that he did not get the creatures until the night before shooting and thought they could fake the attacks. Norris recalls that the Club Scum scenes were shot without permits and safety, so that the roof caught fire when one of the stunt performers was set ablaze. The interviewees also recall learning of the MST3K version of the film through friends who knew they had been in the movie (even Sloane thinks they improved on the film).
New extras include Ballyhoo Motion Pictures' "Hobgoblins Revisited" (18:55) in which Sloane reveals that the 1980s video boom afforded him the opportunity to get into filmmaking, be assured of a theatrical release as well as lucrative video rental licensing fees. He also reveals that he wrote the film before GREMLINS, but that the original had no puppets and was more inspired by DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK. Sloane also revisits some of the film's locations and provides anecdotes about the shoot. Hall appears in a new interview (10:58) which was presumably shot at the same time as the one he did for NIGHTMARE SISTERS, covering some of the same ground in the introduction. He discusses his work with Sloane, who he describes as a combination of John Waters and Roger Corman in describing his economical shooting methods. He describes the creature designs and his dissatisfaction with the way they were being puppeteered on-set (he was not paid to be on the set to supervise) as well as his surprise that his creatures were being used for the sequel. In "Hobgoblins Invade Comic-Con" (4:51), Palmer and Sloane sign autographs and copies of the anniversary DVD. The theatrical trailer (2:06) is also included. (Eric Cotenas)
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