If you think you’ve seen the worst of the worst “Gremlins” knock offs, 1988’s “Hobgoblins” is the crème de la crème of the copycats. In the eighties, every single studio wanted their own “Gremlins” cash cow and very few were able to pull it off well. “Hobgoblins” seems to have absolutely no money to work with and tries to make out like a bandit with their own weak “Gremlins” wannabe. The problem is that “Gremlins,” despite the big budget, has competence, and depth, and magic, and an interesting mythology. Not to mention the monsters in the film do so much more than stand around cackling.
Dennis just signed on to become assistant security guard for a movie studio. While touring the vault, he’s alerted by the senior guard to stay away from the underground top secret vault in plain sight, and guarded by the flimsy unlocked jail bars. When someone attempts to break in to the vault for some reason, Dennis accidentally opens the vault. He learns that the vault was housing four evil hobgoblins, all of whom are mischievous and deadly. Why are hobgoblins being kept in a movie studio vault? Because shut up. In either case, Dennis is too late, and now sets out to find the hobgoblins before they—I don’t know, stand around and cackle some more or something. The hobgoblins set out to wreak havoc on Dennis’ friends and girlfriend, ruining their party and engaging in some violent wrestling or whatnot.
The hobgoblins themselves, who never appear until twenty minutes in to the movie, have a neat design but literally don’t do much and are more nuisances than severely violent monsters that threaten to mutilate anyone at the drop of a hat. They have the power to manifest anyone’s fantasy in to reality temporarily because that’s how stuff works. The one time they bring out a potential victim’s fantasy of a spandex clad woman, literally nothing happens. Even with the very self-aware sequel in 2009, “Hobgoblins” is a hard movie to make a case for. It’s woefully, incompetently made, and when you don’t factor in the bad direction, everything else from the performances, the monsters, and the narrative are just poorly constructed. Where do the hobgoblins come from? How do they eat? Do they eat? Are they murderous? What other powers do they have?
How did they know to find Dennis’ girlfriend and friends? How did the old security guard hide four powerful monsters in a movie studio of all places? If you look hard enough, though, there are some unintentional laughs that are aroused during choice suspenseful moments, and even awkward chuckles during moments that are intended to be purposely funny. One scene in particular involves a stick fight on a front lawn that’s so badly conducted, you’ll laugh and likely exercise your fast forward finger when realize it was probably intended to be taken seriously. “Hobgoblins” is a heinous disaster; it’s yet another instance in the eighties of a film with a monster, and no story, or actual budget to realize its concept.