Gargoyles has such a promising youth. It begins with narration about the gargoyles, sons of the devil who he uses to assail Earth because he's bitter about being kicked out of heaven. This happens as we see old woodcuts, William Blake paintings, and stone gargoyles perched atop cathedrals. Then we get an A+ Gargoyles logo rendered in splendid mint green.
Epic. But now the scale constricts a bit, as we meet Dr. Mercer Boley and his daughter Diana. They've traveled to a godforsaken desert in search of new material for one of their books. They find something interesting at a barren roadside shop. Can you guess what it is?
Wrong, it's gargoyles! Specifically, a gargoyle's skeleton, offered for sale by the proprietor, Uncle Willie. But gargoyles don't just laugh off relic-selling like the Catholic church does and this shack is attacked.
From here, the movie basically reinforces what it told us in the prologue: gargoyles are emissaries of evil, here to destroy mankind, they pop up every few hundred years. And they're apparently big pervs, because I can't think of any other reason why a gargoyle would be going through a lady's bathroom and then look like this when he's caught.
This is a TV movie and the reduced ambitions and resources are, at times, apparent. But much of this is better than you'd expect. The acting's pretty solid all around, and let's give a special ribbon of merit to Grayson Hall as Mrs. Parks, the hard-drinkin' hotel owner. There's one scene that made me literally lol: she goes to the sheriff to report gargoyle activity and immediately finds the bottle of whiskey he has hidden in his desk. It's like she has booze radar!
As for the gargoyles themselves, Stan Winston did their makeup, so they're often pretty decent-looking. I was not crazy about the decision to render a lot of their movements in slow-motion (it looks really dated now, plus it exposes a lot of makeup/design flaws). Obviously, with a TV-movie budget, this isn't going to wow you like, say, Jaws or The Exorcist. But within a set of well-guarded borders of expectation, it works pretty well.
I think I'd be forced to praise a movie in which a gargoyle rides a horse and takes reading lessons, though.