In order to finance Unspeakable, independent filmmaker Chad Ferrin was forced to sell his house, and he didn’t make a dime from it. Three years later he was at it again, but this time – in order to make low budget horror The Ghouls – he waved goodbye to his 68 ½ Mustang. Ferrin was a little more successful this time out, and the finished article has arrived on a features packed DVD courtesy of Cine Du Monde.
Unspeakable was Chad Ferrin’s writing and feature-directing debut, and he introduced himself to the world in the loudest way possible. Cheap and cheerless, blunt and brutal, Unspeakable isn’t a good film in the traditional sense of the word, but its raw and uncompromising filmmaking that fans of low budget horror will revel in. Six years after Unspeakable Chad made Easter Bunny, Kill! Kill! Both films are now available in the UK, but of all of his films to surface on DVD, it’s The Ghouls that should keep him in filtered cigarettes for years to come.
Costing $15000 to make, The Ghouls tells the story of a freelance TV cameraman. If you’ve seen any of Chad Ferrin’s other work, you’ll know that Timothy Muskatell plays the part of Eric Hayes, having starred in both Unspeakable and Easter Bunny, Kill! Kill! It’s another despicable character for Muskatell to sink his teeth into, even if he’s not quite as wicked as some of the scumbags he’s played in the past. Eric smokes too much, his girlfriend has left him, and he makes ends meet by feeding off the misery of others. Eric is a parasite that makes money by filming tragedy, violence and suffering. Before selling it on to the highest bidder.
One night he gives chase to what he believes to be his biggest earner, only to stumble upon a gruesome, cannibalistic murder. Of course, in order to make any money from the footage, it would help if he'd remembered the fundamentals of amateur filmmaking, like loading the camera with film. Eric returns to the scene of the crime with Clift (Trent Haaga), a fellow videographer. Before long they are knee deep in decapitated bodies, mutilation and mayhem, flesh-eating ghouls who feast on the homeless and avoid skin care products.
Grabbing the viewer’s attention early on is always a good idea, and Ferrin manages it with considerable ease. The opening scene – depicting CCTV coverage of a roadside incident – sets the tone for things to come. It’s a brief yet powerful opening; shocking, surprising and straight to the point. Performances are a little bit hit and miss (as is usually the case in this genre), and as with all of Ferrin’s work, there’s precious little chance of you warming to the characters. If you walk in Ferrin’s world, chances are you’re the lowest of the low; a worthless entity parading your frailties and embracing the darkest of indecency.
The fragmented soundtrack works wonders, amplifying the restlessness simmering beneath the surface. Somewhat surprisingly, The Ghouls isn’t as ‘in your face’ as Unspeakable and Easter Bunny, Kill! Kill! There’s plenty of glorified mayhem to be embraced along the way, and the low budget effects are particularly icky this time out, but it’s not as gratuitous as you might expect. Chad hammers his message home pretty effectively, making it clear that the flesh eating sewer dwellers aren’t necessarily The Ghouls of the title. The unappeasable media and its quest for ‘truth’ is just as relentless as the pasty faced zombie types frequenting your TV screen, adding a smidgen of substance to an unlikely source.
With detestable characters, relentless misery and obvious budgetary restraints, The Ghouls wont be to everybody’s taste. Chad Ferrin movies have never been an easy sell - he himself admits that he doesn’t paint a pretty picture - but The Ghouls is his most accomplished work to date. Ferrin is a talented filmmaker, even if he does lean towards vulgarity at times, and maybe one day he’ll have the budget to back him up. His position as a filmmaker compares favourably to Eric, the protagonist of the picture. In one scene Eric points out to a buyer, “You’re in the boat, I’m in the water trying to swim”. That pretty much sums Chad Ferrin up.
This latest DVD release comes with a whole host of features, including deleted scenes, director’s commentary, making of documentaries and trailers. As for the film, fans of independent, low budget horror will know what to expect from The Ghouls. At times it cuts deeper than your average Ferrin picture, figuratively if not literally, and is all the more enjoyable for it. But then, perhaps enjoyable is the wrong choice of word. One thing’s for sure, selling that 68 ½ Mustang was the best idea he ever had. AW