I wasn’t expecting much going into 2003 low budget film The Ghouls, which is from Chad Ferrin, the director of two other films I’ve blogged about: Someone’s Knocking at the Door and Easter Bunny, Kill! Kill!
The Ghouls is essentially Kolchak meets C.H.U.D. Beginning with a particularly sleazy and gruesome murder scene in an apartment, we are introduced to a scummy, boozing, drugging, freelance video journalist who always gets amazing footage to sell to the media—even though he could easily help save victims’ lives instead. Eerily prophetic if you think about it, considering it describes pretty much every person with a smartphone these days.
The budget restraints work in the film’s favor, because it takes place mostly on dark city streets and in underground tunnels, which gives it a gritty realism. The journalist comes across three ghoulish guys devouring a woman in an alley (I can’t stress how good the gore effects are), leading to a major chase, with the ghouls even jumping on his car as he drives away. When he goes to his media contact—played by Day of the Dead icon Joseph Pilato!—it turns out he was so fucked up he didn’t actually capture any footage. So he takes to the streets at night to prove these ghouls are coming up from the sewers for fresh meat.
I’ve seen complaints that this film drags (it deals with the main character’s personal issues), but since I’m always doing approximately five things at a time, I was never bored. I also found myself looking up to see what was going on more often than not. There are some impressively intense run-ins with the ghouls, which are straightforward humanoids with simple makeup and just the right body acting to totally sell them as something that might actually be living under city streets. Creepy.
The cast is loaded with actors who have appeared in dozens of indie horror films, but you won’t have a chance to recognize many of them, because their screen time is minimal. The bulk of the film is carried by lead Timothy Muskatell, who has appeared in the director’s other films, as well as films like Chop, Silent Night Zombie Night, and The Last House. He is actually fantastic in this film and really deserves to be more of a household name in the horror genre.
What many seem to agree on is that it is the ending of The Ghouls that really hits you over the head. It virtually knocked me out. It sucker punched me with the very situation that has kept me from ever watching Martyrs. The moment is so disturbing, both visually and in the way it’s acted, that my stomach was turning. I felt emotionally sick, something I wasn’t prepared for when I began watching this one. Damn you, Chad Ferrin!
And now for a little bonus…Unspeakable!
It turns out I had Chad Ferrin’s first film from 2000 in my collection, on a 3-on-1 Troma DVD. While thrilled to find it so readily available to me, the fact that it’s a Troma release was disheartening. The good news is—Ferrin came a long way between making this film and The Ghouls.
Unspeakable begins with a family getting into a car accident as a result of the husband arguing with his wife. The daughter dies and the wife is left a vegetable in a wheelchair. The husband, who suffers from impotence and guilt over the death of his daughter, snaps and begins killing women while envisioning them as either his wife or daughter.
This fairly serious plot is immediately relegated to trashy, sleazy exploitation. The wife’s face is deformed, so she looks like a zombie or demon.
She shits herself regularly (complete with sound effects), and her male nurse loves to orally molest her and rape her while she’s a soiled mess down there. There’s priest/teenage boy abuse.
A prostitute is forced to give her pimp a BJ in front of her young daughter. A trans prostitute becomes one of the husband’s victims, but that’s not enough—her body is then spit on by some other dude, and she’s repeatedly referred to as “fag” after that.
All the while, the husband is going around killing random women and dealing with his “issues.” Nothing scary here, just some violent kills, accompanied by a painfully out-of-place soundtrack of contemporary sounding music. The most enticing part of the film for me is this behind-the-scenes still.
Ferrin definitely tightened up his craft with his later exploitation releases.