DVD. Cine du Monde.
Du Monde continue with their admirable mission to release Chad
Ferrin’s challenging back catalogue with his 2003 film The
Ghouls, a nihilistic tale of urban cannibalism and one
man’s descent into a very personal Hell.
Ferrin regular Timothy Muskatell stars as Eric Hayes, a burned
out freelance news cameraman who specialises in crime scene footage,
the more gruesome the better. We see early on that Hayes’
moral compass is somewhat off kilter, as he films a brutal murder
without making any effort to intervene (in fact, he seems fairly
complicit in the act), and as he scores drugs, gets drunk, insults
his news boss client and smokes himself to death, it’s clear
this is a man on a path to self-destruction. When he drunkenly
stumbles upon what he thinks is a gang rape by homeless people,
his instincts are to grab his camera and film rather than help
– but as he stands in front of the gang filming, it becomes
clear this is no sexual assault. Instead, the mutated looking
attackers are eating their victim. Managing to escape, he runs
to the TV studio thinking only of how much money the footage is
worth, but then discovers he didn’t even have a tape in
the camera. Humiliated and sensing the profit to be made from
the story, he persuades a fellow ambulance-chasing news hack to
return to the alleyway with him in search of the cannibals. But
he soon finds himself out of his depth.
This is a much better film than Unspeakable,
Ferrin’s previous production. It shares that film’s
technical crudeness (you find yourself wondering just how old
the cameras Ferrin used were), with bad sound and visuals, but
the story this time is far tighter. Muskatell – also a producer
– usually plays unsavoury sex perverts in Ferrin’s
films, but here has a more human character. He’s not exactly
sympathetic – this is a man on a downward spiral who seems
determined to speed up his descent as much as possible –
but Muskatell, a strong actor, still manages to bring a degree
of humanity to the role. Hayes is so jaded by the death and destruction
that he no longer has any human empathy, a fact hammered home
in a confrontation with his girlfriend over a tape showing him
filming children burning alive in a house fire while doing nothing
to help. But he’s more a pathetic figure than a villainous
one, and Muskatell does a good job of portraying his inner conflict.
Ferrin does veer into the gratuitous from time to time –
an early scene of a naked woman being stabbed to death is leeringly
graphic and adds little to the plot – but on the whole,
the explicit gore of the film (and there is plenty of it) is a
necessary part of the plot, and once the story kicks in, a surprising
degree of restraint is shown.
The Ghouls is certainly difficult viewing, and
if you are not a fan of edgy, zero budget indie horror then you
might find the combination of nastiness and technical shortcomings
too much. But if you enjoy the more extreme end of the genre,
then this will have much to offer.
Cine Du Monde’s disc is packed with more content that you’d
find on many a big budget film. As well as a commentary track,
trailers, deleted scenes, outtakes, interviews and auditions,
there is a 52-minute making of that is remarkably candid and raw.
For anyone interested in zero budget filmmaking, it’s essential
viewing and pretty much worth the price of the DVD alone.
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