Cannibal Dead - The Ghouls is a cheap shot on video affair, but highly effective. Director Chad Ferrin not only sets out to shock and appal, but also to question our media drenched society and its ethics - and does so very well.

The story centres on low-life Eric Hayes (Timothy Muskatell) who plies his trade as a 'stringer'. A 'stringer' is a reporter, of sorts, who gathers footage of police chases, murder and general mayhem. Eric then sells this footage to people like the seedy entrepreneur and broadcaster played by Joseph Pilato (who will no doubt be familiar to many of you from Day of the Dead). Then one night, whilst prowling the neon saturated backstreets of L.A., he stumbles across a group of creepy looking people who are tearing apart and voraciously devouring a helpless woman. Rather than help, he films it. Thinking he has footage that's worth a small fortune, he tries to sell it - only to discover that the camera didn't have a tape in it! So, he therefore embarks on a quest to find these 'ghouls' and capture their deeds on camera. However, the more he searches, the more he is drawn into their dark and forbidding world…

Cannibal Dead - The Ghouls is an intensely dark viewing experience, and the grainy and grimy look of the film perfectly suits the mood and tone of the piece. The film kicks off in grand style with actual news footage of a grim suicide, with a disinterested Eric watching it. Right from here we know that Ferrin is trying to tell us something - and the film certainly does make its point about the way that society has become so media saturated that even the most shocking of news stories barely makes a ripple these days. It's an interesting observation, and creates an intriguing backdrop to the main story. Though there's no mistaking that this is a horror movie, first and foremost, with the social commentary kept to a minimum - but it's there, nonetheless.

Chad Ferrin proves himself to be a very capable director and the film is never static or tedious, but is constantly on the move, taking us to places that maybe we'd rather not go. He has a certain knack of knowing when to be explicit and when to be suggestive, and manipulates his audience extremely well. The actors also give some tremendous performances, Timothy Muskatell is superb as the downbeat, down-on-his-luck 'stringer' and gives his role an intensity rarely found in cinema these days, and it's nice to Joe Pilato again, who is suitably sleazy as the unscrupulous broadcaster.

This probably isn't the greatest film you'll ever see, and the production values are fairly non-existent, but Ferrin makes excellent use of what he does have. He is to be commended for pulling this off so effectively on the obvious micro-budget he was working to. The FX are fairly impressive and Ferrin knows how to handle gore scenes well, never lingering for too long, but long enough to get the picture.

If you're looking for a polished Hollywood product, then look elsewhere. But for those of us who like a challenge and who are looking for something a little more offbeat - then I'd recommend giving this a go. This is a film of many layers, on the surface it's just a standard horror movie, but as you dig deeper you'll find that there's more to this film than initially meets the eye.

The DVD from Hardgore looks as good as you'd expect from a shot-on-video cheapie of this calibre, but the grainy look of the film seems intentional and adds a certain extra dimension to the film, giving a sense of dread and realism. The audio is excellent - a powerful DD 2.0 track - when played through my amp on Pro-Logic mode there were lots of atmospheric rear speaker effects, which added a sense of eeriness to the on-screen proceedings.

Extras are virtually non-existent, with only a trailer for the main feature provided. There's also a few trailers for other Hardgore titles, but I'd hardly class them as extras, as such.

Overall it's a nice DVD from Hardgore, though a few extras would have been nice. Oh - and watch out for the ending, it's a real shocker!

Review by C J Otter

Released by Hardgore
Region All PAL
Rated 18
Extras : see main review