A young couple — both of whom are dressed in clothes that appear to come from the 1890s — enjoys a romantic and sunny excursion to an isolated island. Unfortunately, their day is ruined when they’re discovered by a buck-toothed hunchback named Colin (played by Hal Borske). Death and dismemberment follows.
Somewhere in New York, three sisters are informed that their father has died but that neither they nor their husbands can receive a cent of their inheritance until they fulfill one very specific requirement. According to their father’s impossibly elderly attorney (played by Neil Flanagan, who is made up to look like an old witch from a community theater production of MacBeth), the sisters and their husbands must spend three nights in their father’s mansion. Of course, the sisters agree.
Upon arriving at the mansion, they discover that the mansion is being looked after by two maids and a hunchbacked, buck-toothed handyman named …. COLIN! Within a few minutes of meeting everyone, Colin eats a live rabbit while everyone watches. Later the remains of the rabbit shows up in one of the sister’s bed, along with a note that reads, “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit!”
Speaking for myself, I would probably leave as soon as I saw the handyman eating a live rabbit. I mean, none of the sisters appear to be struggling financially but then again, greed is a powerful force. Instead, everyone settles in for their three-night stay, which leads to 1968-style sex scenes and a lot of footage of people sitting around and talking about nothing. For a low-budget grindhouse film, this is an extremely talky movie.
Anyway, eventually people start dying. Someone gets pitchforked. Another person is found hanging by his ankles. There’s a rather bloody disembowelment and someone else loses their head. Bloody X’es are left on doorways. Who is doing the killing? Hmmm …. well, Colin is the obvious suspect since we already saw him kill two people for absolutely no reason. But, it turns out that Colin has a little help. That’s right! The Ghastly Ones comes with a twist ending that you’ll see from miles away.
So, what exactly is The Ghastly Ones? It’s an extremely low-budget film, full of unlikable people dying in various grotesque ways. It’s an oddly moralistic film, with everyone dying because their greed prevents them from doing the sensible thing and leaving the house. It’s also apparently a period piece, with everyone dressed like they belong in the 1890s even though you can clearly hear the sound of cars in the background of a few scenes.
In short, this is another Andy Milligan film! Filmed on Staten Island and featuring a largely amateur cast (though one of the husbands is played by Richard Romanus, who went on to appear in Martin Scorsese’s Mean Streets and has since had a respectable career as a character actor), The Ghastly Ones is just as bad and weirdly hypnotic as you would expect any Andy Milligan film to be. Milligan even makes a cameo of sorts in the film. Listen closely and you can occasionally hear him off-camera, feeding the actors their lines and, at one point, telling one of the sisters to “roll over.”
It’s a terrible movie and yet, it’s also strangely fascinating. I think that’s because Milligan’s ineptness was matched only by his anger and that anger (along with a lot of pressimism) courses through the entire film. Every frame of the film drips with Milligan’s sincere disdain for the greedy and selfish characters who appear throughout the movie and, as you watch, it becomes obvious that Milligan had more sympathy for Colin than for any of his victims. (Of course, two of Colin’s victims were just two innocent people in love who were trying to have a nice picnic so perhaps it’s for the best not to dwell too much on what that might mean.) Milligan directs this story with an intensity that doesn’t quite make up for the lack of talent involved but, at the very least, it does keep things vaguely interesting. “Who are the Ghastly Ones?” Andy Milligan seems to be asking. “We all are.”
By the way, between this and Guru, The Mad Monk, I have now watched two Andy Milligan films in one week. Pray for me.