Friday, October 22, 2010

No Budget Horror: Ghoul from the Tidal Pool

In his unremitting search for the best and the worst of ultra-low budget film-making, Kaiju Search-Robot Avery has discovered a beauty -- Ghoul from the Tidal Pool (US-2010; dir. Burgundy Featherkile).  Even the director concedes that it may be one of the "best" bad films of all time. Made through Featherkile's determination and a structured re-organisation of no experience, little knowledge and an indomitable spirit, along with the combined efforts of the entire citizenry of the Oregon coastal village of Yachats, Ghoul makes other guerilla film-makers look like rabid monkeys.

"It's so bad it's horrible!"

A cantankerous librarian reluctantly joins forces with a red-blooded, All-American boy and his bodacious grandmother to lead their isolated coastal village into a ruthless scuffle with a Ghoul from Hell!


Desperate to get to the bottom of this horror, Avery travelled the length and breadth of the internet to interview Burgundy Featherkile. What is revealed will shock and horrify you!

Here is Burgundy herself -- the face of evil incarnate:

Avery Guerra: When did you know that you wanted to become a filmmaker?

Burgundy Featherkile: The insanity struck shortly after I finished reading Robert Rodriguez's book/diary Rebel without a Crew in 2008.

AG: Who are some of your influences/idols?

BF: There are many great directors who educated me by example. Including but not limited to (as the lawyers say) Gene Wilder, Ron Howard, Paul Bartel, Clint Eastwood, Val Lewton, Spielberg, Alex de la Iglesia, Irvin S. Yeaworth, and Guillermo del Toro.

AG: Where did the idea for this film Ghoul From the Tidal Pool come from?

BF: I came away from a "White Elephant" party with an incredibly ugly, star-shaped, metal thingy designed so candle light could shine out through the perforations along the arms of the star.

As a devout recycler I was in a quandary -- should I stoop so low as it throw it in the garbage? My husband, Dave Baldwin (author of Snake Jazz and Limbic Hurly-Burly), came to the rescue with the suggestion that I could make a horror film and use it as the monster. The original script was written by Dave; it was about one page in length and included a lot of sock puppets and screaming. He really likes sock puppets. After laughing a lot, the script was put on a shelf and forgotten. Then my granddaughter, J.H.S. Featherkile, told me how thrilled her co-workers were when she told them that her cool Granny was making a horror movie. Oops! A Granny will do virtually anything to retain her "cool" status, so the movie project was promptly set back on track.

AG: How would you best describe the film?

BF: It's a tardy entry in the 1950s horror genre, and was strongly influenced by The Blob. Ghoul From the Tidal Pool is the product of a community effort to show off our community and have a lot of Yachatian-style fun. It shows many of the popular businesses and local scenery, as well as approximately 223 residents of, and visitors to, Yachats, Oregon.

AG: Some may say that the film looks to be a strong contender for the "best bad movie of all time". Was that ever your intention while you were filming? What would you say to this?

BF: We set out to make a really bad movie, and clearly succeeded.

AG: What would you like the audience to take from the experience that is the Ghoul?

BF: I hope that anyone who sees the movie will recognize that over 200 people got together to prove by example that anyone can do something they've never done before, learn something, have a lot of fun, and have something to show for it when they're done.

AG: Where did you find the cast and crew to make your movie? Can you tell us a bit about them?

BF: What a crew! There was a small core group of locals who helped me move equipment and set up scenes; and they all appear in the movie, most of them as leads or in strong supporting roles. Even if they hadn't planned to be in front of the camera, they ended up there because we always needed more people than showed up to be in a scene. Many of the bit parts were done by people who passed by and turned their heads to look as we were setting up or shooting; the next thing those gawkers knew they had signed a release and were standing in front of the cameras! Everyone who was in and worked on the movie was an unpaid volunteer. The title song was written by a member of the "Polka Dots", a local singing group and performed by them in the studio of one of our fine local artists. We had two cameras and I operated both; I ran back and forth between them while both cameras were taping.

AG: How did the production go? Any funny or horror stories from the set that you'd care to share?

BF: The film is dedicated to the late Andrew Batchelder, our Ghoul Wrangler Extraordinaire, who also appears in the film as Zeke, the drunk. Andrew wrote his own scene and co-directed it as well. His part of the scene was taped on one day, and the General's part was taped a couple of months later. I learned several important things about editing when I set out to make it look like they were talking to each other.

There was only one person (in 223 participants) involved in the movie who didn't have a good time. We were scheduled to tape the last few major scenes of the movie when I received an email from "The Librarian", who was supposed to be the main character of the movie, saying:
"It is now 4:33 am and I have been suffering from the most extreme panic attack. I simply cannot continue with this movie, it is just too much."

My blood pressure rose significantly until about 10 minutes later when I decided that with some re-shooting, and shifting the lead to the young man who was originally the Librarian's sidekick [Jordan Ostrum, pictured below], we could still limp through to the end. It wasn't the story I wanted; it was a story I could live with.

AG: As a monster fan, I'm always interested in a monster's origin. Where does the Ghoul come from?

BF: That question actually comes up in the movie. Watch for it in the early part of the party on the upper deck of the house with the bomb shelter in the garage. The answer, of course, is "from the tidal pool". In the second part of the movie, you discover that there is actually an army of ghouls, mutated by strange chemicals in a secret military (possibly underwater) facility that's been in the mythical village of Yachats for 50 years. We don't really have anything like that, of course. (At least, not that we know of.)

AG: I believe there are some references to Japanese giant monster films in
Ghoul -- even a scene in Japanese with subtitles!

BF: The scene in Japanese was a tribute to all those wonderfully bad Japanese horror movies from the 1950s and 1960s, plus an opportunity for Japanese speakers to share an inside joke, knowing that the subtitles are completely different from what they're saying. The Japanese people who did the scene were so young that they didn't recognize the names of any of those monsters, except for Godzilla.  It was one of my favorite scenes to tape; they were very charming as they took my English script and translated it into Japanese, deciding who would say which lines.
For reference, this is what the Japanese were really saying:
MIDORI: Did you hear the girl in the chicken suit warning people?
JIRO: That was odd. And did you notice that their "wise woman of the woods" sounds like Nostradamus.
CHIKAKO: I feel like I'm in the middle of a 1950s horror movie.
YOICHI: And it’s a bad movie! How can making a few locals and tourists disappear compare to the destruction of Tokyo!
MIDORI: Rodan could fly in and grab off their Ghoul, just as an appetizer.
JIRO: I suppose that next they'll kill their monster.
CHIKAKO: Our Godzilla is a real monster. He always comes back.
YOICHI: Even Gamera and Ghidrah keep coming back.
MIDORI: Hmmm. I wonder what these people will do for a sequel.
[Note: Rob: The adjectives used to described Japanese tokusatsu of that period are purely those of the interviewee. They do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Editor of this site. Wonderful, yes. Bad, no. -- Avery: Perhaps Burgundy meant: "those wonderfully bad US edits of the great Japanese monster films of the 1950s and 1960s."]

AG: What have the reactions to the film been like so far? Has the community where the movie was made been very supportive of it?

BF: The movie's Premiere in April 2010 was completely booked out just 9 days after it was announced, with some people flying in from other States for the event. Yachats, our neighbors in Waldport, and our visitors support the movie strongly. After all, many of them are in it! Hundreds of copies of the DVD have been sold at "Mari's Books and..." and at the "Drift Inn", both of which are in the movie. We've had monthly showings in Yachats with large and enthusiastic audiences. October 30, 2010 will be the last one.

AG: So what's next for you? Any other films in the future perhaps other monster movies or a return to the Ghoul?

BF: Who knows what my future will bring in regard to movies or anything else? The Ghoul is still sitting in the garage, still as ugly, and I've not recanted my belief in recycling so I am still in my original quandary. At present, I don't intend to do another movie unless there's money to hire a crew. I'm 73 years old now, and I think I might not have the energy to take on another big all volunteer project.

AG: In closing is there anything else that you'd like to say?

BF: Making the Ghoul was a significant learning experience for me, both technical and managerial. One of my friends commented that the ability to produce this project was probably much more significant than directing it. And, having done it, I'm inclined to agree.

Ghoul from the Tidal Pool was shown free at Yachats Commons on May 22 and June 19, and is due for a rematch on October 30, 2010. 

It is also available on DVD-on-Demand from Amazon. Click on the cover image below to enlarge.

  • Sources:; IMDb; Burgundy's Facebook page. Many thanks to Burgundy Featherkile for giving so generously of her time and thoughts. 
  • Interview and research by Avery Guerra. The rest by Robert Hood.

Addendum: Auditions Scenes

Addendum 2: The Theme Song

In the tradition of the Burt Bacharach and Mack David theme for the 1958 monster flick The Blob (the best part of it, I reckon), here is the 1950s-style theme for The Ghoul from the Tidal Pool, sung by the "Polka Dots":

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