THE GHASTLY ONES (1968) Reviews and overview

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‘Mad creatures of the night existing only for sensual sadistic moments of human slaughter!’

The Ghastly Ones, retitled as Blood Rites for its UK release and Blood Orgy for some drive-in dates, is a 1968 American horror feature film written and directed by Andy Milligan.


This low budget auteur divides opinion between critics perhaps more than any other director in the horror genre; some (wise) people recognising the defiantly unique approach to camera work, scripting and drama, others (fools), lambasting him as a crackpot, charlatan and a ninny of the highest order. The latter include Stephen King who called the film “the work of morons with camera”.


The straightforward plot, just about surviving Milligan’s attempts at story-murder, sees three couples aiming to become beneficiaries of a will by surviving three nights in an old cavernous house. It goes without saying that someone within the walls is equally desperate to inherit and slowly the guests are dispatched in the manner people in spooky old houses tend to be.

The film is one of the more baffling selections to be banned in the United Kingdom during the early 1980s, though many would suggest this was an appropriate fate. It was made extremely cheaply made (for around $13,000 though some of his efforts cost as little as $5000) and the gore effects that are present as so ludicrously over-the-top or maybe even the opposite (under-the-top?) that it is impossible to take them seriously. The only caution to be taken should be by lovers of rabbits, those afraid of hunchbacks and those squeamish of mannequins being dismembered.


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Perhaps uniquely, the British video release came with a reversible sleeve, one side depicting very little, the other depicting a slightly more revealing array of images – this version is very collectible and can sell for around the £100 mark on internet auction sites. Milligan films are very recognisable, with The Ghastly Ones being no exception:

2. Milligan employed actors who were friends, acting ability was certainly not a requirement, indeed Milligan can be heard prompting the actors when they forget their lines entirely.

  1. His films exist in a strange undefined spot in time, possibly as far back as the Victorian era, possible the present day.

  2. If any money is spent, it’s on costumes; the more gaudy and decorous the better.

  3. The camera rarely stays still and when it does it usually reveals boom mics, camera equipment and crew looming into shot.


This seventy minutes of sinematic mayhem is – in theory – currently unavailable in the UK, apparently no company daring to risk educating the masses in the ways of one of film’s most flamboyant auteurs. Milligan died from complications from AIDS in 1991, penniless in an unmarked grave, his genius never recognised in his lifetime.

Daz Lawrence, MOVIES and MANIA

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Other reviews:

” …despite some creative use of cross cutting and hand-held camera, many scenes are much too dark to tell what’s going on. Some lively dialogue and frequent gory murders get your interest, but several minutes of peering into a dark screen wears out one’s patience.” Videohound’s Complete Guide to Cult Flicks and Trash Pics [NB. This review refers to the VHS release and video transfers were often notoriously too dark].

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