Stuart Gordon is awesome. Gordon’s Re-Animator and From Beyond are two of my favourite horror films of all time! His 1987 film Dolls is a lot of fun too. Gordon continued to deliver the horror goods through the 90s with The Pit and the Pendulum and Castle Freak. The Pit and the Pendulum (review pending) is my favourite of the two but Castle Freak does have its share of neato. Evidently Gordon has continued to make films through the 2000s; I am particularly fond of his 2001 film Dagon. Now that I have established I am a fan of Stuart Gordon’s I will talk a little about Castle Freak.
Castle Freak opens with a scene where an elderly lady throws some bread and meat in a metal bowl and walks down to a dungeon. We don’t get a full glimpse of what is in the cell but we do see the old woman whip someone or something with a cat o’ nine tails. We get just a glimpse of the poor Castle Freak’s back. He is clearly man not creature and he has some pretty freaking nasty scars! He is one gnarly messed up looking dude! You can’t really blame him for having issues, but I won’t give away his story. Our unfortunate Castle Freak sports some pretty sweet and impressive effects makeup. It really is quite grotesque. Castle Freak also provides the film’s gore. There isn’t much of a body count in the film but they certainly make the gore that is included memorable. If you remember nothing else about this film you will remember the nipple/cunnilingus scene. Not much bothers me when it comes to horror and gore but animal violence does get under my skin; even when it clearly looks like a stuffed animal. I could have lived without the cat scene, but it is quick. Be warned you do have to wait a while to see our Castle-Freaking bad boy in action.
Enter John Reilly and his family who have inherited the castle. The family have their own drama to deal with and will only be staying in the castle long enough to take inventory of the contents. John was in an accident while driving drunk that killed his son and left his daughter blind. His wife Susan has struggled to come to terms with the event but cannot bring herself to forgive John. Susan is overprotective of their daughter Rebecca who has been living with her blindness for several years. Rebecca wants to deal with her affliction in her own way. I wouldn’t call Castle Freak a heavy-handed drama, but I was a little surprised by the serious tone considering it is called Castle Freak. Come on! Castle Freak?! That name screams camp! That said Castle Freak is a pretty twisted tale. Castle Freak is a 90s style Quasimodo or Frankenstein type story smushed together with a family drama. I would have gone lighter on the family stuff but the two storylines intertwine pretty well. Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton both play it straight here and do a decent job of it. Jessica Dollarhide is also pretty good as Rebecca.
Castle Freak is lightly based on H.P. Lovecraft’s story The Outsider. Gordon does love his Lovecraft! A couple early scenes lagged just a little but otherwise Castle Freak has a fairly steady pace that ramps up nicely towards the finale. I thought the effects were great particularly the makeup for the Castle Freak and although not plentiful the gore leaves an impression. Castle Freak has a decent story but the visuals definitely help sell it. The castle itself was very cool and the film has a perfect gothic atmosphere. Castle Freak is not a perfect film but just the same it is a solid and entertaining watch. Recommended.
Dungeon Rating: 3.5/5
Directed By: Stuart Gordon
Starring: Jeffrey Combs, Barbara Crampton, Jonathan Fuller, Jessica Dollarhide, Massimo Sarchielli, Elisabeth Kaza, Luca Zingaretti, Helen Stirling, Alessandro Sebastian Satta, Raffaella Offidani, Marco Stefanelli, Tunny Piras, Rolando Cortegiani