BBFC Classification: 18
Director: Stuart Gordon
Starring: Jeffrey Combs, Barbara Crampton, Jonathan Fuller, Jessica Dollarhide, Carolyn Purdy-Gordon
Stuart Gordon’s 1995 film Castle Freak is something of a underdog whenever the spotlight of discussion falls on the director, the film often trailing behind Re-Animator, From Beyond and even Dagon in terms of being a film that gets talked about. Which is a shame, as Castle Freak is easily a better film than one of those three and, out of all of Gordon’s H.P. Lovecraft adaptations, is possibly the closest in feel to the author’s literary works although, like his other Lovecraft adaptations, the actual links to the original source material are quite tenuous.
Stuart Gordon regulars Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton star as John and Susan Reilly, a married couple who have inherited an old Italian castle and go to visit it with their daughter Rebecca (Jessica Dollarhide). The marriage is hanging by a thread as John is a recovering alcoholic who previously had involved the Reilly children in a car accident whilst drunk, blinding Rebecca and killing their young son J.J., and relations are obviously strained as the couple are advised to stay in the castle together whilst the estate is liquidated. However, there is another surprise in store for the family when the previous occupant’s mutant son, who was chained up in the basement, escapes and kills a prostitute that John had picked up after being rejected by his wife. After copping the blame for the prostitute’s murder, John must prove his innocence and protect his family from the freak in the basement before he loses everything for good.
Originally released at a time when this type of horror was somewhat out of vogue, Castle Freak does feel remarkably old fashioned, with touches of Hammer horror Gothic and Italian-style gore – particularly that of Lucio Fulci – and is a much less manic film than Re-Animator or From Beyond that lacks the OTT quasi-comic make-up effects of those films, along with Brian Yuzna’s production values. However, the drier tone keeps the film connected to Lovecraft’s original story in feel (there is only one particular scene that is lifted from Lovecraft’s original story The Outsider, which Stuart Gordon integrated into his script) and creates a genuinely unsettling atmosphere to go alongside some juicy splatter. Combs and Crampton are as comfortable with each other as actors who have worked together several times should be and the film itself looks pretty good on Blu-ray, some grainy marks notwithstanding, and shows up some details that the many DVD versions out there didn’t. It’s a relatively restrained film and not one that bears too many repeated viewings in close succession, unlike Stuart Gordon’s earlier Lovecraft adaptations which are endlessly rewatchable, but for a straight-up horror film from a creative team with a bit of a pedigree it’s a solid watch.
Special Features: Pulsepounders Segment: The Evil Clergyman, The Premier of The Evil Clergyman featurette, teaser for the Pulsepounders’ Trancers sequel, Videozone featurette, original trailer, Full Moon trailers.
UK Release Date: 15th July 2013