castle freak | stuart gordon | dennis paoli | jeffrey combs | barbara crampton | jonathan fuller | drama | mystery | thriller | united states | italy | based on | h.p. lovecraft | jessica dollarhide | massimo sarchielli | elisabeth kaza | luca zingaretti | short story
Film: Castle Freak
Director: Stuart Gordon
Writer: Dennis Paoli
Starring: Jeffrey Combs, Barbara Crampton and Jonathan Fuller
This was a film I never actually saw growing up. I do believe there was a time that I rented this and got bored pretty early into it, then never actually finished it. I was intrigued to check this out as I love the team of director Stuart Gordon, stars Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton in a work based on H.P. Lovecraft. The synopsis is a man struggles to save his family from the strange and deadly occurrences in the castle they’ve inherited.
We start with an elderly woman, Duchess D’Orsino (Helen Stirling). She gives a cat a bowl of milk and then prepares a plate of food. She takes it down into the dungeon of the castle she lives in. She also takes a whip with her. There is someone (Johnathan Fuller) that is locked in a room. The food is given and then they’re beaten with a whip. The duchess then goes up to her room and has a heart attack.
It then shifts to a family in a car. The father is John Reilly (Combs), his wife Susan (Crampton) and their daughter Rebecca (Jessica Dollarhide) who is blind. They’re being driven to the castle they’ve inherited by Giannetti (Massimo Sarchielli). Getting the house ready for them is his sister, Agnese (Elisabeth Kaza).
As the family settles in for the night, John goes to Susan and comes on to her. She shuts him down and we see that there is some issue between them. Tthrough a dream that John has, we learn the truth of what happened. He was drunk and he wrecked their car, killing their son JJ (Alessandro Sebastian Satta) and blinding their daughter. Susan still hasn’t forgiven him for what happened.
John wakes up by hearing something and goes to search it out. He ends up cutting his hand in the process. Agenese helps him and the two of them sit down for a chat. The following day, John takes Rebecca to make an inventory of the items in the castle. They’re going to sell them off before moving back to the United States. Rebecca sneaks off though and ends up following the cat into the dungeon. She finds the locked room and knows there’s something inside.
The cat ends up going in there and we see that the deformed person is still alive. It kills and partially eating the cat before breaking free. Rebecca knows there’s someone else in the castle, but no one will believe her. Strange things start to happen and John starts to look into his family history. It is much darker than he realizes.
Now I have to say, this film is actually pretty interesting to me. I won’t give away who the person that was locked up is, but there is definitely an intriguing back-story there. You kind of feel bad for him. He’s been locked up for so long that it has deformed him in ways. It actually makes the duchess more of a villain than we realize and as I was saying, it is hard to blame the locked up person as they’ve been tortured for so long.
Being that this is based off of a Lovecraft story, I want to read it now to see what aspects were there and what was added to pad out the film. Part of this is that I like the depth of the family we have here. John is struggling. During a fight with Susan, we realize that he is an alcoholic, but he’s seemed to have gotten it under control. The accident that changed their lives is his fault. He doesn’t seem to take responsibility and that’s partly why Susan despises him. They feel like they’re at the end of their time together and it is probably until Rebecca leaves that they go their separate ways.
Their daugther is kind of a sad character as well. She has resigned herself that she’ll never have a normal life because she lost her sight. It is kind of depressing, especially since she lost it and knows what it was like before that. I think her age makes it where she doesn’t necessarily realize that she can still live a full life.
To move next to the pacing of the film, I’d have to say that this film isn’t the most exciting one from Gordon. I was watching interviews after the film ended and they were stating how much more of a character study this film is and I agree there. Not that it doesn’t build tension and suspense, because it does as John is accused of a crime he didn’t commit. It is just is a tad bit on the slow side for me. I do like how it ends though.
If you’re going to do a character driven film, then this film has a good cast for it. Combs is really good in his role. He is a broken man that is trying to put everything back together, but it’s an uphill battle as his wife still isn’t on board. I really like his performance here. Crampton is one of my favorite actresses of all time. This film she is more subdued than we normally get and I like it. She is broken herself, but it isn’t by anything she did. I completely understand why she doesn’t trust John and she’s entitled to that. Fuller is really good as the creature in the film. The make-up they did and how he acts really does bring it all to life. Dollarhide is solid as the daughter and I did believe that she was blind. That was well done on her part. The rest of the cast definitely rounded out the film for what was needed. I like how out of place this family is since it takes place in Italy.
The effects in this film are really good as well. They were done practically and I have to say, the job they did on Fuller to make him into his deformed person is great. I really got the feel that being locked up as long as he was; this is how he would end up looking. That level of realism works. I think that the blood and gore was also good, which they were also done practically. The film is shot very well also.
The last thing to go over would be the soundtrack. I like Richard Band’s work and this film is much more subtle. We get musical cues to kind of give us almost jump-scares, which I don’t mind. The rest of the selections really did fit the scenes for what they were going for in my opinion.
Now with that said, this film I ended up enjoying. I’m still not entirely sure why I didn’t watch this film as kid, but to be honest, I don’t know if I would have fully appreciated it like I did this time around. I like the idea of this film and how things play out. It is really looking at this family and all of the sins that got them there. This one is a bit slow, but I still think that it works its way to an interesting conclusion. The acting really carries this film and the effects are really good as well. I like the soundtrack to the film and definitely think it fits the scenes for what is needed. I didn’t love this film, but I definitely thought that it was above average. I would definitely recommend this one if you like Lovcraft, Gordon or Full Moon films, this is actually one of the betters one.
My Rating: 7 out of 10