Directed by Stuart Gordon [Other horror films: Re-Animator (1985), From Beyond (1986), Dolls (1986), Daughter of Darkness (1990), The Pit and the Pendulum (1991), Dagon (2001), Bunker of Blood: Chapter 5: Psycho Sideshow: Demon Freaks (2018)]
Castle Freak is a movie that I’ve long heard about from friends in the horror community, but didn’t see until October 2017. I enjoyed it quite a bit, and seeing it for the second time, I’m pretty certain this would be in my top 20 horror films from the 1990’s.
Possessing quite a dark atmosphere, complete with tackling topics such as alcoholism, child abuse, the loss of a child, and extreme guilt, Castle Freak isn’t one of those fun and light-hearted horror flicks from the 1980’s. There might be a lighter scene or two, but unlike some of Stuart Gordon’s past films, such as Re-Animator, this has an almost singularly serious aura, and at times feels downright tragic, almost depressingly so.
Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton (both of whom starred in Re-Animator and also From Beyond) were great here, Combs really giving a fantastically dramatic performance. Crampton’s character did bother me at times, but then again, we’re talking about characters who were in quite a difficult position, so I can’t fault them for that. Though she hasn’t done much else, Jessica Dollarhide really pulls everything together as the blind daughter of Combs’ and Cramptons’ characters. She shines beautifully toward the end, and the performances here just work.
But of course, most things here work. The film isn’t too grisly as far as the gore goes, but we do get some disturbing scenes, from a woman beating her son with a whip to sexual assault (including mutitilation, as a woman gets her nipples bitten off). None of this is played lightly – like I said, Castle Freak is a dark and dismal film, which I think works very well in it’s credit.
Also, it’s worth mentioning is that while the film does have a low-fi feel to it (it almost looks like an 80’s movie at times, despite being filmed 1994), the castle looked quite impressive, and the setting in a small Italian village was quite nice (and reminded me a bit of a personal favorite Mario Bava film of mine, being Baron Blood). It was a lower-budget film, to be sure, but never once did that negatively impact anything here.
Castle Freak’s title almost does a disservice to the movie, and may even be why I avoided it for so long. Just by the title, it seemed like a goofy film. There’s nothing goofy about the movie, though; Castle Freak has a quality dark atmosphere with a decent amount of tragedy and suspenseful sequences, and if you’ve not yet seen this one, from one horror fan to another, I’d recommend you do so.
5 thoughts on “Castle Freak (1995)”