Inspired by H. P. Lovecraft's "The Outsider," Stuart Gordon's Castle Freak (1995) extended his position as a leader in Lovecraft adaptations. The short version of the review only is: "Thrilling horror film! You won't be disappointed!"
Touchstones to Lovecraft's original, however, are not numerous, & it loses most of the original's aspect of extreme alienation in favor of a creature-feature.
Still, I find it difficult to find fault with it, especially realizing it's one of Charles Band's Full Moon productions, so could easily have been goofy comedy if Stuart hadn't had control.
The best stuff with Band's name on it as producer was directed by Stuart Gordon, who is one of our greatest living horror directors.
A family is struggling with its own dysfunction & sadness after the loss of a son. John & Susan Reilly (the very likeable Jeffrey Combs, & Barbara Crampton, who like Combs was in Re-Animator, 1985), arrive with their blind daughter Rebecca (Jessica Dollarhide) at an Italian castle their family has inherited.
The location was an actual castle in Italy which producer Charles Band had purchased. So no cheap sets & location shots down the road in a field, the film is lush, dank, dark, atmospheric.
The arrival of the Reillys sparks a series of mutilation murders for which the odd, drunken John Reilly becomes chief suspect.
He's innocent of course, but to clear himself, sets out to discover what it is that haunts the Castle, discovering the hideously disfigured Giorgio.
Jonathan Fulleris, even foaming at the mouth under such heavy & repulsive monster-design, manages to convey project the believably tragic.
He's mentally retarded as well as hideously ugly, & was hidden away & severely abused his whole life. Now, after forty years on earth, he has found liberty of a sort, skulking about hoping not to be seen & striking out with lunatic hunger.
One of the manifestations of his childlike nature is how he tries to disguise his ugliness with a sheet. It's as though he believes, as do many children, that the world really can't see you if you're under your sheets.
Once the Castle Freak is revealed, he dominates the story as a complex figure, a deeper figure than the "normal" characters.
I hesitate to mention it is simultaneously a cheezy "cannibal gore flick" with sexploitatioin moments as well, so nowhere near the intelligent quality of his best films, which would be King of the Ants (2003) & Dagon (2001).
It's well below Re-Animator in excellence as well. I say "hesitate" to mention its limitations because it sounds so critical & I wouldn't want to put anyone off the film.
The fact that it has disgusting content sure didn't ruin it for me; I loved it. This comingling of grossness & atmosphere is something I hugely enjoy when the balance is right, & when like old Universal monsters the creature is sympathetic as well as appalling. I just can't complain of any of it.
Continue to more H. P. Lovecraft:
In the Mouth of Madness (1994)
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