Sunday, October 21, 2012

Halloween Holocaust: Castle Freak (Stuart Gordon, 1995)

Today's movie is another that was previously unseen by yours truly until very recently. I also had no idea that it's a H.P. Lovecraft adaptation, until I noticed his name in the credits under "Special thanks to...". It turns out that this direct-to-video gem, from the makers of Re-Animator and From Beyond, is loosely adapted from one of HPL's most popular stories, "The Outsider", and like Gordon's other interpretations of the author's work, it's certainly a liberal one, to put it mildly, not to mention downright inspired on its own terms. 

The film stars heavyweight acting double team Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton (both alumni of Gordon's more well-known Lovecraft pictures) as grieving, and subsequently estranged couple, John and Susan Reilly, who come to Italy, with their blind daughter Rebecca (Jessica Dollarhide) in tow, to stay at a castle that John has recently inherited. Their present dysfunction is the result of a tragic car accident (that may have been the result of John's alcoholism) that killed their young son JJ, and cost Rebecca her sight. As it turns out, the castle's dungeon is still inhabited by the hideously deformed son of the recently deceased duchess, who has been left in chains, with no one to care for him. It isn't long before he takes notice of his new surrogate family, and breaks his shackles to try and join them.     

In some ways, it's a wildly different sort of movie to both Re-Animator and From Beyond; more of a tragedy than a comedy. In fact, and this isn't a criticism, I'm struggling to remember any humourous moments whatsoever within the film. I'd say that the main thing that has been carried over from those previous pictures to this one is its often shocking co-mingling of sex and violence. Taken for what it is though, I'd say that it succeeds admirably, thanks to highly affecting performances from all of the leads, and especially Jeff and Babs as the mourning husband and wife. In many ways, this would make a brilliant companion piece to Nicolas Roeg's Don't Look Now, another tale of a grieving couple trying to pick up the pieces and start over, but being haunted by the seeming specter of a child that has been tragically and accidentally lost to them.     

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