While it lacks the wry, subversive humor of his most popular films, Stuart Gordon's CASTLE FREAK is a scary and satisfying exercise in straightforward horror.
After the death of the Duchess D'Orsino (Helen Stirling), her closest living relative, American John Reilly (Jeffrey Combs), brings his wife Susan (Barbara Crampton) and daughter Rebecca (Jessica Dollarhide) to stay at the Italian castle he has inherited. John and Susan have been at odds ever
since John's drunkenness caused a car accident which killed the couple's young son and left Rebecca blind. Unbeknownst to the family, the Duchess's son Giorgio (Jonathan Fuller), who supposedly died at a young age, was actually kept as a tortured prisoner in the castle's cellar. Now a deformed
freak, Giorgio breaks free and stalks the house. At first only Rebecca is aware of his presence.
As his relationship with his wife deteriorates, John goes into town, picks up prostitute Sylvana (Raffaella Offidani), and brings her back to the castle. While John is absent, Giorgio kills Sylvana and housekeeper Agnese (Elizabeth Kaza). The police arrive, discover the mutilated bodies, and
arrest John, who has figured out what's happening. That night, Giorgio kills the cops who are guarding Susan and Rebecca and attacks the mother and daughter; John escapes from the police station and confronts the human monster on the castle's roof. In the ensuing struggle, both John and Giorgio
plunge to their deaths.
Like director Gordon's 1987 film DOLLS (also filmed in Italy), CASTLE FREAK deals with a family, already beset by internal conflict, that comes under attack from a horrific outside force. But while DOLL's scenario of uncaring parents getting their just deserts was simple, CASTLE FREAK takes a more
complicated approach to family-based horror. Parent-child dynamics underly all of the characters' motivations, from the police chief who takes a special interest in Sylvana's fate because she's borne his child to John's guilt over the death of his son, exacerbated by the resemblance between a
portrait of the supposedly dead Giorgio and the deceased boy. Given this, it's disappointing that more is not made of the potential emotional connection between John and Giorgio, particularly since they are, after all, blood relatives.
On a more basic, genre level, CASTLE FREAK succeeds quite well, especially in the unrated video version (an R-rated cut was also released) which contains some extremely disturbing gore. Eschewing the brash outrageousness that made their collaboration on RE-ANIMATOR a cult success, Gordon and
writer Dennis Paoli have nonetheless whipped up a horror film that is better thought-out than most, and the cast (including RE-ANIMATOR veterans Combs and Crampton) achieves a general level of performance that's well above the usual low-budget level. Under some very grotesquely convincing special
makeup, Fuller even manages to evoke a little pathos for his tormented, murderous title character. (Graphic violence, extensive nudity, sexual situations, adult situations, substance abuse, profanity.)
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- Released: 1995
- Rating: R
- Review: While it lacks the wry, subversive humor of his most popular films, Stuart Gordon's CASTLE FREAK is a scary and satisfying exercise in straightforward horror. After the death of the Duchess D'Orsino (Helen Stirling), her closest living relative, American… (more)