"Disfigured maniac mutant stalks through a gloomy mansion. Cool."
Stuart Gordon has had his hand in several very cool horror flicks. "Castle Freak" isn’t exactly one of them (not nearly as cool as "Dagon" or "From Beyond", but more worthy of ninety minutes than are "Robot Jox" or "Space Truckers"), but it’s stylish and creepy enough to please Gordon’s devoted fans, albeit maybe not that enthusiastically.Loosely based on the works of Lovecraft and starring longtime Gordon pal Jeffrey Combs, Castle Freak is not much more than a gory modernization on the old Haunted Mansion tale. Combs is a miserable drunkard who (correctly) feels responsible for the death of his son, so the news of an inherited castle seems to promise a brighter future. With his wife and (blind) daughter in tow, our somber hero settles into his new home.
Unfortunately for the whole clan (and a few unlucky neighbors), this castle is occupied by a FREAK. More specifically, a 40-year-old frothing lunatic manchild who’s withstood a lifetime of horrible beatings and physical disfigurements. (Funny how they always mention the amount of closet space in a new home, but never the inclusion of bloodthirsty monsters.) Needless to say, homicidal freaks and unpleasant humans are never a match made in heaven. Bodies begin to pile up.
What Castle Freak lacks in newness it aims to make up for in gore. Rarely do you see a film that combines graphic sex and cannibal gore to such grisly effect, and that may be a good thing, but it’s important to praise a movie for what it gets right – and this one contains a few moments of crotch-chomping nastiness that even the most ardent gorehound will appreciate.
Another asset is the gloomy atmosphere, a compliment that’s often used as a polite way to say “good-looking but dull”, but Castle Freak does offer a wet and gothic chill that helps add to the film’s overall icky mood. (OK, it’s dull too, but only in a few spots.)
Bottom line is that this one represents the middle tier of Gordon’s work; not interesting enough to bring in new fans, but easily solid enough to entertain those who just got done watching Re-Animator for the 45th time.At the very least, Gordon continues to pay serviceable homage to H.P. Lovecraft – which is a lot more than most horror producers bother to do.