Castle Freak ('20)

I don't know how many fans would call 1995's Castle Freak a horror classic (much less in all caps), but I know I love it.  In actual fact, I spent much of the 00's extolling its virtues on message boards and feeling like I was the only chump who had seen it.  I guess it's true that certain films don't land their audiences until years - or in the case of Stuart Gordon's grisly alleluia to Lovecraft - decades later.  Ah, but this is a remake.  Curses!  As much as I repudiate the arbitrary glut of "reimaginings," I try to judge them on a case-by-case basis and quell the urge to pronounce a sentence on all of the damned things.

As it happens, 2020's Castle Freak is barely a remake.  I suppose it's appropriate to use that other "re" word, even though it clabbers my condensed milk.  We still have Americans perching in a lavish castle, an ancestral Albanian abode.  Rebecca learns that the estate belongs to her bloodline.  Actually, it belongs to her and her alone, as her estranged mother has passed away.  What does this mean for John, her substance-addled beau?  He has assumed the role of caretaker after blinding the poor dame in a car accident.  Can he keep himself clean while appraising the GOOD GOD.  Sorry, this plot summary is far too fucking boring.  That's a real issue, and I haven't reached the freak yet.

The script is adequately written, but it's more patient than I am.  As a result, the exposition feels languid.  It takes an hour for the cannon fodder (the couple's narcotized friends) to show up.  Look, the acting is stable and I didn't actively mind the characters, but I found myself waiting for them to be killed.  Castle Freak borrows from the slasher playbook.  That's one trope that the original didn't need to adopt.  Wow, I'm complaining a lot, huh?  You can probably tell from my rating, but I didn't detest this flick.  The special effects are truly incredible, the locations are striking, and the third act carouses with Lovecraftian lore in demiurgic ways.

On a cosmetic level, the modern Castle Freak succeeds.  The gore is certainly graphic enough.  Speaking of graphic, writer Kathy Charles doubles down on sleaze.  We are treated to a surplus of female flesh, and these girls are fit, but it's a bit much.  Hear me out!  The viewer is hit over the head with blunt hedonism.  That's dandy if you're dealing with simple sex scenes (I understand that the second tryst is story-driven), but the...um, freaky romp?  First of all, it looks ridiculous.  And do you mean to tell me that John can't tell any difference?  The goddamn smell?  Sometimes, I shouldn't feel compelled to suspend disbelief.

Again, I enjoyed the redux of Castle Freak.  I know it doesn't seem that way, but the film does have its heart in the right place.  Stuart Gordon would be proud, and besides, I support any and all experiments conducted at Miskatonic University.


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