Castle Freak (1995)

One from the re watch pile…

Castle Freak (1995)

Film: Of course, everyone knows of the Cornetto trilogy, and the Romero Trilogy, but my favourite loosely themed, syncopated trilogy is writer/ director Stuart Gordon’s Lovecraft trilogy… and whilst you might easily think to yourself, ‘ oh that’s easy, it’s Reanimator, Bride of Reanimator and Beyond Reanimator’, but you’d be wrong as two of those suckers are actually directed by Brian Yuzna.

So what is Gordon’s Lovecraft trilogy, you ask? Well, it isn’t officially known the Lovecraft Trilogy, even though it should be. It could also be called the Combs/ Crampton Trilogy, as they play, in each film, a couple of people with a strained relationship… anyway I digress. This ‘Gordon Trilogy consists of the aforementioned Reanimator, but then goes to From Beyond, and then to this, Castle Freak, which was loosely based on Lovecraft short story The Outsider.

(As an aside, he also did the Masters of Horror episode Dreams in the Witch-House and another film Dagon, both based on Lovecraft’s work, but these three particularly have the common actor thread through them, so I don’t necessarily count these, even though they are Ok in their own right)

This film tells of the Reilly family, who are a family in crisis. Susan (Barbara Crampton) can’t forgive her husband John (Herbert Combs) for a car accident he had whilst drunk which killed their son, JJ, and blinded their daughter Rebecca (Jessica Dollarhide).

Things seems to be getting better for the Reilly’s though, as John has inherited a castle in Italy from a deceased relative who was a duchess.

The castle has a horrible secret though as many years ago the duchess claimed to have had a son with an American soldier during the war who left when the son was born horribly malformed. The duchess claimed the boy had died to the townspeople though, and actually kept the boy locked in a dungeon… but now he is loose.

Will the Reilly’s survive his wrath?

Of the three films I mentioned in this trilogy, this is certainly the lesser of them mainly due to the fact it is missing the dark sense of humour that Reanimator and From Beyond have, and honestly, it’s not as sexy either.

The film does tell a great story and Gordon’s direction is solid, but casting Combs and Crampton as an estranged couple works until you think of them as a couple, which doesn’t. These two have great antagonistic chemistry but not as a romantic couple. Even in From Beyond the relationship was a more physical and based in passion rather than a romantic relationship.

The story has a few weird anomalies too. The castle John has inherited is echoey and even John says that to another character yet when the mutant son of the duchess screams in agony, no-one seems to hear it. It’s not a deal-breaker but it’s a stupid horror trope that Gordon is normally above.

One surprisingly wonderful thing about this film is how it really feels like a classic European gothic horror film, with the tragedy, the environment, the backstory and a climactic battle straight out of a Frankenstein movie!

Of the three films it is certainly the lesser, but it still tells an emotional story, with a great big mutant freak thrown in. Not great but it’s better than a lot of 90s dreck.

Score: ***

Format: The reviewed copy of this film was the UK, 88 Films multiregion Bluray copy of the film which runs for approximately 95 minutes and presented in a perfectly ok 1.85:1 image and a 5.1 audio track, though there does seem to be a fair bit of barely noticeable artefact damage on the film.

Score: ****

Extras: There is a decent bunch of extras on this disc:

Castle Speak with Stuart Gordon sees Gordon look back on the creation of the film.

Next is the trailer for the film.

The Making of Castle Freak is one of Full Moon’s Videozone makings-of styled things which features some behind the scenes stuff and interviews with the cast.

The Evil Clergyman (a previously unreleased short film also based on Lovecraft’s writings taken from an anthology called Pulse Pounders) which is a half hour horror short reuniting Combs, Crampton and another Reanimator Star, David Gale. I guess this makes my Trilogy a quadrology, or whatever 4 of something is called, well except it’s directed by Charlie Band. It stars David Warner as well, which is pretty cool.

The Premiere of The Evil Clergyman Featurette sees a bunch of horror fans at a cinema watching the premiere of the film.

Trancers 1.5 Preview looks at a re-release of Trancers with some footage restored to the print.

The Pit and the Pendulum trailer.

There is also a booklet by Calum Waddell which features interviews with Gordon and producer Charlie Band from Full Moon Studios.

Score: ****

WISIA: I like Stuart Gordon’s films and even though this isn’t a priority of his to rewatch, I would, and have, watched it multiple times.

Beyond Re-animator (2003)

One from the re-watch pile…

BEYOND RE-ANIMATOR (2003)

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Film: I have probably mentioned it before on this very site, but my very favourite movie of all time… not just horror… but my very favourite, number one favourite film of all time is the 1985 film, directed by Stuart Gordon and based on the work of H. P. Lovecraft, Re-animator.

I loved it from the first moment I saw it and it turned me on to the work of Lovecraft, and the gorgeous Barbara Crampton, and I really enjoyed the combination of zombie flick, mad scientist movie and actual drama about people’s lives.

At this time in my life I loved sequels too, but always prayed that they would never make more Re-animator films as it really felt like a cool complete movie, but Yuzna knew he was on a good thing so we have been treated to two sequels: Bride of Re-animator and this, Beyond Re-animator.

Beyond Re-animator find Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs) interred in a cruel prison when a young doctor, Howard Phillips (Jason Barry) takes up residency in the infirmary.

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Dr Phillips didn’t accidently end up there though, he deliberately sought out the place where West was imprisoned so he could have some questions answered about the death of his sister, at the hands of one of West’s reanimated subjects.

Of course, answers of this kind are easily found, and Phillips finds himself under the oppressive hand of an unpleasant prison warden (Simon Andreu) and an increasing amount of re-animated bodies, and that jail is not the best place to be trapped with them.

This was one of Yuzna’s Spanish created Fantastic Factory jobs, a company he was attempting to build into the new ‘Hammer’ in the late eighties and early 90s. A couple of good films came out of that, including the adaptation of the David Quinn/ Tim Vigil comic Faust and I don’t mind this so much either, even though it is pretty dumb at times.

Of course the highlight of this is Jeffrey Combs’ performance of Herbert West. He is the look down the nose, superiority complex king of mad scientists, for certain. The writing of his character lacks some of the charm of the first two outings, particularly the first, but it’s there, simmering under some below average scripting.

Unfortunately the co-stars suffer from a language barrio which makes their performances not bad, but certainly not quite ‘on point’. Don’t get me wrong, the prison characters are perfectly nuts, the warden deliciously evil and the love interest a feast for the eyes, but occasionally what they say just sits wrong.

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The effects in the film are provided in part by Screaming Mad George so you know you are in for somewhat of  a treat with some of the effects.

All in all is a fun watch, but its just not great, and honestly waters down the character of Herbert West. Having said that, would I watch another one if one were made? Of course I would.

Score: **1/2

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Disc: The reviewed copy of this film is the U.K.  Arrow Films DVD release, which runs for approximately 92 minutes and is present in a decent 1.78:1 anamorphic image with a matching 2.0 audio.

Score: ***

Extras: There are three extras on this DVD:

The Director’s Commentary with Brian Yuzna sees Yuzna himself talk about the film and its creation and is a fairly complete document of the film.

 All in the Head: Brian Yuzna and the Re-animator Chronicles  is an interview with Brian Yuzna about his career both with and without Herbert West. It goes for about an hour and is pretty complete.

There is also a trailer for the film.

The packaging is pretty cool though: there is an awesome The Dude Designs reversible cover (with the original poster on the other side) and a poster of the TDD cover as well. Calum Waddell has also leant his journalistic skills to a booklet which discusses the world of Lovecraft.

Score: ****

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