Horror Movie Review: Castle Freak (1995)

Castle Freak is a horror film that was directed by Stuart Gordon, releasing in 1995. It stars Jeffery Combs in what was their 6th time working together. John Reilly is a recovering alcoholic who struggles to save his family from the deadly occurrences in a castle that they’ve inherited. The story is based on one by H.P. Lovecraft called “The Outsider”.

John Reilly inherits a 12th century castle which belonged to a famed Duchess. Him, his wife Susan and their blind teenage daughter Rebecca travel to Italy to visit. Susan blames John for the death of their five-year-old son in a drunk driving accident which also cost their daughter her eyesight. On the advice of the estate’s executor, the three plan to stay at the castle until they can liquidate the estate.

Unbeknownst to them, a disfigured beast was kept imprisoned and tortured by the Duchess. After killing and eating a cat, the disfigured creature escapes. It begins to roam the castle, prowling around the bedroom of the terrified Rebecca. When she claims that there’s someone else in the house, John believes her, but Susan does not. John, still wracked with guilt about the death of his son, turns to drinking alcohol and hires a prostitute. As she leaves the castle, the prostitute is ambushed and horribly mutilated. The maid discovers the still-living prostitute before she herself is murdered. Susan plans to leave with Rebecca, but the police order them to stay while they investigate the missing prostitute.

It isn’t long before John is arrested as the prime suspect. What will happen? Check out Castle Freak to find out.

When Stuart Gordon and Jeffery Combs collaborate, you know you’re going to get something good and Castle Freak is no exception. It’s a huge shame that this film failed to get much recognition due to the financial issues that the production company had at the time. This caused it to be released direct-to-video. The concept is a really solid setup for a horror film. The gothic castle is an excellent backdrop but it isn’t utilised as well it could have been. Don’t get me wrong, it’s shot beautifully but I would have liked to see more of the 150+ rooms.

Something you may find noticeable about this movie opposed to other Stuart Gordon films is the lack of a comedic edge. This is a serious tale but it manages to be engrossing from start to finish. Jeffery Combs is a really great here. However, my biggest issue with his character is that he just isn’t very likeable. I get that he’s a flawed individual but the things that he does just make him look like a selfish dick. You get the sense that he loves his family but he doesn’t quite redeem himself, even by the end.

Castle Freak is more a tragedy than anything. I mostly just felt really bad for the family and what they have had to endure.

The effects used hold up really well. There’s some wonderfully grotesque imagery here. Also, an effectively creepy atmosphere throughout. Not to mention a signature Stuart Gordon soundtrack that works perfectly.

One thing I wasn’t much of a fan of is the strange sexualisation of the daughter here. She’s blind and is assaulted in the film. You couldn’t victimise a character more to be honest.

The 90s didn’t produce much in the way of quality horror movies but this is one that is worth seeing. It feels like something straight out of the 80s. It’s nothing ground-breaking, just an all-round solid horror film that deserves more love.




Castle Freak
  • The Final Score - 7/10
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