Director: Stuart Gordon (1995)
Starring: Jeffrey Combs, Barbara Crampton, Jessica Dollarhide
Find it: IMDB
Stuart Gordon directs Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton in a loose adaptation of a short HP Lovecraft story. No, not Re-Animator, nor even From Beyond; Gordon's third concoction with the same ingredients is Castle Freak, based on Lovecraft's The Outsider. In it, family man John Reilly (Combs) inherits a crusty Italian castle from his estranged mother's estate. Unfortunately, he also inherits the asshole who lives in the basement - a fugly cross between Frankenstein's Monster and something out of Wrong Turn. The titular Freak wastes little time in sleazing at John's blind daughter, murdering cats and slaughtering a visiting prostitute. Castle Freak is the most exploitative of Gordon's movies so far.
It was while watching Castle Freak that I was struck with a sudden realisation: that Stuart Gordon might just be my favourite horror director ever. He's certainly the most consistently good. From his classic Re-Animator to From Beyond (release it properly on DVD already!), Stuck and Edmond, I've never not enjoyed a Stuart Gordon film. Even The Pit and the Pendulum has its merits. Coincidentally, most of his movies star Jeffrey Combs in some capacity, and are usually inspired by HP Lovecraft, a literary favourite of mine. So as with every other Gordon movie I've seen, I loved Castle Freak. Still, it is amongst the darkest of his oeuvre. It would be the darkest, but the ending of Edmond is some haunting shit.
Combs's John is a recovering alcoholic, struggling to make amends for accidentally blinding his daughter and killing his son. Understandably, wife Susan (Crampton) is less than able to accept his apologies. It's not long before John is driven to the nearest pub and into the arms of the village hooker. After some not very sexy sex, the beast attacks. There are some shocking moments of sexual violence to Castle Freak as the Freak chomps a good chunk out of someone's titty and then makes designs on John's scantily-clad daughter. It's truly disturbing stuff; revolting in the wrong hands. It's still revolting here, but Gordon salvages his film, saving it from becoming a complete rapey mess (although some will no doubt disagree vehemently with that assessment) like Alan Moore's Neonomicon comic book. Still, it's an uncomfortable watch; a reminder that bringing sex to the fore of a Lovecraft adaptation does not make for a pleasant mix.
Worth watching for Jeffrey Combs alone, Castle Freak is an atmospheric, disturbing piece from one of horror's most reliable and underrated directors.