Remake of Cult Hit Castle Freak (2020) Goes for the Jugular and Misses
Title: Castle Freak
First Wide Release: December 4, 2020 (Digital/Streaming Platforms)
Director: Tate Steinsiek
Writer: Kathy Charles
Runtime: 106 Minutes
Starring: Clair Catherine, Kika Magalhães, Jake Horowitz
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
After a bloody prologue, this modern update begins at a party where a group of friends philosophize between indulgences of illicit substances. After tiring of watching her boyfriend John (Jake Horowitz) not-so-subtlety flirt with one of her friends, Rebecca (Clair Catherine) asks to leave. On their way home, John crashes her car and blinds Rebecca. Flash forward to the present and the duo arrives in Albania. Rebecca has been contacted as the heir to a sprawling estate left behind by her mother who gave her up for adoption. Together with their friends, they begin the process of itemizing and appraising the castle for sale while imbibing in sex, drugs, and alcohol. Their plans, however, are interrupted by a creeping and murderous presence that still lurks within the halls.
Castle Freak is an unwieldly and less interesting version of the 1995 film it seeks to emulate.
I want to make it clear that I’m not a huge fan of the original Castle Freak. I don’t know what kind of film they were trying to make here. The original was a campy yet almost touching portrayal of family with some intense gore and interesting characters. My feelings for the original aside, I know it it was a solid effort, especially given Full Moon’s track record. The remake failed to meet, let alone pass my already low expectations. To put it simply, it is a mess. It’s reminiscent of soft-core porn with some blood and guts thrown in indiscriminately. Normally that’s fine, when a movie knows what it wants to do for you, but this film insists on dragging on for just shy of an hour and forty-five minutes.
My biggest beef comes with its story and characters. The cast is chock full of the most miserable people to walk the face of the earth. All of them are insufferable in their own special way, which sometimes leads into issues of believability. I refuse to believe that a man with serious partying and drug issues stayed with his girlfriend after he blinded her. Especially without the knowledge of this inheritance prior to the crash, why would he stay? Out of all of the plot devices in this film, this is the least believable and this film at one point literally shows tentacles sprouting from someone’s genitals.
Watching people die onscreen in horror films can be cathartic, especially if they represent bad things like deception or cruelty. This, however, only works when it’s done in a satisfying or ironic way. Sadly, this is not found in Castle Freak. To add further grief, the acting is flat by most of the secondary characters. It’s like the cast sleepwalked throughout the entire filmmaking process. They all look so bored! Furthermore, the dialogue they are given is atrocious. The scene following the prologue with the burnouts at the party instantly turned me off from the film. No one talks like that.
The choices in story progression also raises eyebrows. Why is there a break between the couple and friends arriving; would they not fly together? Another more pressing issue comes with the insertion of a cult behind the madness of the first two acts. Without foreshadowing or buildup, it feels shoehorned into the plot without thought.
While Castle Freak is disappointing in almost every other aspect, it does have its moments where it shines. The photography and music match its atmosphere very well. The score in particular feels like a throwback to earlier Full Moon efforts. There are some really cool uses of light and color throughout the film, it adds to the disorientation while solidifying the Lovecraftian nature of the source material. The editing amplifies this. The creature effects are solid for the most part. Aside from some extremely goofy CGI in the end, it’s serviceable at the end of the day.
Overall, this reboot is not the move for the genre enthusiasts who are most likely to recall the Full Moon original. Fans of the 1995 film should steer clear unless they are hoping for something derivative yet squarely off-base. Aficionados of more slimy films might find something to enjoy here but won’t be clamoring for more. I cannot recommend this film. Go find something else to satisfy your need for creature features or gothic architecture.
Overall Score? 4/10