Main cast: Clair Catherine (Rebecca Riley), Jake Horowitz (John), Chris Galust (The Professor), Genti Kame (Marku), Omar Shariff Brunson Jr (Larry), Emily Sweet (Shelly), and Kika Magalhães (The Freak)
Director: Tate Steinsiek
Call me odd, but as much as I adore HP Lovecraft’s stories and everything Lovecraftian in general, I often find myself enjoying movies that are Lovecraftian but at the same time not adaptations of Mr Lovecraft’s works. For me, it’s a matter of taste: often, I feel that the general sense of dread and the horror imagery in his stories are very hard to replicate credibly on film both via practical effects and CGI. As scary as they may be, the traditional, sometimes stereotypical visuals of Cthulhu, Dagon, et cetera tend to be on the cartoon, absurd side, and my personal preference is to leave the visual depictions of these mythical dreads up to the reader’s imagination.
On the other hand, Lovecraftian movies that come without any preconceptions arising from reading Mr Lovecraft’s works fare better with me. John Carpenter’s re-invention of The Thing is fabulously in-your-face body horror tinged with cosmic terror, while the more low key but still creepy Prince of Darkness incorporates Lucifer into the Cthulhu Mythos and it’s fabulous. Then there’s the ingenious In The Mouth of Madness, which is both a tale of cosmic terror and a respectful homage to the legacy of HP Lovecraft and Stephen King in the horror genre.
This brings me to Castle Freak. It is a reboot of Stuart Gordon’s 1995 movie of the same name, and it uses the character of Lavinia Whateley from The Dunwich Horror, but changes so many things from that story that this Lavinia pretty much just shares the same name as Mr Lovecraft’s character. So, in a way, this one is both a movie tethered to a work by Mr Lovecraft and a Lovecraftian-themed movie. So, it makes sense that I end up being far more ambivalent about the movie than outright liking or disliking it.
Rebecca Riley is still with her douchebag boyfriend John and I have no idea why. He treated her pretty badly when she still could see, and she lost her vision in an accident caused by John driving while being under the influence of alcohol and drugs. At any rate, Becca learns that she has inherited a large and naturally spooky house from the late Lavinia Whateley, who turned out to her biological mother. It’s not long before John is planning the sell the house, in spite of Becca wanting to stay there a bit longer to learn more about her mother.
Well, won’t she be happy to learn that Lavinia, just like in the story, cavorted with Yog-Sothoth, the Outer God, and gave birth to twins. The human-looking one was given up for adoption, and naturally, that child is Becca. The monstrous one, called the Freak in the credits, still lives in the house, and now, should the twins be reunited, a ceremony can be held to summon Yog-Sothoth back to this world. Isn’t that lovely indeed?
One good thing about this movie is that, despite being set in a creepy big house, it doesn’t resort to cheap tricks like poor lighting and jump scares to scare the audience. It tries to build up some tension and atmosphere once the good things start to happen… but at the same time, I have to sit through fifty-plus minutes of one-dimensional characters acting like twats to get to the good parts. This is the biggest problem I have with this movie: I just don’t care about these characters, even Becca. They are all too poorly drawn to generate any emotion in me—I can’t even actively dislike them even when they are trying very hard to be douchebags (especially John), because I can’t bring myself to care.
The few scenes of gleeful killing are nicely gory, but at the same time, the movie also overplays its hands by focusing too closely at the cheap and fake-looking effects that end up resembling more like props from a cartoon than anything else. This is one time when I’d appreciate dimmer lighting—the climactic final scene when, er, stuff comes out from a woman’s down there, for example, the effect makes me recall fondly the TV advert for the Bug Eye Ghost toy from the The Real Ghostbusters cartoon in the 1980s, instead of scaring the crap out of me.
This latest version of Castle Freak, therefore, doesn’t work for me. The characters are all just there; Yog-Sothoth should have picked a more lively bunch of folks to have an orgy with.
I am far more intrigued by the possibility of a Lovecraftian movie franchise teased by the post-credit scene than anything else in this movie. Well, there is that hilarious scene of a bloke unknowingly having sex with the Freak, but I’m sure folks will soon find a clip of that scene on YouTube or some other place—there is no need to suffer through the tedium of this movie just for a few minutes of that. Go watch a better Lovecraftian movie instead, like The Void or the John Carpenter trilogy that I mentioned earlier.