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CASTLE FREAK(director: Stuart Gordon; screenwriters: Dennis Paoli/from the story The Outsider by H.P. Lovecraft; cinematographer: Mario Vulpiani; editor: Bert Glatstein; music: Richard H. Band; cast: Jeffrey Combs (John Reilly), Barbara Crampton (Susan Reilly), Jonathan Fuller (Giorgio), Jessica Dollarhide (Rebecca Reilly), Massimo Sarchielli (Giannetti), Elisabeth Kaza (Agnese); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Maurizio Maggi; Full Moon Entertainment; 1995)
“Not as freaky as it sounds.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Noted cult filmmaker Stuart Gordon (“Dagon”/”From Beyond”/”Re-Animator”) directs this creepy horror thriller that is loosely based on the story The Outsider by H.P. Lovecraft; it’s written by Dennis Paoli. A quarreling American couple John and Susan Reilly (Jeffrey Combs & Barbara Crampton), and their blind young adult daughter Rebecca (Jessica Dollarhide), inherit a 12th-century castle in Italy (shot entirely in Giove, Italy) when a distant relative of John’s dies. They visit there while arranging to sell the castle upon the advice of their executor. John disappoints wifey because of his drinking problem that led to their son’s death and him being fired by the university, but is now on the wagon trying to get back into her good graces or at least into her pants.

Upon their arrival, the dysfunctional family experiences a number of inexplicable external things such as bizarre noises inside the castle, objects turning up mysteriously broken, and Rebecca’s warnings of a mysterious nightly visitor to her bedroom. Things get even more chilling when the housekeeper and a local prostitute are brutally murdered in the castle’s dungeon, and it becomes apparent there’s a killer loose in the castle. The killer’s an abused child who has been abandoned and locked up in the basement, the castle freak, who now at forty escapes and is out for blind revenge after a lifetime of brutal beatings. The police suspect John, who is forced to track down the mysterious deformed killer to clear his name and save his family.

Not that interesting psychologically and not as freaky as it sounds. But the graphic sex and gore scenes are done with a modicum of taste, the acting is reasonably good considering it’s a low-budget B film, it sets a proper chilling Gothic mood and it’s slightly above the average of the usual Haunted House genre offering.

REVIEWED ON 10/18/2005 GRADE: B-

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”