Monday, April 1, 2019

Short Attention Span Review - Castle Freak (1995)

Short Attention Span Review - Castle Freak (1995)

Like many of my fellow fright fans, I spent Friday night enjoying The Last Drive-In courtesy of the good folks at Shudder* and Joe Bob Briggs**.  Not only did I have entirely too much fun with this resurrection of one of the horror staples of my youth, but I also watched Castle Freak for the first time as a result of its inclusion in a nifty double feature (the first film was C.H.U.D., a familiar favorite that I like a lot, even though Joe Bob was clearly not a fan).  Now, I may have mentioned my disdain for Full Moon before.  I know, I know, that's a Holy Grail of sorts for some of you horror lovers out there, but the studio never really did a lot for me.  With that in mind, I'm pretty sure that I never even noticed that Castle Freak was a Stuart Gordon film with Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton in the lead roles.  After Seedpeople, I avoided Full Moon productions like the plague.  Regardless, that was a mistake, and I'm glad that Joe Bob remedied this situation for me.  Castle Freak is a creepy picture, lean and incredibly mean, with fine performances, quality direction, and a beastie that really made my skin crawl.  Despite the presence of Combs in the lead and Gordon in the director's chair, there was no humor in play, and Castle Freak painted a nasty picture in gruesome detail.  Like most Full Moon features, the budget wasn't an asset, but in this case, a crafty screenplay and terrific work from the cast and crew enabled the film to rise above any limitations.  In truth, while a tale of this variety could never find as much love with a larger audience, I think it sits as a worthy companion piece to either Re-Animator or From Beyond, and it was far more unnerving than either of those beloved oddities from the same diabolical entertainers.  The effects were gnarly, and Jonathan Fuller positively slayed it as Giorgi, who is both a creature to be pitied and the stuff of nightmares.  This isn't one of those fun horror movies where you snicker and lay odds on which dumb teenager will be next on the chopping block, this is a frightening spectacle where everyone involved worked very hard to scare the hell out of the audience.  I rate it as a success, and I'm going to join Joe Bob in hailing it as a superior effort that warrants more attention from the horror community.

*For any horror fan who has yet to subscribe, Shudder is an absolute steal.

**I mean, he's no Elvira, but Joe Bob is great at what he does--and his recent work for Shudder has found him at the very height of his game.  You may not agree with everything he says, but it's a lot more fun to watch one of these pictures with him, and even diehard genre fans like yours truly will gather a few nuggets along the way.

Final Grade: B+

The cast as a whole performs admirably, but it is quite possible that Jonathan Fuller's work as the titular creature is  the key to Castle Freak's success.

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