When it comes to horror films, the idea of remaking a property is nothing new. Classics like Nightmare On Elm Street have even fallen victim to the remake treatment. However, some films can benefit from a remake. This can be because it was in need of a script rewrite or deserved to be retold when visual effects became more advanced. And the latter definitely applies to Castle Freak.
Castle Freak follows a woman who, after becoming blind from a car accident, discovers that she has inherited a castle in Albania. However, as she and her boyfriend discover, there’s another resident living in the castle and there’s may be more to her past than she realized.
Produced by horror icon Barbara Crampton (You’re Next, Re-Animator) and a directorial debut from special effects artist Tate Steinsiek (The Amazing Spiderman, Satanic Panic), Castle Freak is a retelling of the 1995 film that is based on the short story The Outsider by H.P.Lovecraft. And, aside from a couple of familiar names and the basic plot of someone living inside the castle, the 2020 version gives the Lovecraft story a fresh new look.
The first noticeable difference between this retelling and the 1995 original is the lead cast. While the original film saw a man and his family inherit the castle, the remake centres around a young woman, Rebecca, and her boyfriend John. And it’s Rebecca (played by Clair Catherine) who inherits the castle from her mother, whom she learns more about via visions and dreams throughout the film. Out of all the characters, Rebecca is the most interesting one. The decision to make her blind right at the start is a choice that is not only rarely seen in films, but also adds an unexpected layer of tension and fear when the plot fully unravels and she tries to tell her boyfriend that she can hear strange sounds within the walls. And, while her boyfriend John (played by Jake Horowitz) is the sole reason for her disability, he goes from someone who feels guilt over the accident to someone who goes back to his old lifestyle of drink, drugs and paranoia. And, despite their differing personalities, they both work fantastically together.
While the two lead actors carry the film, their friends, who serve as the side characters, are the stereotypical partying teenagers (aside from one friend who is only known as ‘The Professor’) and are the weakest aspect of the film. They aren’t given much character development and are also not given much screen time. And, while some films achieve this same technique successfully, in this case, it felt like these characters could’ve been given more time to develop. However, it can’t be denied that, by the end of the film, the surreal conclusion feels strangely satisfying.
It could be argued that another character in Castle Freak are the practical effects. Because this was directed by a special effects artist, care has been taken to make sure the effects look fantastic and gruesome…and they definitely are! And, even though most of the scenes showing off the impressive work are set during night-time, enough light is shed on the characters/subject to make the, often phallic, effects perfectly visible (I never thought I’d see so many tentacles placed there, but here we are!).
Overall, Castle Freak is a suitable retelling of the 1995 film. The lead cast are fantastic, but the effects and atmosphere are where the film really shines. The film benefits massively from being directed by Tate Steinsiek, as attention to detail is taken when it came to the gross effects. Even I looked away a few times, but that only demonstrates the impressive work put into it. Sometimes remakes are unnecessary and sometimes films can be given new life by a remake. The latter is rare, but when done right, can be extremely satisfying and I think Castle Freak fits that category, despite its gross visuals at times.
Castle Freak is now available on VOD in the US and available digitally in the UK and Ireland on 7 December 2020.