THE LAST DRIVE-IN IS BACK BABY! And this time it’s every Friday on Shudder. Unfortunately, I totally forgot and so ended up watching one of the flicks this past week instead of live on Friday night. As ya’ll know, the only thing I’m consistent with is my inconsistency. SO….without further nonsense...let’s talk about CASTLE FREAK!
This is why I love The Last Drive-In because it always shows films I’ve never heard of, or never seen, or heard of but couldn’t find. And Castle Freak for me was one I’d never heard of. And now I love it! What a freakin’ fun ride that was…
Directed by Stuart Gordon and loosely based on The Outsider by H.P. Lovecraft, Castle Freak was originally released in 1995 direct-to-video.
We open on an old woman going about her morning - making breakfast, puttering around her castle, feeding her cats, whipping a “freak” in the dungeon who’s chained up. And then she goes upstairs and dies. THAT’S HOW THIS MOVIE STARTS! I’m already freakin’ hooked. Cut to a family being driven to the castle. Turns out the woman that died was a Duchess, and this american family are her only living relatives. They had no idea she existed but now they’ve inherited this 150 room castle and everything inside. That includes a deformed man chained up in the basement who takes a very strong interest in the young daughter, breaks out, and torments the family.
What I loved about this story was actually how much it touched upon grief and how it can destroy a family. John, the father (Jeffrey Combs), was an alcoholic who drove drunk one night, crashing the car. In doing so he killed his 5 year old son, JJ, and blinded his teenager daughter, Becky (Jessica Dollarhide). His wife, Susan (Barbara Crampton) cannot forgive him. They spend much of the film at odds with each other, Susan lashing out and cementing the guilt that John already feels. John is clearly doing all the right steps - quitting drinking, giving his wife space, moving them to a strange giant castle in Italy, but you can see him still struggling. He’s frustrated that the grief isn’t moving on. And I think we can all relate to that - we’re doing the right things, we’re talking about our problems, taking medication, yet you still feel like shit. The healing process is a long one. I loved that this movie didn’t shy away from that.
I also loved Barbara Crampton, because who doesn’t? But her character Suzie was so wonderful in this flick. For most of the movie she’s hovering over her recently blinded daughter keeping an eye on her, pun intended. And when she’s not doing that she’s slapping and yelling at her husband. But when John becomes absolutely useless (hooking up with a prostitute, drinking himself into a stupor, and getting arrested) Suzie takes over. In the final climax as the “freak” kidnaps Becky and tries to do unspeakable things to her, it’s Suzie who runs and saves her, who helps them escape. Granted, the final take-down of the “freak” is done by John, but even that makes sense for the plot. John finally gets his redemption, his final act is saving his family, something he didn’t manage the first time around.
Since this was a Joe Bob watch-along, Joe Bob cuts in quite a few times to share some fascinating facts and also to conduct an interview with the Queen herself, Barbara Crampton.
The two of them speak highly of Jonathan Fuller who plays the “freak” or as John discovers, his half-brother Giorgio. The two commend him for acting through all the heavy makeup and prosthetic. And I absolutely agree. He could’ve easily phoned it in and just wandered around letting the makeup speak for itself. But instead he uses it as a tool and completely throws himself into the role. And this makes the movie so much better. The “freak” becomes that much more real and scary. But you also find yourself at times feeling sorry for him. When he sees himself in a mirror for the first time, or when he tries to show Becky a photo of what he used to look like, and then realizes she’s blind. There’s so much emotion conveyed through the blood and drool and mangled dick. As Joe Bob says, “it’s a three-dimensional monster”.
We also learned that Crampton is producing a remake of this flick. It’s been written by a female and will have more lovecraftian elements. I’m so excited about this and can’t wait to hear more in the future!
Overall, Castle Freak was a really fun watch and something I wouldn’t have known about if not for The Last Drive-In. I would absolutely recommend this flick and would watch it again.
AMC Networks’ SHUDDER is a premium streaming video service, super-serving fans of all degrees with the best selection in genre entertainment, covering horror, thrillers and the supernatural. SHUDDER’s expanding library of film, TV series, and originals is available in the US, Canada, UK, Ireland, and Germany on most streaming devices for 4.99/month or 49.99/year. To experience SHUDDER commitment-free for 7 days, visit shudder.com
Want more great movie recommendations and reviews? Just search below!