Castle Freak (2020) follows a young woman who, following a car accident that leaves her blind, inherits her estranged mother's massive Albanian castle, only to slowly realize that someone, or something, may be lurking within the castle's walls.
Castle Freak (2020) Review
This remake of the 1995 film adaptation of the HP Lovecraft short story The Outsider creates an interesting exhibit of the remake concept that I don't believe has ever happened before. The original adaptation is only loosely based on the Lovecraft short story, and I mean very loosely based. So the remake of the adaptation had three choices...remake from the original written work, remake from the adaptation, or come up with an entirely new loose concept. Of course, the dead giveaway for the route they chose is in the title...
The original written piece is considered by many to be one of his best works, though it does lack many of the aspects that attract fans to his stories. It contains some elements of his descriptions of incomprehensible horror, but the rest reads like a first-person abhuman tale of morbid introspection. The 1995 adaptation carries virtually none of that, instead exchanging the psychological depth for generic sleazy slasher elements and a convoluted family tree mystery. But what route would the remake take?
The 2020 remake decided to pull from the film adaptation of the same name (big surprise), but moved a large chunk of the pieces around to go down a very different path. Where the adaptation was about a son who inherits an Italian castle along with his wife and blind daughter, the remake takes the setting to Albania and has the blind daughter in the lead role as a blind, recovering drug addict and sole inheritor who is joined by her also recovering boyfriend and a handful of his deadbeat friends. It doesn't sound like a huge change just shifting around a bit of the setting and rearranging the fodder, but it eventually leads to a much more insane final act that is nothing like either the adaptation or the original work.
Though this may offend the most ardent of Lovecraftian fanatics, I feel that his works, or, in particular the adaptations of his works, fall into two categories with varying branches: firstly, the visceral incarnations of the "Great Old Ones" and their minions and cultists prominent in many of his works, and secondly, the more subtle, ambiguous, and psychological aether that dominates a good portion of the rest. The Outsider falls more into the second category, where the adaptation just drops most of the Lovecraft altogether...but the remake chases the first category, hard, in its third act, which is generally where I love to be.
But despite my appreciation for the chosen route (and several moments that gruesomely act out that first category), the film's production still has quite a few struggles, some inherent in Lovecraftian adaptations and some that are just prevalent in poorly made films. The common Lovecraftian issues come in the form of a cheesiness/sleaziness that pervades the production. I feel this common in almost every adaptation, including the cult hits like Reanimator, In the Mouth of Madness, From Beyond, and The Color Out of Space. It's not something I find prevalent in his works, but it almost suspiciously invades every Lovecraftian film. And while this has become something that one simply lives with (or has grown to appreciate with some kind of "it's an acquired taste" logic), the rest of the production is just...not good.
As a film that takes a long time to get going, it is heavily dependent on strong acting and writing, which it has neither. The first two acts cause a barrage of yawns and scoffs as we must deal with a recently-blind woman trying to navigate an unknown castle with a grotesque peeping tom in the walls, a self-centered "why is this guy still around" boyfriend, and even more poorly constructed friends that fill the void of any conventional B-horror movie. The concoction leads to too many regurgitated scenes, but not ones from the short story or adaptation, but from just traditional horror tropes.
But the third act nearly makes up for it. Though the poor acting, directing, and writing is still prevalent, we at least get a glimpse into some morbid creativity as the makers completely break away from anything related to the source materials and goes full-freak. It's disgusting, raunchy, and disturbing, which I approach with varying degrees of admiration and repulsion. But as a fan of horror in all its forms, I at least appreciate the attempt to create something downright nasty and unexpected. And despite the innumerable flaws, this film at least attempts that to some degrees of success.
Horror Rating System
Horror Qualifier: 9/10 Horror Quality: 7/10 Film Quality: 3/10