Recommended as one of the creepiest and overall strangest straight-to-video horrors out there. While it is most certainly that, the film is also among the most unnecessarily uncomfortable horror movies I've ever seen. For those who know me well, my taste in horror is very specific, and this stands as a good example of something I really DON'T like.
Loosely based on the H.P. Lovecraft story 'The Outsider', 'Castle Freak' tells the story of a man named John Reilly (Jeffrey Combs) who inherits a 12th century castle that once belonged to a famous Dutchess.
John, his wife, Susan (Barbara Crampton) and his blind daughter, Rebecca (Jessica Dollarhide) travel to Italy to visit the castle, but unbeknownst to them all, a boy named Giorgio (Jonathan Fuller) has been held captive for years, being tortured and malnourished to the point of becoming a "monster" of sorts. He breaks free from his shackles (pretty grotesquely) upon realizing there's a pretty girl there now. Much of the rest of the film plays on the insecurity of Rebecca. Not only does she have this perverse oddity stalking her, but she also has to deal with her parents not believing her that there's someone else wandering the castle.
And yeah, Giorgio is one of those ultimately uncomfortable and perverse creatures who plays more on the intimidation of perverse, creepy guys in general and just how we see them. Now, imagine Jabba the Hutt's gross tongue, licking his chops at Leia in her slave outfit and multiply that by about 50. There are some brutal scenes in here, all of which just make you wonder what the hell the writers were thinking. Let's just say Giorgio enjoys eating certain things, and it provides us with that unnecessary shock horror I despise so much. It becomes a simple matter of making the audience squirm.
In reality, however, the overall concept is actually pretty clever. One could still make a perfectly uncomfortable movie that plays on the same themes without the amount of gore that gets dished out. I thought it had promise, but I was mostly just dreading what gross-out horror I was gonna have to see next. I always have and always will hate torture porn in horror, and this plays on that quite a bit.
All the while there's also a mistrust between Susan and John, as John got the family into a car accident (typical) while drunk, killing their 5-year-old son, and causing Rebecca's blindness. So why they're still together and struggling though their marriage is a bit of a mystery, but much like 'The Shining', the film also uses John's weaknesses to help fuel events.
The real bother of this, however, is the idea of it being loosely based on 'The Outsider', which is a far better story altogether. In that, the "castle freak" is a sympathetic creature, much more like Frankenstein. If you have the opportunity, it's probably well-worth the read (I had to Google it, but feel like I want to read it now). This film is just something made to gross us out, and while it's effective, the type of horror here is something I find incredibly cheap. Between that, and butchering a story by Lovecraft, I don't have much respect for this one. It's simply uncomfortable grossness.