BARE BONES: CASTLE FREAK (2020)

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CASTLE FREAK (2020)

Flick is a remake of Stuart Gordon and Full Moon’s 1995 cult classic of the same name. Updated story has Rebecca (Clair Catherine), who was recently blinded in an accident, inheriting her estranged mother’s (Kika Magalhães) castle in Albania. She travels there with her boyfriend John (Jake Horowitz), who seems to see his girlfriend’s new inheritance as his own personal gain. They not only find that her family was involved with some bizarre cult activity, but that there may be someone…or something…still living in the castle walls. So, of course, they invite their friends over to party.

Remake tries to do something a little different with Stuart Gordon and Dennis Paoli’s original story by giving the freak a more Lovecraftian origin and make it a female this time. There is some very well rendered gore and some viciously violent scenes, but a lot of this effort is undone by Tate Steinsiek’s very by-the-numbers approach. Kathy Charles’ script tries to maintain enough of the original’s storyline to pay it homage and yet be more it’s own thing by adding the cult past, Lovecraft-like elements and the creature’s link to both an ancient evil and Rebecca. For the most part she is successful, but it’s Steinsiek’s pedestrian directing that makes this flick a tedious watch despite some delightfully gory, goofy and gross moments. The castle and Albanian settings are atmospheric, though, to be honest, the young cast inhabiting them are rather bland. Add to that the flick is ten to fifteen minutes too long and could have been a tight 90 minutes without loosing anything important, and you have a close but no cigar attempt at updating, and improving upon, a cult classic. Though, IMO, the original is more unpleasant than anything else. At least this version has a cool score by the legendary Fabio Frizzi! Streaming on Shudder if you are interested and, if so, watch through the credits as apparently, they are considering tampering with another Gordon classic.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE EYES OF MY MOTHER (2016)

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THE EYES OF MY MOTHER (2016)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

This is a really unnerving flick from writer/director Nicolas Pesce. It tells the story of young Francisca (Olivia Boand) who lives isolated on a farm with her father and mother (Paul Nazak and Diana Agostini), her mother being a former surgeon who shares her skills with her daughter, using the animals. When a man (Will Brill) enters their home under the pretense of using their bathroom, he murders her mother practically before Francisca’s eyes. Instead of calling the police, her father imprisons the man in the barn and Francisca uses her surgical knowledge on the demented individual. As Francisca grows to adulthood (Kika Magalhaes), she also grows lonely and seeks company, but the events of her childhood have given her methods of providing companionship for herself that are disturbing to say the least.

Filmed in sumptuous black and white this is an artsy, but atmospheric and really disturbing horror flick from Nicolas Pesce in his feature debut. He conjures some really unsettling imagery and sequences, as we watch the emotionally disturbed girl become a very unhinged and dangerous woman, who likes to keep ‘friends’ in the barn and hacks up anyone who doesn’t want to stay. The film isn’t overly gory and certainly is not torture porn, because it smartly lets us use our own imaginations to picture what the disturbed Francisca is doing. It’s a lot more disturbing when we conjure her actions in our heads. Pesce does still give us some very unsettling things to see, such as the now adult woman cradling her dead father’s body in the bathtub and her eerie behavior around a young woman (Clara Wong) she brings home from a bar. There are numerous cringe worthy scenes here and while we get some decent bloodshed, most of the violence is left up to us to imagine and Pesce gives us plenty of reasons to set our imaginations running. The black and white cinematography by Zach Kuperstein only makes the film even creepier and there is an atmosphere adding score by Ariel Loh.

As for his star, both young Olivia Boand and Kika Magalhaes both do great jobs in bringing the unhinged Francisca to life. Both actresses create a women who thinks what she is doing is right and natural and has no idea that she is actually a very emotionally disturbed person. Kidnapping, torment, murder is just part of her social interact with others. She just wants someone to care about and will go to any length to get it. Will Brill plays Charlie, the man who kills her mother and successfully does the job of being both serial killer and sympathetic victim. Good work. Paul Nazak and Diana Agostini are suitably odd as her parents and Clara Wong is very sympathetic as Kimiko, the ill-fated women Francisca brings home for ‘company’.

Nicolas Pesce’s debut is one of the best and most disturbing horrors of the year. It is loaded with creepy atmosphere and some very disturbing sequences and imagery. It presents a simple story of a young woman who grows up isolated on a farm with a very unsettling slant to social and emotional behavior. The actors all present their characters well and the director feeds us just enough to let our imaginations conjure the worst. A very effective and extremely unsettling film.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 eyes.

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