Castle Freak ★★★★½

Castle Freak is a movie that understands that the very heart of Gothic Horror is the horror inside every family. The failures, the recrimination, the shame, the weaknesses and the violences, both grand and petty, constitute and erode family cohesion and definition. That the mistakes made in error or fury or sadness encode themselves into the following generations, shaping their experience of the world, delimiting their potential, and setting the stage for furtherance of the family curse, which, sadly, is redundant. Castle Freak is a tale both downcast and thrilling, taking place in a storm-wracked Italian Castle inherited by a new brooding lord of the manor who carries dark burden and tumultuous emotion into this new home, his wife and daughter in tow. They are not alone in their new home (is a new house ever as vacated as anyone hopes it might be upon arrival?). What is waiting for them is a sorrow not of their making, and a reckoning therewith. Castle Freak, although nominally inspired by an H.P. Lovecraft story, finds Stuart Gordon shading more into the E.A. Poe end of the SG-Spectrum (which contains four poles: Lovecraft, Poe, Noir and Dystopian Robot) thematically and feeling-wise. Poe, I think, would have been delighted by Castle Freak's mood, setting, and overall willingness to go farther than perhaps advisable in the service of horror and pathos.