Castle Freak (1995): Drama / Horror / Mystery

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After inheriting a castle in Italy, a man moves there with his family to start anew, only to face unimaginable horrors created by an eerie and sinister presence.

Fancy watching a loosely-based-on-a-Lovecraft’s-short-story-B-movie? And by B-movie, I mean following-all-the-80s-conventions-kitschy-as-hell! Damn, that film took me back years… Castle Freak is exactly what you would and should expect from the poster above. Yes, it is that enjoyable and it’ll take you down the memory lane or will introduce you to the 80s and early 90s horror era where plotholes do not matter and mean nothing. Third collaboration between writer/director Stuart Gordon, and actors Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton after Re-aninator (1985), proving how well they perform together in front and behind the camera – all three based on Lovecraft’s stories. Crampton is a veteran in Lovecraftian adaptations and, consequently, one of my favourite actresses.

It is definitely not the best adaptation – I’ve elaborated extensively on that issue – but you may as well just watch it as a standalone. It will definitely take your mind off things and… horrifically entertain you.

Stay safe!

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Dagon (2001): Fantasy / Horror / Mystery

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After their boat sinks, a young couple finds refuge in a decadent Spanish fishing town, with half-human dwellers, and an ancient deity waiting to rise once more.

It’s been months that I wanted to write about Dagon. I first watched it in VHS in 2001 and I was left in awe. Throughout the years I forgot a lot about it though and moved on. Part of the reason is that I wasn’t the avid admirer of H.P. Lovecraft that I am now. Another part of the reason is that I didn’t “read” films the way I do now. In March, the beloved writer, producer, and director Stuart Gordon sadly passed away. Gordon was a loyal Lovecraft fan who honoured him with films such as this one, Reanimator (1985), and Castle Freak (1995) https://kgpfilmreviews.com/2020/04/19/castle-freak-1995-drama-horror-mystery/.

Ezra Godden and Raquel Mero├▒o make a brilliant on-screen couple and I for one, I can’t hide my admiration for Raquel. Also, the last film of Francisco Rabal. The location is eerie, the story is thrilling, and the plot is horrifying. Good, old-fashioned storytelling that makes Dagon a smashing adaptation of “The Shadow Over Innsmouth”. There is only one downside: The visual effects. Unfortunately, there are sequences that VFX will put you off, especially if you watch it for the first time now. My advice is to just turn the blind eye. It’s been almost 20 years and it is a low budget film. Let this one slide and get a small taste of Lovecraft’s petrifying mixture of “dream and reality”. I believe I have watched every H.P. Lovecraft adaptation to date. Beside Dagon, my top 3 are:

  1. In the Mouth of Madness (1994): https://kgpfilmreviews.com/2019/01/04/in-the-mouth-of-madness-1994-drama-horror-mystery/
  2. Color out of Space (2019): https://kgpfilmreviews.com/2020/02/07/color-out-of-space-2019-horror-sci-fi/
  3. The Lighthouse (2019): https://kgpfilmreviews.com/2020/03/03/the-lighthouse-2019-drama-fantasy-horror (veeeeery loosely / inspired by)

Underwater (2020): Action / Drama / Horror

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Following an inexplicable, devastating earthquake, the crew of an oceanic drilling company must find a way to the surface while their whole facility collapses and creatures they have never seen before are after them.

This is the first time I watch a film, feeling like starting with the second act. I mean, as if the first act has been completely edited out. I would really like to get the shooting script and see if the script faded in this way or this “innovation” took place in the cutting room. Anyway, that’s the first strike right off the bat. The film’s main problem starts before that… in Hollywood. The vast majority of Hollywood producers never truly understood H. P. Lovecraft’s vision. They never grasped what the Cthulhu Mythos is. I might be wrong here but, as kids, they never really turned the lights off and scared themselves sh*tless with his cosmic horror. As adults, they only saw his stories as the cash cow; a means to make money! And that’s why the results are such.

Lovecraft’s stories are meant to inspire fear. His creatures cannot be fought. They hunt you and they haunt you and there is nothing you can do about it other than run and pray. And even then, the denouement will most likely not favour you. My second-best Lovecraftian adaptation is Color out of Space (2019) – https://kgpfilmreviews.com/2020/02/07/color-out-of-space-2019-horror-sci-fi/ and even though there were unresolved issues, director Richard Stanley managed to conceptualise his vision. But my number one old-time favourite adaptation still remains John Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness (1994) – https://kgpfilmreviews.com/2019/01/04/in-the-mouth-of-madness-1994-drama-horror-mystery/. Only if you watch it (or if you have) you will know what I am talking about. Having said that, the visual and sound effects teams did an amazing job with the creature(s). I must admit that that was really impressive. As Jessica Henwick always is. This isn’t William Eubank’s fault. He is a brilliant director and I look forward to watching his next couple of upcoming projects – I loved The Signal (2014).

In the world of Lovecraft, there is no action. Only struggle to remain sane while desperately trying to find any way out of it.

Stay safe!

Color Out of Space (2019): Horror, Sci-Fi

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A meteorite of peculiar color, carrying a hostile living organism, strikes a secluded family farm and turns their lives into a sadistic nightmare.

What an opening scene!!! But I’m not convinced that the rest of it is how H.P. Lovecraft envisaged it. But first things first. It’s great to see the talented – yet hurt from the Industry – writer/director Richard Stanley coming back. After The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996) fiasco, Stanley strikes again and, directing-wise, the film lacks nothing. Chasing it for years, the film’s Odyssey finally came to an end when he finally found the money to finance it in early 2019. The acting is also solid. Very convincing performances add to the film’s pros and Nicolas Cage, once more, proves that no matter how many memes, trailer compilations, or other creative visual and audio fun they make out of him that he will not give two s#$%^ and will keep on being… Nicolas Cage! Every, God knows how many unknown films/flops he’s been in every year, there’ll always be this one film that will stand out and perpetuate Cage’s ongoing on and off glory.

The major con is the production’s decision to make it look like the paranoid, cult film Mandy (2018) – same production company behind it. Lovecraft’s world, the way I grew up with visualising anyway, has nothing much to do with this adaptation. The bold, exaggerated colors create a visually incoherent landscape that overshadows the narrative. But don’t take my word for it, what do I know anyway? John Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness (1993) is, arguably, the best Lovecraft adaptation out there. If you haven’t watched it, and you are a ‘Lovecraftian’ horror fan, you will fall in love with the film’s paranoia (Do you read Sutter Cane?).

Regardless, Color Out Of Space is a low budget must-watch that definitely deserves your attention. It is not commercial enough but that means nothing. Once you turn your screen off, parts of the film will keep looping in your head. What makes me happy is that, even posthumously, Lovecraft’s legacy is still alive and very rich. Which is exactly the opposite of how he died…

In the Mouth of Madness (1994): Drama / Horror / Mystery

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A cynical insurance investigator is hired by a publishing company to find a disappeared, renounced horror writer while global psychosis starts plaguing his readers worldwide.

I was a kid when I first watched it in the cinema. And then a young adult when I watched it in VHS. And here I am now, an adult, watching it in Blu-ray and feeling like a kid all over again. “In the Mouth of Madness” is one of John Carpenter’s best works, one of Sam Neil’s best performances, Michael De Luca’s best script, and, without a doubt, one of the best psychological horrors you will ever watch in your time. Fantasy and reality, sanity and insanity, pronoia and paranoia… all blend in to “bring to life” and pay tribute to H.P.Lovecraft’s horror fiction.┬áProbably the best film that has captured the essence of the abstruse and horrifying Cthulhu Mythos. I say nothing more. Turn the lights off and get sucked into madness!

H.P.Lovecraft died in poverty and only posthumously he and his works were recognised. “In the Mouth of Madness”, a homage to Lovecraft, was not a commercial success, yet today, it is a critically acclaimed horror; a classic. I am so perplexed by what makes people tick most of the times. I guess, like almost everything else in life, we only learn the hard way and only when it’s too late – if that! Because it’s so hard to see what’s in front of our eyes the whole time and appreciate it while it’s there. Same with people…

You know what? I’m gonna write the sequel and send it to New Line Cinema. F@!% it!