CASTLE FREAK: Remake Adds More Lovecraftian Charm

Castle Freak, directed by Tate Steinsiek and written by Kathy Charles, updates the story built from bits and pieces of Lovecraft‘s The Outsider and The Rats in the Walls for Stuart Gordon‘s 1995 film. This remake strives in its Lovecraftian lore, updates to the central story, and visual effects, but the film had the potential to be a better, and more fun ride than what comes through in the final product.

The film follows Rebecca (Clair Catherine), a woman who recently went blind, as she moves into a castle she inherited from her mother. Her boyfriend John (Jake Horowitz) joins her on this journey, only because he thinks they can sell the castle and antiques within it for a quick profit. Once this does not come to fruition, his loyalty wavers.

Lovecraftian Lore

Castle Freak brings more of a Lovecraftian focus in this update, even if the story is not any closer to the source of the short stories. Bringing in lore and themes that permeate his other works breathes new life into this remake. By bringing the Necronomicon and discussions of opening gates to other worlds through sisterly bonds, the film feels more connected to what audiences expect from adaptations of Lovecraft‘s work.

CASTLE FREAK: Remake Adds More Lovecraftian Charm
source: RLJE Films

The story changes some key factors, such as the titular ‘castle freak’ now being a woman. This is an interesting change, and I appreciate how this works into the backstory, but not enough is done with this throughout the film.

Some of my favorite aspects of the film came in its final act, with all the bubbling up lore finally coming to fruition in bright neon shades of purple and pink. The sky takes on an otherworldly and beautiful hue, and we see creatures and hear words spoken from the Necronomicon. The film ends with a startling and intense image that brings to mind visual effects of 90s horror — in a wonderful and playful way — making me excited to see what this filmmaker does in the future.

Rebecca’s boyfriend has the personality and motives of a cartoon villain, but it feels fitting. Watching him ask if they can sell the Necronomicon brings this into clear focus, and makes his character that much more fun to watch.

Veers Too Far From Its Story

One issue I had with Castle Freak is how often it veers off into moments of voyeurism for its frights, and these scenes do not feel like they are meant to scare as much as showcase that these characters are sexually active. My problem with this isn’t so much the sexual actions of the scenes, but how they feel in regards to the rest of the film.

CASTLE FREAK: Remake Adds More Lovecraftian Charm
source: RLJE Films

Using an intimate moment between characters to lower their guard can work, and it does in Rebecca’s dreams, but Castle Freak relies on this too much. Some of these moments in the film work well, but the overuse makes even the strong moments feel less effective than they could be.

The film builds interesting dynamics and I like how we learn about Rebecca’s backstory through all these different storytelling means, but the pacing feels off. Too much time passes before we see any huge moment with the freak. This might work if we are shown more moments where Rebecca has more positive interactions with this titular monster, but I was left waiting. Once she killed a drug dealer and addict in the castle’s tunnels, the film started to pick up, and I looked forward to seeing her in action again.

Dreams and Visions

Castle Freak does a good job of establishing the backstory of Rebecca through her dreams, nightmares, and waking visions of her mother. The exposition of Rebecca’s connections with the so-called freak also feels natural.

While Rebecca and her friend, who goes by Professor (Chris Galust), read and learn about Rebecca’s past and the way this connects to the Lovecraftian lore we know, we are learning alongside them. The exposition being tossed back and forth between the characters doesn’t feel forced because we see how the discoveries impact each person differently, and challenge their worldviews.

CASTLE FREAK: Remake Adds More Lovecraftian Charm
source: RLJE Films

Castle Freak builds its story through these visions and moments of discovery, and these are some of the strongest in the film. The visuals in these sequences feature rich and intense colors, mirroring the shades of red found in the dresses and robes Rebecca finds in her mother’s wardrobe. The world in these visions is more textured and interesting in its color scheme and lighting.


Castle Freak is an interesting update to a familiar horror film and manages to add more of the Lovecraftian influence back into the world. The visual effects and use of this well-known lore paint the film in rich, and memorable colors, especially in its final act. I look forward to more work from this director and writer, and the after-credits moment is a nice teaser to the potential of more reboots to come.

Castle Freak is available On Demand and is currently streaming on Shudder. 

Do you like the 1995 Castle Freak? If so, are you interested in seeing this update? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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