After a pair of outlandish trips to H.P. Lovecraft-land with Re-Animator and From Beyond, director Stuart Gordon, screenwriter Dennis Paoli and actors Barbara Crampton and Jeffrey Combs went for something grimmer with 1995’s Castle Freak (with moments inspired by Lovecraft’s “The Outsider”). The story of dysfunctional married couple Susan and John Reilly, who move with their blind teenage daughter Rebecca (Jessica Dollarhide) into the ancient titular home unaware of the twisted human monster residing in its bowels, is now coming back, and Crampton’s coming with it—though not as one of the leads.
The new Castle Freak, a FANGORIA production (full disclosure: yours truly is a member of the Fango team), is being directed by Tate Steinsiek, a makeup effects artist with credits including Fango’s Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich, from a screenplay by Kathy Charles. Clair Catherine, Jake Horowitz, Chris Galust, The Eyes of My Mother’s Kika Magalhães, Emily Sweet, Elisha Pratt and Omar Brunson star, with legendary Italian composer Fabio Frizzi providing the music. “The cast of characters is completely different,” Crampton says. “It has a similar premise, but you won’t see anybody from the first film playing out the same type of situation. It’s a fresh story; there is a Rebecca and there is a John, but they’re different people. I’m not in it, Jeffrey’s not in it—no one who was in the original is going to be in it.”
Instead, the sightless Rebecca is a young woman who travels to a castle she has inherited from her long-lost mother, bringing along her boyfriend John and a group of friends. There, they fall prey to the murderous freak, who has ties to Rebecca’s family’s past. “It’s a very exciting script; Kathy did a great job, and I’m thrilled to work with Tate as a director,” Crampton says. “He’s absolutely ready to helm a feature; he’s done some short movies, and even directed additional scenes for Puppet Master. I’m excited to be working with everybody on the ground in Albania, where we’re shooting. We found a very nice castle a few hours away from Tirana, the city where we’re shooting first. Then we’re going off to the castle for the second half of our production schedule.”
Describing herself as “a creative producer” on Castle Freak, Crampton has been on the project since the beginning of its development. “There were many rewrites,” she explains, “and they asked me to give notes on the story and characters. That was really fun for me; I was able to be part of a team with Tate, Kathy and Dallas and Amanda [Sonnier and Presmyk, producers], helping everybody mold the story to the place we wanted it to go. Our goal was to ground it in a real relationship, much like the first one but with different people, and also to expand on the Lovecraft connection, so we can give fans a little something more than maybe they got in the first film. I’m going to be on set while we’re shooting, being a creative person and supporting Tate, with anything he needs me for.”
And with a makeup effects artist at the helm, this Castle Freak, like its predecessor, won’t skimp on the gore and prosthetic nastiness. “This is going to be very special effects-heavy; Tate is overseeing all that, but he’s not physically putting appliances on or doing any gags for the film,” says Crampton, who gives us the scoop on the artists involved: “We have a team that includes Ben Bornstein, who worked on Gotham and a lot of movies; Wayne Anderson from It and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom; Eric Zapata, who’s done Fear the Walking Dead; Ali Gordon of Somedevil SFX in Ireland; and Melissa Pöpsel from Belgium. FANGORIA being what it is and the brand being what it is, they want to be heavy on the gore, and that’s the direction they’re going for with the films they’re doing as they move forward; they want to give the fans a lot of splatter. So having somebody at the helm who’s a special-effects expert is a great idea. Tate also has a great story sense and a great character sense; he has many talents people haven’t seen yet that they’re going to see in this movie.”
She’s equally enthusiastic about their screenwriter. “Kathy gave us an amazing pitch for the new story, and I’ve read some of her scripts before and thought she was a very strong writer. I’ve actually asked her to do rewrites on some other stuff I have in development. In this time of giving women more of a voice in the genre, it was nice that it was a woman who was really the best person for the job. This will be the first feature she’s had produced, and I think you’re going to be hearing a lot more from Kathy.”