Horrorfest 2020 Presents: The Pit & the Pendulum (1991, Stuart Gordon)


Look I didn’t hate Stuart Gordon’s take on the Edgar Allan Poe classic story, mostly because it is more close to the original tale than some of the other adaptations. My problem is that the 1960s version with Vincent Price is so cool this one feels unnecessary. Lance Henriksen hams it up so much that he manages to overshadow the rest of the cast. It was odd seeing Jeffrey Combs being the straight man in this flick, and I chuckled when he apologized to a witch for not having time to torture her properly. After all, no torture, no confession and then the Inquisition looks bad or something.

The other problem with this film is that the leads are really bland and I didn’t care about them at all. Oh and Oliver Reed pops up for a short cameo because he probably had nothing better to do. I gave this film a passing grade because the sword fights were neat and it does somewhat cover the horrors of the time period. Coming from a good director like Gordon it is disappointing yet I still have liked the other ones I’ve seen from him so far.

Horrorfest 2016 Presents: Castle Freak (1995, Stuart Gordon)


How to know you’re in a horror movie: you have been blinded in a car accident, your parents are played by¬†Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton, and Combs’ haunted ex professor is moving the family into a huge Italian castle. This is Stuart Gordon’s Castle Freak, an exercise in slow burning fear that, although a bit too slow, is still creepy and entertaining.

I mean you have a movie where a deranged monster escapes and the family hangs around, because…why not? Sure later on they can’t leave but the minute I found out the castle had a rather serious issue I would be running far, far away. Yet when the blind daughter, played by¬†Jessica Dollarhide, tells her parents someone is in the castle they dismiss her as hearing things. The fact that her parents are fighting only complicates things and adds to more problems later on.

One thing I like about Gordon’s work so far (I’ve seen his two other Lovecraft inspired films from the 80s) is that he embodies his movies with a sense of dread, plus gore. The creature effects here are nasty and brutal enough, and the last act is suspenseful. Despite its flaws Castle Freak is a solid entry in the “Don’t go in the house” type of movie, which by the 90s seemed to be on life support for some reason.

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