Hey there fiends, today’s Cineray recommendations are going to seem bizarre together. Both were released in the last year, and they are going to seem completely unrelated at first. And yet, therein lies the power of this double feature. You see, both films have surprise twists at their conclusions that tie them together. That’s right, today’s recommendations are Underwater and Castle Freak.
Underwater is a total thrill ride with a horror twist. If you remember the advertising campaign for this film, then like I did, you may think it looks like a rehash of The Abyss and other big-budget, Aquatic Horror films. But that is not the case. Underwater is a surprisingly fantastic film that is not at all what it appears at first to be.
The film follows Kristen Stewart’s character, Norah Price, an engineer on an underwater drilling expedition. When the rig the crew is on suddenly becomes compromised, Norah and a small group of survivors have to find a way to survive on the ocean floor as the rig collapses around them. The answer seems to be using special pressurized suits to walk across the ocean floor to nearby abandoned previous drilling rigs. If the dangers of deep-sea travel with darkness and pressure were not enough, it quickly becomes apparent they are not alone down there and are headed for something ominous.
This film is a rollercoaster ride with excellent production value and great tension and acting. This film was a major release by Fox, and it shows. All the sets, props, and special effects are excellent. Nothing looks cheesy or poorly made, which enhances the viewing. It does not spend much time with exposition or has the viewer questioning why the characters are acting a certain way. Any hesitation you may have as a viewer because of actors like Stewart or her co-star TJ Miller being in the film disappear quickly. Stewart is channeling Ripley, a tough woman in a desperate situation just trying to preserver, and Miller is subdued in his humor. And then there are the monsters, well I won’t go into them but suffice it to say you will not be disappointed.
Castle Freak is a remake of the Stuart Gordon film of the same name and does everything right when it comes to doing a remake. The story opens with a woman killing herself during an exercise of self-flagellation whose body is then discovered by a very twisted looking creature in rags that begins to beat the dead body. The story then cuts to Rebecca and her boyfriend John, who are involved in a bad car accident that leaves Rebecca blinded after a night of drugs and partying. John is racked with guilt as they try to rebuild their lives. They travel to Albania to see the castle Rebecca has inherited from the mother she never knew, who gave her up for adoption. Once there, Rebecca begins having visions and hearing strange sounds. John left to deal with what is going on and figure out how to sell the castle and get them home. Things get worse as they find out the realtor that contacted them was a fraud and has gone missing, and Rebecca has more dreams and visions telling her of her family history. When their friends arrive from out of town, Rebecca gets rightly jealous of a woman with them, and John retreats into the drugs and alcohol their friends have brought with them. But something sinister is lurking in the castle, and bad events are around the corner.
This film takes the familiar material from the original film and adds so much more to it. It amps up the scares of the original movie. The couple’s dysfunctional relationship adds stress in that you fear the possibility that Rebecca may have no one to aid or rescue her from the danger she is in. The castle’s titular freak is a lot more terrifying than the original, with the a disturbing increase its sexuality. The gore is intense and practically done, so for any gore fans very satisfying. And then there is the added element of mythology not present in the original. This film is also clearly made by someone who loves the original and the literature on which it was based.
Maybe the tie between these two has become apparent, but maybe, just maybe, you haven’t figured it out yet. For those that have seen one, this may have convinced you to watch both. Then again, if you still don’t get the connection, sit yourself down and watch two of the best horror movies of 2020. You will not be disappointed at all. These are both available for purchase or rent from all the usual services, or you can stream Underwater on HBOMAX and Castle Freak on Shudder.