The Outsider (1921) and Castle Freak (1995)

Social Icons

twitter facebook google plus linkedin rss feed email

Pages

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Outsider (1921) and Castle Freak (1995)

In the documentary “Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown (2009)” Lovecraft wrote in various correspondences to other authors in his literary circle that he felt his own writing at various points in his career was just imitating the writing styles of other authors he personally respected.  He would refer to his early writings as his “Poe stories” or certain pieces from the middle of his career as his “Robert Chambers stories”, only believing he started writing “Lovecraft stories” toward the end of his life.  The Outsider would be one of these he felt was written in his own style and also one of my personal favorites.  When read now the subject matter and ending would be considered cliché but when it was written it was fresh and a complete surprise for the reader.  It is also written in such a way that makes the progression from first page to last an adventure,  Lovecraft’s ability to paint a picture is at an all time high in this story.

"The Outsider" is a short story written between March and August 1921, it was first published in Weird Tales, April 1926.  In this work, a mysterious man who has been living alone in a castle for as long as he can remember decides to break free in search of human contact and light.  "The Outsider" is one of Lovecraft's most commonly reprinted works and is also one of the most popular stories ever to be published in Weird Tales.  It combines Horror, Fantasy, and Gothic Fiction to create a nightmarish story, containing themes of loneliness, the abhuman (see below), and the afterlife.

"The Outsider" is written in the first-person narrative style and details the miserable and apparently lonely life of an individual who appears to have never had contact with another individual. The story begins with this narrator explaining his origins. His memory of others is vague, and he cannot seem to recall any details of his personal history, including who he is or where he is from. The narrator tells of his environment: a dark, decaying castle amid an "endless forest" of high, lightless trees. He has never seen natural light, nor another human being, and he has never ventured from the prison-like home he inhabits. The only knowledge the narrator has of the outside world is from his reading of the "antique books" that line the walls of his castle.

The narrator tells of his eventual determination to free himself from what he sees as an existence within a prison. He decides to climb the ruined staircase of the high castle tower that seems to be his only hope for an escape. At the place where the stairs terminate into crumbled ruin, the narrator begins a long, slow climb up the tower wall, until he eventually finds a trapdoor in the ceiling, which he pushes up and climbs through. Amazingly, he finds himself not at the great height he anticipated, but at ground level in another world. With the sight of the full moon before him, he proclaims, "There came to me the purest ecstasy I have ever known." Overcome with the emotion he feels in beholding what—until now—he had only read about, the narrator takes in his new surroundings. He realizes that he is in an old churchyard, and he wanders out into the countryside before eventually coming upon another castle.

Upon coming to the castle that he finds "maddeningly familiar," the narrator sees a gathering of people at a party within. Longing for some type of human contact, he climbs through a window into the room. Upon his entering, the people inside become terrified. They scream and collectively flee from the room, many stumbling blindly with their hands held over their eyes toward the walls in search of an exit. As the narrator stands alone in the room with the screams of the party vanishing into far away echoes, he becomes frightened at what must be lurking near him. He walks around the room searching for what might be hidden in the shadows but finds nothing. As he moves towards one of the rooms alcoves, he detects a presence and approaches it slowly.

I cannot even hint what it was like, for it was a compound of all that is unclean, uncanny, unwelcome, abnormal, and detestable. It was the ghoulish shade of decay, antiquity, and dissolution; the putrid dripping eidolon of unwholesome revelation, the awful baring of that which the merciful earth should always hide. God knows it was not of this world – or no longer of this world – yet to my horror I saw in its eaten-away and bone-revealing outlines a leering, abhorrent travesty of the human shape; and in its mouldy, disintegrating apparel an unspeakable quality that chilled me even more. (Lovecraft)

In his shock and surprise, he loses his balance and touches the creature. Horrified, he runs from the building back to his castle, where he tries unsuccessfully to crawl back through the grate into his old world. Cast out of his old existence, the narrator now rides with the "mocking and friendly ghouls on the night wind," forever and officially an outsider since the moment he stretched his fingers towards the creature in the darkness and felt nothing but the "cold and unyielding surface of polished glass," signifying he had touched a mirror.

Prior to telling of how he discovered that the monster was, in fact, himself, the narrator explains that he fled to a valley of the Nile in Egypt, where he exists alongside other outsiders - presumably undead, like himself - and even enjoys something of a social life (for example, a feast beneath one of the Pyramids), although he describes how "nepenthe has calmed me", hinting that he is still trying to forget his haunted past.


  • Actors: Jeffrey Combs, Barbara Crampton, Jonathan Fuller, Jessica Dollarhide, Massimo Sarchielli
  • Directors: Stuart Gordon
  • Writers: Stuart Gordon, Dennis Paoli
  • Producers: Albert Band, Charles Band, Maurizio Maggi
  • Format: Color, Full Screen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround)
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Full Moon Entertainment
  • VHS Release Date: November 14, 1995
  • DVD Release Date: December 16, 1997
  • Run Time: 95 minutes
  • Castle Freak is a 1995 American horror film directed by Stuart Gordon, slightly based upon the short story “The Outsider” by H. P. Lovecraft.  It was released direct to video on 14 November 1995.  The film contains elements of splatter and slasher films.

    After inheriting a 12th-century castle which belonged to a famed Duchess, John Reilly and his family, including his wife Susan and their blind teenage daughter Rebecca, travel to Italy to live.  Susan blames him for the death of their son in a motor drunk driving accident which killed his five-year-old son and cost their daughter her eyesight.

    On the advice of the estate's executor, the three plan to stay at the castle until they can liquidate the estate.  Little do they know, however, that a horrible, freakish monster has been kept locked away in the basement. Unbeknownst to them, the duchess' son, Giorgio Orsino, who was kept imprisoned and tortured by the duchess in revenge for her husband leaving her, still lives in the dungeons of the castle.

    Soon, the disfigured beast has escaped by means of breaking off his own thumb to get out of the manacles which bind him.  The only reference to the H.P. Lovecraft story occurs when the monster beholds his hideous reflection in a mirror.  He has emerged hungry for blood, leading to a series of unexplained deaths and disappearances including that of a prostitute John has picked up and brought to the castle after being rejected by his wife.

    When the police name John their prime suspect, he must find the true murderer before he or his family becomes the next victim.  Along the way, he must not only battle the creature itself but overcome demons from his own guilty past.

    The prostitute is sexually mutilated and killed by the monster, who also prowls around the bedroom of the terrified Rebecca, who can hear, but not see, him.  The monster later kills one of the policemen investigating the castle, as well as the maid who lives at the castle and finds the prostitute's body.  Eventually he abducts Rebecca and she is manacled in his old cell.  Susan comes to the rescue and manages to stab the monster and rescue Rebecca but the monster survives his wound and continues to attack Rebecca and Susan.

    John starts putting together some of the weird things he’s been discovering around the castle and realizes that the Freak is actually his brother, and it was his mother that chained him up and tortured him all of his life because her husband abandoned her for America.  John must now save himself and his family from this castle's unknown inhabitant before the "castle freak" has his way with them.  A climactic rooftop battle between John and the monster ensues, ending in tragedy.


    The Abhuman - In Gothic Fiction, abhuman refers to a "Gothic body" or something that is only vestigially human and possibly in the process of becoming something monstrous, such as a vampire, werewolf, or in this case a walking corpse.  Kelly Hurley writes that the "abhuman subject is a not-quite-human subject, characterized by its morphic variability, continually in danger of becoming not-itself, becoming other."

    The idea of "becoming other" parallels what is happening in this story. The intensity of the process is heightened because the reader is learning of this transition from human to the abhuman right along with the narrator who is learning it himself.


    Related Articles:

    Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

    Friends of MMTV

    TDIH