The Castle opens with four people who I think are supposed to be friends, Terry (Tevin Kunene), Mark (Shivaan Moodley), Kim (Khushi Parekh), and Alicia (Shezi Sibongiseni, Tokoloshe: An African Curse) setting up camp by the side of a dirt road. I say supposed to be friends because they seem to be four very different people and do nothing but squabble. After about fifteen minutes they go wandering in the woods and get taken out by some masked figures.
From there we cut to the wedding of Catherine (Rio Notra, Homestead) and Michael, played by Arish Sirkissoon who also happens to be The Castle’s writer and director. It’s a small wedding, just the happy couple and the priest, an elopement as we find out afterward. Her parents disapprove because of an unspecified something he did to Catherine and her sister. Whatever it was it must have been bad as her mother disowns her via text message.
Eventually, their car breaks down on a familiar-looking dirt road and they have to start walking. As night falls they see the castle ahead of them. They go in, but it seems to be abandoned. You’ll notice I said seems to be.
The Castle is Arish Sirkissoon’s first feature as a director, and his second as a writer after Tokoloshe: An African Curse. That film wasn’t great but it did have its moments, this one very quickly goes off the rails. Much of the dialogue between Catherine and Michael sounds forced and unnatural and they never come off as liking each over, let alone being in love.
Once they get to the castle itself, not much actually happens. A door opens itself and Catherine thinks she sees a masked figure. Mostly though she wanders around the huge building having flashbacks. In one of which a character says “if your mother was still alive…”, but we saw her texting her mother right after the wedding.
This is supposed to be mysterious but it’s all boring as hell. Even when the masked figures do return and Christine finds herself zip tied to a chair it doesn’t get any better. The masked figures talk in electronically deepened voices and make their plans for her clear to the audience so there’s no real mystery about what’s going on either.
““It’s always been important to me to write deep psychological thrillers that are borderline horror. In my personal view there is nothing better than a great feature with a worthy twist.”Arish Sirkissoon
Unfortunately what Mr.Sirkissoon considers a worthy twist, much of the audience will call either obvious as hell or a major cheat depending on which one we’re talking about. And if you can’t figure it out on your own don’t worry, the cultists love to give long, expository speeches. Whether it’s to somebody who should already know what he’s being told, or at another point, to a corpse.
Sadly there in’t even any exploitable elements to serve as a distraction. For a film that revolves around human sacrifice and canibalism, The Castle is nearly bloodless.No matter what happens to characters, from having their head bashed in to falling off a balcony, all we see are a few superficial scratches.
The Castle seems to have been an attempt to make an African version of the European gothic films of the 60s and 70s. Our heroine walks down endless corridors in a strange old mansion while robed cultists skulk around menacingly. But this castle has no atmosphere or sense of menace. And there’s no mystery to solve, just characters explaining it all to you.