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Up-and-coming rocker Johnny (Jasper Steverlinck) is summoned to the castle of his recently deceased mother (Kyoko Baertsoen), a famous yet reclusive singer who left Johnny’s family when he was three. When Johnny enters he finds that the castle is alive, populated by the demon Mephisto, his boss Mr. D (both voiced by Harry Shearer) and thousands of tortured souls. Johnny is made an offer, one that his mother before him accepted: to sign away his soul in return for fame and fortune.

This being a giant-screen 3D spectacular, don’t expect much in the way of plot or performance. The story is Faust for the MTV generation, with a street-talkin’ Mephisto getting down with the big man Mr. D in a dumbed down battle for Johnny’s soul. We’re here for physical sensation rather than intellectual stimulation and the action is from the "It’s coming right at us!" school, with bats, skulls and other staples of the fairground ghost train bouncing out of the film and into our laps.

Stassen makes full use of the multi-story canvas, filling the screen with the cavernous interiors of the castle and sending us on a rollercoaster ride (literally, it’s how Mephisto likes to get around) through the seven circles of hell—one of which appears to be reserved for opera singers. Most of the action takes place from Johnny’s point of view, so the camera movement makes your body sway as well as turning you cross eyed. The CGI images, into which live actors are occasionally inserted, look the part. The filmmakers seem to have paid extra attention to textures to encourage the audience to reach out and touch the picture.

We all know that the Devil has all the best music, but it took Haunted Castle to inform me that he’s partial to the didgeridoo as well. Steverlinck (a Michael Hutchense lookalike and Jeff Buckley soundalike) may not have been chosen for his acting talent, but his band, Arid, aren’t bad—especially considering that Belgian rock’s family tree is more sapling then redwood. Take your earplugs for the Verdi-scored finale, though. Former Spinal Tap star Harry Shearer must have advised the sound designer to turn it up to eleven.
Stuart Whitmore

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CAST: Jasper Steverlinck, Kyoko Baertsoen, Harry Shearer

DIRECTOR: Ben Stassen

PRODUCER: Caroline Van Iseghem, Charlotte Huggins

SCRIPT: Ben Stassen, Kurt Frey (additional dialogue)

SOUND DESIGN: Pierre Lebecque, Yves Renard, Vincent De Bast

ART DIRECTOR: Anthony Huerta

MUSIC: Arid, Lunascape, Metal Molly

RUNNING TIME: 40 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 13, 2001 (Melbourne/Brisbane), September 20, 2001 (Sydney/Adelaide)

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