“ Genre: Science Fiction & Fantasy - Fantasy / Theatrical Release: 1988 / Director: John Hough / Actors: Rod Steiger, Yvonne De Carlo ... / DVD released 28 September, 2004 at Trinity Home Entertainment / Features of the DVD: Colour, DVD-Video, NTSC „
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I wasn't expecting a lot from American Gothic seeing as how I paid just £1 for my copy from the pound shop. If you want to buy it online, it's still pretty cheap at only £3.98 from Amazon. The full retail price is £5.99 so whereever you buy this from it's not going to cost you a lot.
This film is surprisingly good just because it's so bad. If you like weird and wonderful horror thriller films, then you might just like this. The story is all about a group of relatively young folk (in their twenties and thirties I'd guess) crashing their plane on a remote island. There they meet Ma and Pa, along with Ma and Pa's awfully unusual brood including the extremely creepy daughter Fanny - a 40yr old woman dressed as a 12yr old who likes playing with dolls all day.
There is something really not right about the island, but to find out just what, you'll have to watch the film of course. I will say though that it isn't exactly the island that's the issue so much as the people who live on it. I like it that way because it makes it a bit more realistic. I'm never a big fan when low budget films like this take a shot at dipping into new fantasy ideas, so I'm glad this has mostly been avoided here.
Despite the fact that this is a pretty cheesy, cheap thrills horror movie (expect blood and guts galore in places), the acting is actually pretty reasonable. Most of the characters are believable, and I found myself following the film very easily.
The only thing I wasn't too sure about was the dialogue in places, and that's surely down to a slightly poor script writer. The reactions between the characters wasn't very realistic in places, and it was at those times that I was reminded of just how cheap a film I was watching. I often thought that the responses from the crash victims towards the weird Ma and Pa characters just wasn't right in particular.
The storyline is original though, and even though you can guess exactly what's coming most of the time, it doesn't make it any less shocking when it actually does happen. There are some great special effects in this film, and I'm sure it'll really appeal to gore and thrill seekers above everyone else. For anything less than a fiver, this is worth a watch if you're a fan of horror films.
A group of young people are accidentally stranded on an island somewhere in the Pacific. They are delighted to meet a seemingly friendly couple, who offer to help them fix their seaplane. Then they meet the couple's children - Fanny, Woody and Teddy - and it becomes clear that the family are completely mad. Even worse, one of the friends is killed after an apparent accident on a swing. The others decide that they have to get away from the family, and the island, as soon as they possibly can. But without the help of the family, who are the only inhabitants of the island, is there any hope for the group?
Made back in 1988 (and also known as Hide and Shriek!), this is a typical eighties horror in that acting and the story are not the important parts of the film - it is the constant action and murdering that keep the viewer watching. The acting really is atrocious, to the extent that it is actually highly amusing. The main character is probably Cynthia, played by Sarah Torgov. She isn't too bad an actress, but is quite annoying as a character because she literally stands and watches as some of her friends are butchered, apparently too scared to do anything. However, having lost a baby a while before, she does elicit a bit of sympathy, at least from me. The rest of her 'friends' are virtually faceless - I certainly can't really remember any of their names and in any case, their performances were universally dire in the extreme.
The strange family are hilarious. The parents, known simply as Ma and Pa, are played by Yvonne De Carlo and Rod Steiger. De Carlo is initially a motherly sort and, even when it is clear that she is as mad as a hatter, she still clearly loves her kids. Rod Steiger's character is a rather frightening religious nut - Steiger probably gives the best performance, although quite why he ever became involved with this film, I don't really know. This is certainly not the highlight of his long career! Fanny, Woody and Teddy are played by Janet Wright, Michael J Pollard and William Hootkins. They are a combination of hilarious and really creepy. Janet Wright is particularly good (or bad) as Fanny - she is a baby-like adult who is apparently the kindest one of the family. The two sons are just very strange, but they fit well into the general madness of the film.
This is far from being an original story; I've seen dozens just like it (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre for starters). Yet in some ways, it is one of the better ones that I've seen - provided that you have a sense of humour and don't mind your horror being a little bit comic. It has been more or less universally panned on imdb.com, but I rather enjoyed it. It is so silly at times that it is impossible to guess what is going to happen next and I really liked that - usually, it is completely obvious which way the story is going to go. In this case, I couldn't have guessed the ending if I'd tried! It probably is only going to appeal to a very select audience though - those that like cheesy eighties horror films. I think what I most enjoyed about it was that it took place on an island and there was no-one around to help them - that is always the best kind of horror for me because they seem doomed from the start.
There is a great deal of violence in the film, as can be expected from a horror, but it isn't really all that graphic - much of it is left to the viewer's imagination. There are some nasty shots of dead bodies, but the special effects and make-up really isn't all that great, so it is hard to take them too seriously. The deaths are certainly interesting - there is one involving a swing, another with knitting needles and yet another one with a skipping rope! There is a rating of 18 on the film; I would say this is probably too high - I think a 15 would have been just fine. However, that is mainly because of the humour and I can understand that some parents wouldn't want their children to see the combination of horror and humour. If concerned, then you should most definitely check it out in advance.
Production-wise, the film is a lot better than I expected. For a budget horror, the picture is surprisingly sharp and although the setting isn't exactly luxurious, I felt that director, John Hough, made the most of what he had. There were certainly some lovely sea views, which fitted in well with the horror of what was going on in-land. And I loved the crazy house that Ma, Pa and the 'kids' lived in, complete with porch and nasty cellar, it was the perfect house for this type of horror. Finally, the wooded area of the island, as well as the rocky coastline, made the perfect killing area and added beautifully to the creepiness of the atmosphere.
There is just one extra with the film - a trailer.
I was surprised by this film. I expected it to be complete rubbish - and in many ways it is, but somehow the director has managed to create a film that is a combination of rubbish, cheesy, comical and very entertaining all at the same time. If you like Hollywood quality films and don't like a good dose of cheese with your horror, then there's no way you're going to enjoy this. However, if you like eighties slasher films and don't mind them being low-budget, you might just enjoy this as much as I did. Best of all, it's a British/Canadian joint venture. Four stars out of five.
The DVD is available from play.com for £3.99. I bought my copy from Poundland for just £1 (obviously).
Running time: 90 minutes
Damn, this is one wacky film. Its got a lot to offer both the horror enthuiast, and plenty for the fans of the just plain weird. The plot concerns a group of young-ish holiday makers, who are forced to land and camp on a small island in British Columbia. Unfortunately for them, the island is populated by one of the strangest families ever to grace the silver screen. We've got ma and pa, with their twisted old time religion. Then, more importantly, we've got the children. They are adults who dress and look like children, and who act very oddly. The great thing about this odd plot device is that it is never explained ! Anyways, the family take a dim view to the new arrivals, and set about whittling down their numbers through a variety of ways, including knitting needles, and a rickety swing, high up on the cliff's edge. However, one of the holidaymakers turns out to be just as crazy as the family themselves..... As you can probably dig from my synposis, this is basically a slasher pic, but with an oddball twist. Its this of-kilter aspect which lifts the film above the average. The overgrown children are both amusing (Michael J. Pollard gives a particularly funny performance) and quite creepy. Some of the lines in the script actually lend these characters fairly disturbing undertones, although the film never really comes across as anything other than being mildly unpleasant. The religious tones of the script are frequently quite funny, especially towards the end, as Pa starts renouncing God. The killings in the film are pretty standard for this type of flick, and some of them are quite inventive. However, most of the mayhem takes place off screen, and although there are a few good aftermath scenes, and some groovy skeletons in the basemen, the gore is quite minimal. That said, there is a fair amount of action, and the film moves along briskly enough to never be boring. On a technical note, its fair to say that the dire
ction is fairly anonymous. Although some use is made of the surrounding scenery, and the sets are ok, there's never any real atmosphere generated, and there is little suspense. Overall, this film is worth checking out. Basically, its an off-kilter variation on a tired theme, and as such it is both amusing and interesting. There's a fair amount of action, and anyone who appreciates a good bit of weirdness will be entertained.
On a lonely island in the Pacific Northwest, a group of travelers find themselves targeted by a crazed, homicidal family.