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"There will be no Devil's play in this house"
on 2 March 2013
Cynthia recently lost her child and has spent some time recovering in a hospital, she's just been released so her husband, Jeff, decides to take her and four friends to the islands where they spent their honeymoon. They start to encounter engine difficulties while in the air, so decide to land the plane on what appears to be a deserted island. They set up camp for the night, and the following morning they set off to find help. They eventually stumble upon a cottage and go inside, where they meet an old couple that simply call themselves Ma and Pa. They're invited to stay for dinner and the group accept, one of them lights up a cigarette and Pa shows his disgust and tells her to smoke outside. They then meet one of their children called Fanny, a middle-aged woman who claims to be twelve-years-old. The group stay the night at Ma and Pa's, but the group have been split into male and female, as they won't tolerate premarital sex under their roof. In the morning, a member of the group called Rob decides to take a walk and finds Fanny playing on a crudely made swing with her brother, Woody. Rob is killed and the group mourn his death. We then meet Ma and Pa's other son called Teddy. The group soon discover that they've made a horrible mistake landing on their island, and they'll be lucky to make it off as the family begin the hunt.
Academy Award winner Rod Steiger is Pa, this is not the type of film you expect an actor of Steiger's ability to be in, but he really adds gravitas to a role that would have been turned into a caricature in lesser hands. He's as creepy as he is funny, and he's definitely the main draw in this film. Yvonne De Carlo is almost as good as Ma, the two of them play off each other wonderfully to create one of the strangest couples from a slasher film. De Carlo is best remembered as Lily Munster from The Munsters, she made American Gothic in the same year as another horror film called Cellar Dweller that really needs a DVD release. Michael J. Pollard who was nominated for an Oscar for Bonnie And Clyde, delivers another strange performance as Woody, Janet Wright is equally strange as Fanny and William Hootkins is intimidating as the biggest of all the children. Most of the group are pretty forgettable, they're just there to be picked off by the family.
American Gothic is directed by John Hough, he's directed some really good horror films such as Twins Of Evil, The Legend Of Hell House, The Watcher In The Woods, Incubus and one I'm sure he'd like to forget about, The Howling IV: The Original Nightmare. It's obvious to see that American Gothic isn't one of his better horror efforts, but it's one of the most fun. He directs the film quite playfully and really lets his cast enjoy themselves, especially Steiger and De Carlo. There's not much blood or gore, no nudity and even the language is minimal as Ma and Pa won't tolerate bad language. What it does have is a strange and disturbing vibe throughout, and when the family do start to kill, the pace is excellent and doesn't slow until it ends.
The DVD picture quality is really good, much better than I expected this low budget and often forgotten film to look. There's no subtitles, and sadly the only extra is a trailer. American Gothic can't compete with the best of the early '80s slasher films, but there weren't too many better than this that came out in the late '80s. I don't think most people that aren't into slasher films would enjoy this, but for hardcore slasher fans, this is a funny, charming and enjoyable bit of fluff that will help fill out your collection.