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Cynthia (Sarah Torgov) leaves a mental institution, where she stayed after
losing her baby in a bath accident. Her husband decides to join a group of
friends and fly from Seattle to a camping in a small hydroplane. The craft
has a problem and it lands in a lonely island in the middle of nowhere.
There, they are hosted by Ma (Yvonne de Carlo) and Pa (Rod Steiger), a very
religious couple, who lives like they were in the beginning of the Twentieth
Century. When the group meets the two sons and the daughter of Ma and Pa,
they realize that they are in the middle of very demented persons, who start
hunting them. This movie was a great surprise. Although having a low rating
in IMDB, it is indeed a good and original horror movie. The scary story has
many funny situations, and the direction and performance of the cast are
very good. The contrast in the behavior of such a nice Ma and Pa when the
secret of that weird family is disclosed, is really frightening. Highly
recommended for fans of horror movie. My vote is seven.
Title (Brazil): `Os Anfitriões' (`The Hosts')
When you have the talents of an Academy Award winning Actor (Rod
Steiger) and a classic, beloved sitcom star (YVonne DeCarlo), and an
Academy Award nominated star of Bonnie and Clyde, (Michael J. Pollard)
you have to expect a good movie, as one would think that established
actors such as these would be wise in their script choices. While
American Gothic certainly isn't Bonnie & Clyde or In The Heat of the
Night, for an 80's horror film it isn't bad. In fact, it sticks out
among the countless teeny slasher flicks that dominated the decade for
several reasons, least of which is the plot, which has been used in
some shape or form in countless slasher flicks released before and
after American Gothic.
A group of six vacationing friends, including, Cynthia (Sarah Torgov), a woman who has been traumatized by the accidental drowning of her baby , land their small plane on a seemingly deserted island after some engine problems with the craft. After some exploring, they find an old house occupied by an odd, extremely religious family who seem to be stuck living in the 1890's, headed by Ma DeCarlo and Pa Steiger. Their "children" are in their thirties and forties, yet still act like they are little kids. The daughter plays with her dolly and the two sons entertain themselves by playing on a swing and playing hide and go seek. This would be enough to make me find ANYWAY I could off the island, but the group sticks around to eventually tick the family off by going against the strict "morals." Well not a lot of guess work to what transcends, but there is a twist at the end of the film that is refreshing to see and to mention anymore would spoil the plot. But let's just say things get bloody and characters are disposed of in variety of creative and disturbing ways. Along the way, the film does provide a few memorable, downright creepy scenes, including the "swing" and Fannie's (one of the "children") baby, as well as things that are not blatantly stated, but hinted at (infantcide, incest, necrophilia) What sets this film apart from other slasher flicks of the time period is that it does make an attempt at some character development., particularly for the character of Cynthia, whose troubled past explains her behavior toward the end of the film. There is also the sense that this filmed was geared toward a more mature horror audience, as many of the clichés that are steeped in most 80's slashers are not utilized here, which is refreshing. The characters themselves are not teens, and for the most part, behave realistically. The theme of isolation and uncertainty also works extremely well here, as the island presents a challenge not often found in horror films. It offers opportunity for crisp cinematography Still, not all is perfect, as the performance are a mixed bag, ranging from typical slasher film cheese to Steiger's over the top performance (did he think he was going to win a second Oscar for this??) to the very reserved and pitch-perfect De Carlo, who really outshines the rest of the cast. And while most of the deaths are creative and effectively done, one involving a jump rope was somewhat cheesy and had me cringing for all the wrong reasons.
Overall, this is one of the better entries into the genre to come out of the late 80's and really is a must see for horror fans. Younger viewers may be turned off at how dated the films looks (even though it was released in 1988), but there is enough creepiness and disturbing things here to feast upon.
My Grade: B
I just watched this last night. I watched it back-to-back with "The People
Under the Stairs" and while it pales in comparison to that classic, I must
say that I really dug it. It's a pretty standard b-movie (what was I
expecting?), but there are some things that help elevate it a bit. For one
thing, Rod Steiger is in it. The guy plays a complete prick in almost
everyting I see him in, and this is certainly no exception. I didn't
necessarily find him scary, but he was annoying and obnoxious as hell.
Nothing would have given me greater pleasure than to reach through the
screen and knock that horrible grimace off his face. However, he was almost
moving towards the end and I took his role to be a parody of man's
interpretation of religion. Not that this is a deep or serious film by any
means, but that part did strike a chord with me.
The story starts with a group of six, (one of which is a former mental patient) heading off on a camping trip. When they are forced to land their plane on a small island, one stays behind, while the others decide to look for signs of life. They soon find an old house. Thinking that the place is deserted, the group walks in and makes themselves at home. About ten-minutes later, Ma and Pa come home to find the youngsters dancing and playing. At first, Ma and Pa seem like the old fashioned, hospitable couple, but trouble starts when one of the girls doesn't finish her plate and Pa nearly has a stroke when another girl lights a cigarrete. Despite these atrocities, Ma and Pa are still hospitable enough to let them stay the night. Pa says he has a friend coming with a boat who may be able to help them. Another ruckus arises when the group heads off to bed. Pa makes it clear that if they are not "hitched", the boys are to sleep with the boys and the girls with the girls. This is turning out to be a fun trip, indeed.
Pretty soon, the girls meet Fanny. Fanny is Ma and Pa's daughter who is anticipating her 12th birthday. But that's kinda strange considering that Fanny looks to be around 50. We are then introduced to Fanny's brother Woody (played to perfection by Michael J. Pollard) and Teddy (some annoying fat guy). They aren't much younger than Fanny but are on the same maturity level. It's all down-hill from here folks. Pretty soon, kids start getting picked off (in true slasher fashion) one by one and it becomes clear that Pa's friend is not coming because Pa has no friends. Some of the deaths are pretty inventive (the swingset death is a riot) but it becomes pretty tiresome. This all goes on until there is only one left. Who? You guessed it. The mental patient. She may just be a little too smart for Ma and Pa to handle.
All in all, this is a bad movie with an awful reputation. The performances are way over-the-top (thanks to Steiger) and the film has this really grainy look to it. However, there is a dark atmosphere that gives the whole thing this creepy feeling. At times, it is even a little scary. Fanny gave me the creeps. The best performance of the bunch was Michael J. Pollard. He had very little to work with, but the few speaking lines he has (when he's not running around, laughing like a maniac) are well done and wholly believable.
On my scale of a 1-10, I give it a 7. It is a pretty original treatment of a tried and true formula and although it does draw from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, it really worked for me. If you enjoy this movie, you're likely to enjoy Rob Zombie's "House of 1000 Corpses" due out pretty soon, now. Michael J. Pollard plays a similar character, from what I hear.
The theme of religious fanatics who live in complete isolation and consider any contact with the outside world "contamination" has been done to death in the horror genre, but here they give it another go. Apparently they decided that wasn't enough, so they also threw in the "adults-behaving-as-kids" theme, which also has been done before (check out the REALLY twisted 1973 film "The Baby"). The result is a campy, silly, demented and thoroughly unpleasant horror film, but the production is fairly polished, the direction is competent and Rod Steiger gives a deliciously embarrassing performance as "Pa" (what the hell was he thinking when he decided to sign on for such a movie?) (**)
American Gothic...this movie has taken such a beating by all kinds of people who in my view really never gave it the chance it needed. The movie has the best acting in a horror film that i have ever seen(yes i just said that)For sure Ma(Yvonne De Carlo)is the best in this film she's so down right evil but you'd never know it.She tricks them right up to the end well or so she thinks.Fanny really scares me in this film i mean a dead baby she has is really out there but then again the whole family is.There's Teddy who is just plain dumb...as well as Woody..then Pa(Rod Steiger)pretty good in this film himself.Very evil in my eyes is Pa he's always one step ahead of the people on the island or so he acts up until the end.This movie is a sure Horror Cult Classic..it gets a 10 out 10 from me and should from you too!
Good campy horror movie that has 3 couples going for a little vacation and getting stuck on an island. They take shelter at an old couple's house whose "kids" are at least in their fifties. Soon one by one the couples get killed except for one lucky one who has a few little surprises of her own. Surprisingly good, with good campy acting by all. "Give me my baby Fanny!" Recommended
American Gothic is a horror movie that is truly horrible and scary: Because what it portrays is a completely psychotic and homicidal family living on an isolated island in the Pacific Northwest who become the only beacon of help for several young people who become temporarily stranded on the island. The lighting in the film is almost nonexistent; it seems as though it were filmed in a basement, which adds to the creepiness. Even though there are some extremely cheezy elements in the film, there's a constant suspicion that something not just bad, but terrible and downright terrifying is going to happen. Rod Steiger and Yvonne de Carlo are absolutely brilliant in this film as "Pa" and "Ma" and are so extreme in their character portrayals that they almost become parodies of themselves and are therefore on the threshold of being humorous. But the 'kids' (who are actually 3 deranged siblings in their 40's and seemingly quite comfortable in their maritime never never land) are so creepy that they make not only your skin but lining of your bones crawl. On a scale of 1--10, I'd give this an 8.5.
What is it about movies featuring crazed families that makes them so
much fun to watch? Usually they're about a bunch of unsuspecting
vacationers getting off track and running into a bunch of backwoods
people living in the woods. The most popular of these is the 1974
classic 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,' which introduced the world to
perhaps the most depraved family in all of cinema. Since then a lot of
other filmmakers have tried to capture that same magic and no one has
succeeded. That doesn't mean all have failed miserably. This little
known low budget chiller isn't a slam dunk, but is still a decent
example of a Horror film in which innocents are done in by a homicidal
Pros: Cast does a good job with the bland material. A good premise with potential. Once it picks up the pace moves along. Gorgeous scenery. A decent score. Some creative and very bloody kills. Some memorable disturbing moments and images.
Cons: First fifteen minutes are painfully slow. Aside from Cynthia and Jeff, none of the other characters are developed enough for us to get invested in them or care about them. Concept is not taken to it's full potential. Little here you haven't already seen before.
Final thoughts: It's a shame that this film isn't all it could've been, but all things considered it's a fun little movie with a real mean streak. It won't blow you away, but if you like movies involving crazed backwoods families terrorizing innocent people then it'll do in a pinch.
My rating: 3/5
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
American Gothic is a highly overlooked horror film from 1988. Rod
Steiger and Yvonne De Carlo(Lily from The Munsters)are perfect for the
roles of "MA" and "PA" (as they refer to themselves). I would put this
film in the same category as 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre' and more
recently, Rob Zombie's 'House of 1000 Corpses' and 'The Devil's
Rejects' -- a crazed family living in an old house just waiting for
those unsuspecting victims to arrive.
Basically, you've got a group of 6 friends traveling in a small, private plane that spits and sputters along until something finally gives and they have to make an early landing in the water near an island. As it turns out, there's something burned out in the plane's electrical system and the group finds a place for the night to set up tents and wait till morning to seek help.
Morning comes and we learn a little more about the characters, especially Cynthia, who was just released from a mental hospital before the trip. We soon find out why she is so distraught mentally. Seems she decided to leave her baby in the bathtub while she went to answer the telephone and by the time she comes back, the baby has drowned. The group begins to search the island for any signs of life and find a big old house in a clearing perched high above the water near a cliff. They enter the house, thinking it's abandoned, and begin going through everything. They find clothes, an old-fashioned radio that still works and they begin to dance around the house to the sound of the music. Then an old couple appear in the doorway and the fun suddenly stops. Ma and Pa seem very hospitable and offer them a place to sleep for the night as Pa says he's got a friend coming in by boat in the morning that could help them.
We soon find out that Ma and Pa are religious fanatics. They also have 3 "children" who appear to be 40-50 years old but act like young kids. One of the children, Fanny, has a baby she keeps in a crib in her room. But something is wrong with this baby... and the whole family. One by one the group of friends are killed off in very inventive ways until only one remains...
I really enjoyed this movie and it is definitely a "sleeper" film of the late 80's. This is a hard to find film, but well worth watching if you can find it. I highly recommend this to all horror fans, especially those of 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre' and 'slasher' films.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Six vacationing young adults who include the troubled Cynthia (well played by Sarah Torgov) are forced to land their plane on a remote sylvan island. They not only encounter the strict Pa (a gloriously hammy performance by Rod Steiger) and the equally stern Ma (a delightfully batty, yet understated portrayal by Yvonne De Carlo), but also the oddball religious fanatics' deranged and murderous "adult" children: infantile Fanny (the extremely unnerving Janet Wright), brutish Teddy (an excellent William Hootkins), and whiny Woody (the ever-weird Michael J. Pollard). Capably directed by John Hough, with crisp cinematography by Harvey Harrison, a creepy tone, an eerie, harmonic down-home score by Alan Parker, a chilling conclusion, and such dark themes as incest, infanticide and necrophilia, this genuinely twisted little number really hits the pleasingly warped spot. Better still, the sharp script by Burt Wetanson and Michael Vines offers a wickedly nasty satire on traditional conservative old-fashioned family values. Steiger and De Carlo have a field day with their colorfully kooky roles; Wright, Hootkins and Pollard are all likewise marvelously grotesque as their crazed offspring. Quirky and often quite funny in an admittedly off-center sort of way, this nifty little rural psycho romp is well worth checking out.
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