Daily Archives: July 9, 2012

American Gothic (1988)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: Rod needs to chill.

A group of young people must make an emergency landing on an off shore island when their single engine plane begins to malfunction. There they meet up with a strange family that seems locked in a bygone era and displays psychotic tendencies.

You would think a film with some big name stars of Rod Steiger, Yvonne De Carlo and Michael J. Pollard and an established director of John Hough would at least be passable, but this one is as bad as it gets. The goofy premise is taken too seriously and is too formulated. The characters are bland and stereotyped and the victims allow themselves to be killed off too easily with hardly any gore or special effects. There is also no suspense or scares. There isn’t even any good dark humor. It just plods on and on until you don’t care what happens.

It has a lot of similarities to Just Before Dawn and Mother’s Day. It even has the twist of having one of the survivors turn the tables and become the aggressor. Yet Mother’s Day had a lot more style and pizzazz.

Steiger is of course a very accomplished actor who has done a lot of good work, but seems miscast here. He should have injected more campiness into his part, but instead approaches it with his usual intensity. At the end he even gives out a loud primal scream of inner anguish much like the one he did in The Pawnbroker except here it is hollow and meaningless. Out of everyone De Carlo does the best.

The setting also becomes an issue. It has the word American in its title and yet was filmed entirely in British Columbia. Ma and Pa talk with southern type accents, but are surrounded by a northern landscape. The house is also a problem as it looks too neat and trim and like it was newly built. It would have been better had the building been taller and more foreboding and even displayed some decay or gothic style. The inside of the house doesn’t look like it’s been lived in and the furniture is nothing more than theatrical props.

Overall this is a pitiful attempt at horror movie making. It fails to be either offbeat or scary and only succeeds at becoming mind numbingly sterile.

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: May 13, 1988

Runtime: 1Hour 30Minutes

Rated R

Director: John Hough

Studio: Vidmark Entertainment

Available: VHS, DVD