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American Gothic (1988) - Blu-ray Review

4 beersI’m unsure if there is anything creepier than adults, dressed as children, behaving exactly as one would expect kids to behave.  For Fanny and Woody, playing on an old swing that goes out over the sea, theirs is to lure guests into their traps and then watch as they go sailing out into the deep blue ocean.  Mummified babies and freaks as family members!  Oh my!  There will be no devil’s play in this house, but their sure will be a lot of satanic shit happening around it! Hee hee hee.

British director John Hough (The Legend of Hell House) absolutely delivers yet another knockout horror film with his rough examination of parenthood.  American Gothic is a brutally frank film that terrifies more than it grosses us out.  And, thanks to Scream Factory, it makes its blu-ray debut.  The film is blissfully restrained and then, after building up the suspense, absolutely goes AWOL in the sanity department when all of the cast members are introduced.   

American Gothic, ironically being mainly filmed in and around Bowen Island, British Columbia, works its isolated charm with interesting shots and a fresh-faced cast who deliver some memorable lines and face bizarre situations.  It begins with the release of bad parent number one, Cynthia (Sarah Torgov), from a mental hospital after suffering a psychological collapse upon the bathtub drowning of her son.  Her boyfriend, Jeff, is taking her and some friends on a mini-vacation via plane. 

Except they don’t make it (we knew they wouldn’t) and, after landing the plane on a small island, instead face a bizarre rendezvous with oversized sewing needles and other weaponized child toys in the hands of a bunch of bug-eyed folks.  Strangers in a strange land seems to be where writers Burt Wetanson and Michael Vines are taking us with this twisted tale that aligns itself with The Hills Have Eyes quite nicely.

And it is there where the movie – stuck in the late 1980s with mullets, cheesy title sequences, and the interesting harmonica-meets-synth composed music – truly comes alive.  Tucked away within the island, away from the beach where the plane has touched down, is an old farmhouse that doesn’t look to have been updated since before World War II. 

From old record players to the chipped piano in the corner of the main room, the young group is not sure what to make of its existence.  The mystery of the house and the stuff inside is matched early on by the weirdness of the young adults in their response to their sudden and very strange surroundings.  

And then Pa (Rod Steiger) and Ma (Yvonne DeCarlo) show up and the tension is ratcheted up once again.  They are stiff as boards; unmoving and tough as hell.  They are also the owners of the house and they aren’t taking any mess from their new visitors. 

But it is about to get a whole hell of a lot more insane.

With the crazy introductions of Michael J. Pollard as Woody and Janet Wright as Fanny, and William Hootkins as Teddy, the cast is made complete.  These three adults – with Fanny taking the lead in how to be significantly crazy – play Ma and Pa’s adult-sized children who were simply not allowed to grow up properly and their performances are stuff for the ages. 

This is where American Gothic makes it as a horror film.  The crazy is delivered again and again, with each swing of the hatchet AND the jump rope, as the kids kill and kill again.

American Gothic takes the irresponsibility of parenting to a brand new level, all in the name of God.  In the name of God.  In the name of GodIn the name of GOD!!! 


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American Gothic (1988) - Blu-ray Review

MPAA Rating: R.
90 mins
: John Hough
Burt Wetanson, Michael Vines
Sarah Torgov, Terence Kelly, Mark Erickson
: Horror
The family that slays together stays together.
Memorable Movie Quote: "Don't you want to join the clean plate club?"
Theatrical Distributor:
Vidmark Entertainment
Official Site:
Release Date:
May, 1988
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
December 19, 2017
Synopsis: When six young friends fly off on a weekend getaway and suddenly find themselves with engine trouble, they have no choice but to land on a remote Pacific island. Looking for shelter, they are grateful when they meet "Ma" and "Pa" and their children – an eccentric family still living in the backwoods as if it's still the 1920s. But what begins as simple old-school hospitality becomes a terrifying race for survival when one by one, the friends start disappearing and dying horrible deaths. Fleeing the outside world many years ago, the family has created an island domain, where all strangers are sinners – and the killing has never stopped.


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American Gothic - Blu-ray Review


Blu-ray Details:

Home Video Distributor: Shout Factory
Available on Blu-ray
- December 19, 2017
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
: English
DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; single disc
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

Scream Factory presents American Gothic on 1080p thanks to a new scan of the original 35mm film elements.  Colors pop in the new transfer.  Black levels are deep and defined.  Edges hold their lines well.  Textures are identifiable and individual items of clothing have layers never before noticed.  The film is presented in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio and supports a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, presenting the dialogue up front and carrying a nice balance between the effects and the soundtrack.



  • None.

Special Features:

The extras on this release include a new interview with composer Alan Parker (for those who want to know why and how a harmonica was melded with synths for the score) and the film’s original theatrical trailer.

  • Interview with Composer Alan Parker
  • Theatrical Trailer


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American Gothic (1988) - Blu-ray Review