American Gothic (1988) d. Hough, John (UK/Canada) 90 min.
Set in the woods of the Pacific Northwest, this sturdy “vacationers in peril” tale follows a group of mildly annoying yuppies looking for a little R&R and finding M&M (madness and murder) instead.
Sarah Torgov makes a strong impression as a young woman recovering from a recent mental breakdown, for whose benefit the excursion is being undertaken. When the weekend warriors’ airplane experiences mechanical difficulties, they are forced to land on an isolated island where they encounter “Pa” (Rod Steiger), “Ma” (Yvonne de Carlo) and their offbeat family, composed of three adult children (Janet Wright, Michael J. Pollard, William Hootkins) still running around in little girl dresses and short pants.
One by one, the obnoxious urban interlopers disturb Steiger’s idyllic spartan existence and meet unsettling ends at the hands of his overgrown adolescents. However, other than the intriguing juxtaposition of Torgov struggling to retain her sanity while Rod and his merry brood happily embrace their madness, there is not much new ground covered in John Hough’s direction or Burt Wetanson and Michael Vines’ screenplay.
Ultimately, it is the top-notch performances of Steiger (who dominates every scene) and his whacked-out family that hold our interest, bumping the creep factor up a notch by dispatching bloody carnage with childlike giggles. Fairly routine stuff, elevated by clever twists in the final reel.