B Movie Challenge: American Gothic

I’m sure when Grant Wood’s 1930 masterpiece was entered into the permanent collection at the Art Institute of Chicago, he was hoping one day some movie producers would pay homage to his adroitness by making a truly horrifying experience one can only find in the good ol’ USA. Well, you should have knocked on real wood, Mr. Grant (along with a few lawyer’s office doors) because when the producers choose that title and that painting to sell you a horror slock fest in Vancouver? Well, let’s just say the movie was paid for, developed by, and filled reel to reel with loonies, you hosers! (♫O Canada…♫)

Let me start with some of the positives. 1) The poster art. You had me at “Look at me!” written across your glossy cover on the VHS shelf. 2) Anything with Mark Lindsey Chapman is a win/win for me, even with one of the most ridiculous deaths and mullets ever burnt into celluloid history. 3) Rod Steiger was an actual American treasure and adding as his partner (in-crimes) Ms. Munster herself, Yvonne De Carlo, was placing French horns to an already stellar movement, even if they are both worthier of better material. 4) Say what you want after the movie is over, you never saw the ending turn out that way for Cynthia even on your best day writing your epic toa of a screenplay at Starbucks! These things alone make the film worthy of a trip in the vast woods of British Columbia. Now for the bad… everything else about this film! I would stand by the movie if the producers had just chosen a different title, or at least placed the story on a farm in the cornfields of Iowa (unless they didn’t want to be compared to those pesky children in the rows) or the backroads of Highway 66, anywhere but the Verde hills of a Canadian island! I kept looking back to see if the cover was what I had remembered and sure enough, it was. I guess what I am saying is if you PITCH me American Gothic (no pun intended, Mr. Farmer) at least throw in some lawn chairs, a cold PBR, and some cheeseburgers at least (unless they are made of one of the doll people in the basement, then no thank you!).

Needing to get his wife away for a while after having just been cleared by her psychologist, Jeff thinks it is time to start a new family, and what better way than having five of your best friends tag along? Being an efficient Pilot, Jeff charters a boat plane that fails mid-air (did I say efficient?) and they must emergency land on a small remote island on the Canadian coastline. Searching the island they stumble upon Ma and Pa Kettle… er, I mean just Ma and Pa, who live on the island like it is the roaring 30s. No TV, phone, radio, or any of the “Devil’s toys” The group spends the night in the hope of a supply boat coming soon, but as the night grows, so does the numbers in the hobbit family, including a schizoid daughter with a mummied baby who thinks she is twelve, a gray-haired middle brother (a part Michael J. Pollard was born to play) who shoots toy cap guns, and an older brother who isn’t afraid to be whipped by Pa for being a naughty boy. As the group starts disappearing by swinging off clifts, hatchet wounds to the face, and being hung by a kiddy jump rope (♫Cinderella, dressed in bloody red…♫) it appears farming, along with killing strangers who wonder on to the farm, is not for everyone, but hay is stuffed in the doll people in the basement!

Harvesting your way at eighty-eight minutes, and directed by John Hough (who gave us chiller classics like Twins of Evil and Howling IV: The Orginal Nightmare) the film was released on home video by Virgin under the probably better title of Hide and Schriek. Still, it just doesn’t make the piggies go wee-wee-wee all the way home. You can find this healthy crop on streamers like Prime and Tubi, but make sure you find the Scream Factory Blu-ray with an interview by composer Alan Parker (I guess everyone else took it for GRANTED… I know, I know, I couldn’t resist). So cut down a switch for renting this movie, lick that plate clean of the fifty-year-old SPAM in a can, and let Ma, Pa, and the kids give you the old Red, white, and blue treatment! (or just red and white, eh?)

About Ian Klink

As a filmmaker, writer, and artist, Ian Klink’s work includes the feature film Anybody’s Blues and short stories for Weren't Another Way to Be: Outlaw Fiction Inspired by Waylon Jennings, Negative Creep: A Nirvana-Inspired Anthology, A-Z of Horror: U is for Unexplained, The Creeps, Vampiress Carmilla, The Siren’s Call, and Chilling Tales For Dark Nights. Born and raised in Iowa, Klink lives with his family in Pennsylvania where he shares his talents as a teacher of multimedia studies.

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