American Gothic (1987)


Directed by: John Hough

Written by: Burt Wetanson & Michael Vines


Sarah Torgov .... Cynthia
Rod Steiger .... Pa
Yvonne De Carlo .... Ma
Janet Wright .... Fanny
Michael J. Pollard ....
William Hootkins .... Teddy
Mark Ericksen .... Jeff
Caroline Barclay .... Terri
Mark Lindsay Chapman .... Rob
Fiona Hutchinson .... Lynn
Stephen Shellen .... Paul

Release Dates:
Cannes Film Festival: May 13, 1987; Theatrical: May, 1988





A disturbed young woman named Cynthia (Sarah Torogov) has been released from a mental institution after losing her baby by leaving to get the phone while giving her little one a bath and ends up drowning but her husband Jeff (Mark Ericksen) tries to help her forget about that dark past once she is released by going on a camping trip in an island with their friends on a sea plane but their plane has some issues with their engine and land on a somewhat deserted island but finds a house with old antiques run by a couple that call themselves Pa (Rod Steiger) and Ma (Yvonne DeCarlo) so they reside there as Pa said he'd call for a boat with a person to fix their plane but then they introduce their little girl Fanny (Janet Wright) who is expecting her 12th Birthday but once she is introduced she is really about 50 years old and has siblings who are not much younger named Woody (Michael J. Pollard) and Teddy (William Hootkins).
To top it off they find out the parents are bible thumpers but disregard the first commandment entirely in which they don't like people who misbehave or upset the family and and not follow their rules, starts to slay the visitors one by one.
Cynthia is almost the only one left as they seem to accept her and she snaps again but however, Fanny has a baby corpse which she calls her own dolly and this brings back Cynthia's awful past and the family are in for a terror of their own.


We spot a good beginning with a shot on the main character Cynthia in a cell type room sitting there and gathering thoughts along with a nice opening credits on a plane flying over the city and then landing near an ocean at the island.
We spot a good shot on Cynthia's friend named Terri walking on some rocks near an ocean then slipping, hitting her head and falling into the water with a good shocked glance on Cynthia with a good flashback memory on her bathing her baby and then crying hysterically which was nicely put into the story.
We have a good gathering near a bonfire and discussing the plane not being able to get fixed and to explore the island along with good shots on them hiking in the forest and a shot on a house in the woods.
We have a good moment with some of these friends trying on some old fashioned clothing and dancing around to some old music with both Ma and Pa entering the house and then these people staring at them looking shocked with a nice approach by Ma acting warm towards one of them about the scarf he found complimenting him. This deinfetely leads to a mysterious moment wondering if they are peaceful types or not.
There's a good presence by the supposed daughter of Ma and Pa named Fanny introducing herself to the group of friends acting child like which gives it a nice twisted feel to it.
We find a good setting at the dinner table with Ma and Pa treating everyone like little kids and the odd scolding as it was well written for the scene very mysterious on what tho these people really are.
Pa even scolds everyone before everyone was going to bed about no devil's play in their house which gives it another impression these people are psychotic. It was certainly a classic one liner for sure.
We have a nice shot on Rob walking up towards Fanny pushing a swing with the introduction on Fammy's supposed brother Woody on it along with a good close up shot on him on the swing. Then we have many great suspenseful shots with Rob on the swing with them pushing him very hard and a cliff is showing along with the fast camera zooming shots on him in the swing and him panicking which looked good too. This moment leaves a good impression that the pretend little siblings are planning on killing him which drew in very well while watching this scene.
There's an impressive moment with Lynn speaking to her friend Cynthia acting stuck up about the family and mocking their lifestyles with Fanny sitting near the tree and getting teary which looked believeably upsetting while watching this and wanting to comfort her.
We have a good reaction on Cynthia after Fanny shows her a corpse baby as this certainly looked good and twisted when we see a shot on this without a doubt.
A great close up shot on Fanny pleading to play with Lynn with her acting stuck up and aggressive and Wright persistently yelling pretty please etc. giving it a great horror feel and then Teddy tying her with a jump rope along with him and Woody singing a kidlike chant. This was often used in horror flicks with evil children doing something deadly and it certainly works well in this scene when we spot all of this. A good vengeful situation for someone who treats the others badly.
There's even a nice moment with Jeff cursing and demanding towards Pa about demadning for their rescue boat and he warns him about using bad language which was a nice key to the horror plot that something terrible will happen to him next. Plus there's great one liners with Ma about being punished for wicked behaviors as it looks deadly and dark to watch on what happens to these people with their luck running out.
Some nice intensity with Cynthia being surrounded by Ma and the other members after she realises that her friends have all been killed by them as this for sure looked quite disturbing to watch all of this and wondering if she will go insane herself.
There's a perfect killing moment with Teddy breaking someone's neck which almost makes it hard to watch for those who can't stand an intense murderous moment.
There's a good close up shot on Cynthia in a cellar spotting some corpses wondering if she's gonna freak or not but shows a good delightful expressions along with good close up shots on the corpses as it looked believeably horrifying with Ma telling who those corpses were and their bad attitudes. It's especially creepy when Fanny says that they are her new dollies which is pretty sick and twisted indeed with the settings on all of this.
It looks sad that Cynthia snaps and acts crazy but yet it turns out great when she seeks reveange in her childlike manner on these group of psychopaths. Keep watching the film and you'll see what I mean.
Bottom line is that this is a well done twisted horror flick done in disturbing but in at the same time in good taste too picturing three full grown adults as little kids doing evil deeds and having two parents close to their age too which seems creepy that they are not a family at all and what is behind the madness on all this with very little to run on an abandoned island.
It's sometimes hard to watch wondering if this woman trying to get better will lose her sanity again with all of this happening.
If you like strange horror flicks with freaky people acting like a southern family with deadly secrets then this is the one for you. A very influential slasher film too must I say as well.

The acting is well done as lead actress Sarah Torgov (Cynthia) really knew how to play a disturbed one haunted by what she did a long time ago showing good crying emotions and intensity and shocked expressions too for when she needs to act like this. She also does well snapping acting part of the family of maniacs too.
Rod Steiger
(Pa) really knew how to show a good stern attitude as the demented Pa in the film showing a good evil scrictness to his part. He has a good solid speaking when he talks which shows a good amount of characteristics into his scrictness here. I always enjoyed his work and was always a versatile character actor in every show he has done.
Yvonne De Carlo
(Ma) shows a good passive attitude like a southern type Ma but a dark secret to her revealing her nice evilness too.
Janet Wright
(Fanny) was no doubt the attention getter with this story acting like a little girl when she's full grown and doing deadly things like an evil brat. Everything she did was right on track. She also does well crying on set and acting believeably upset like a little girl would be too. Also she has a nice high pitched little girl voice showing nice timing with this.
Michael J. Pollard
(Woody) gets to play crazy in this film and normally does in shows playing an overgrown kid which was quite convincing.
Mark Lindsay Chapman
(Rob) had the right attitude as a party animal type getting into mischief bringing a good bubbly attitude to his performance.
Fiona Hutchinson
(Lynn) really proved her point as the bitchy one out of the bunch in the film coming across as someone who doesn't enjoy herself and facing the consequences later on.

We have some bloodied bodies.
A guy's eye is stabbed out.
An axe in a corpses head.
Lots of gruesome looking corpses in a dark cellar.

We spot some good heroic type of music for the opening credits with a nice orchestra backing it up. There's also some southern type twangy music and some great harmonica playing too. Plus we have some high pitched violin playing when someone looks into a bedroom where there's a doll type cradle abnd in other creepy scene's too. There's the good old creepy violin chord starting from the low key going to the high pitched key for a death scene encounter and it sounded excellent. There's perfect closing credit music with the cold piano sounds and the odd chanting sounding like the them from Amityville Horror all compsed by Alan Parker.

Rob: [taking Terri under his arm] Okay, where do we sleep?
Pa: ...Just a hitched?
Rob: Huh?
Pa: Hitched! Hitched! Hitched! Hitched! It means married, that's what it means!
Rob: Nope
Pa: Well then, where do you think you're going?
Rob: Goin' to bed, get our 40 winks.
Pa: No you're not. There will be no devil's play in this house...

Fanny: (After spotting the hung corspes) My big dollies

Cynthia: Naughty Woody!

Cynthia: Naughty Teddy!