Monday, April 30, 2007

Masters of Horror - Family (2006)

A young couple moves into a picture-perfect neighborhood. Children play outside, the trees are in full bloom, flowers sway in the bright sunshine and lawns are perfectly manicured. The young couple, Celia (Meredith Monroe) and David (Matt Keeslar), is hoping to make a fresh start and may even be ready to start a family. They meet one of their neighbors, named Harold (George Wendt), who appears to be a very nice, older bachelor. Appearances can be deceiving, though, because Harold has a family of his own, one that he has built himself. See, he carefully chooses people, kidnaps them, kills them and strips their bodies of flesh with acid until there is nothing left but a skeleton. He then dresses them up and interacts with them. He has a wife, a young daughter, grandpa and a grandma, all who, in his eyes, are real. Soon, Harold sets his sights on Celia, whom he thinks would be a perfect addition to his ever-growing family.

John Landis really impressed me with his entry into the second season of Masters of Horror. I was never too keen on checking out his Deer Woman from last season, but I sure am glad I watched Family. His signature black comedy touches are all evident in Family – from the auditory hallucinations that Harold experiences when talking to Celia to the satirical look at Middle America and “family values.”

George Wendt is fantastic as the deplorable yet likable Harold. Though he does horrible things in private, he comes across as very pleasant and personable as he and Celia and David become better friends. You almost feel sorry for him, at least until the ending. Meredith Monroe also shines as Celia, a woman with her own hidden secrets. She is bubbly, bouncy and a whole lotta cute! Each character is well-developed and we quickly grow attached to them all even though the episode is only an hour long. Writer Brent Hanley did a wonderful job with the script and the character development.

The story is also well-done by Hanley, as it slowly unfolds and we are thrust further and further into the gruesome world of Harold. We get so drawn into the story and characters that the big twist at the end comes as a complete surprise! The ending fits perfectly with the tone of the story and it is entirely entertaining. Though the story is familiar, it still manages to feel fresh when handled by Landis and the actors.

I also must mention the old church music that was used throughout the film – it fit perfectly into Landis’ skewering of Middle America. The contrast that the soundtrack provides against the values that Harold holds dear and his murderous actions sets the whole satirical tone for the film.

The gore isn’t too shabby either…we get to see people melted down to bone, lots of melted flesh and body fat, gristle hanging off bone, a hammer through a skull and lots of implied gore. Though the gore is not plentiful, I thought that the amount used was perfect for the episode.

I haven’t seen nearly enough Masters of Horror episodes, but I would go far enough to say that Family is the cream of the crop. It has stellar acting, a great premise, humor, satire and an ending that will blow you away!

Available from Amazon!

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