Two convicts escape from a prison transport crash and are hoping to secure their freedom with the aid of a couple in a nearby farmhouse. However, Bill and Sarah have very different ideas of what they want to do with Nick and Guy, and just how does Katarina, the girl in the basement cell fit into it all?
This is a home invasion film where the invaders aren’t necessarily the bad guys.
American Gothic isn’t a long film, at just 72 minutes, and it’s clear that the makers have gone for an attempt to be tense and claustrophobic, tightly plotted and executed. Very much like the painting from which it takes its name, American Gothic has a dark undertone beneath the light exterior that Bill and Sarah initially inhabit and it would have been nice to explore more of that, perhaps with a longer running time.
Things happen very quickly in the first third, with the facade that Bill and Sarah present quickly slipping away, Nick and (severely injured but still far too functional) Guy finding themselves in peril in a series increasingly dangerous circumstances and a creeping level of threat that borders on silly.
That said, particular praise should be heaped upon John F Draus, the Director of Lighting, and the cinematographer Sherry McCracken, both of whom work together to create the aforementioned claustrophobia, exploiting shadow and the night effectively. It’s an artistically shot film, with sound performances, if somewhat cliched characters.
The two criminals, Nick and Guy, are cruel and caring, in that order, with their individual mindsets adding to the tension of the situation and neither really fleshed out. Slate Holmgren and Mark Barthmeier make the most of the dialogue they’re given to make you care about them, despite their past transgressions. The film, however, belongs to Rochelle Bostrom, as the occasionally manic Sarah.
As the film progresses, the truth is revealed, but it doesn’t feel like a plausible resolution to the story. It feels too big for too small a delivery, which is a shame because it leaves us with an interested final few minutes that suggests a sequel.
Not long enough to overwhelm, American Gothic has an interesting premise let down by its length and not enough time to really engage the viewer. There are definitely elements of a good idea here, but American Gothic isn’t as dark as it hopes to be, nor anywhere near as edgy.
Dir: Stuart Connelly
Scr: Stuart Connelly
Cast: Ned Luke, Slate Holmgren, Rochelle Bostrom, Susannah Hart Jones, Mark Barthmeier, Dina Engel
Runtime: 72 mins
American Gothic is available on Digital Download from 23rd April