Friday 30 March 2018

American Gothic (USA 2017: Dir Stuart Connelly)

"Killing is easy. Terrorism, on the other hand, takes a bit more finesse."

Stuart Connelly's second feature is one of those films where disclosure of much of the plot is likely to spoil the viewer's enjoyment. A litter picking detail of prisoners, being transported by van, is involved in an accident. Two of the convicts survive the crash and attempt a getaway, but as they're chained together, any real hopes of escape are limited. Coming across an isolated farmhouse, the pair effect entry, to the surprise of a husband and wife couple living there. But when the prisoners menace the pair to help them free themselves from their chains, the tables are decidedly turned.

As the title suggests, American Gothic hides layers of nastiness under its veneer of respectability - there's a quote by Kafka at the beginning of the film which doesn't make much sense until recalled at the end of the movie, which subtly hints at what's to come.

Supposedly based on a true story (but I'm not entirely sure if this is based on fact or an attempt at verisimilitude by the director), the movie packs more twists and turns into its 75 minutes than features twice that length could cope with. And with a cast of five (six if you count a police officer) and a fairly mundane location, the actors have to work very hard to build levels of creepiness and surprise.

And it works! As seemingly nice couple Bill and Sarah, Ned Luke and Rochelle Bostrom carry the film, with the two prisoners Nick and Guy (Slate Holmgren and Mark Barthmeier) enjoyably morphing from hunters to hunted; the fact that they're in prison for 'white collar' crimes adds a level of sympathy to their plight. The soundtrack by the enigmatically named Caesura Institute is bleepily tense and the whole thing comes together really well, with a satisfyingly open ended conclusion, and more than a whiff of EC Comics.

Connelly's first feature, 2013's The Suspect is also highly recommended (at the time of writing it's available to watch on YouTube) and American Gothic is an admirable follow up. A tense, at times darkly comic slice of Americana - I really liked it. Recommended. 

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