Director – John Landis
Cast – George Wendt, Meredith Monroe, Matt Keeslar, Haley Guiel, Kerry Sandomirsky, John B. Scott, Nancy Whyte, Emily Tennant
Release Year – 2006
Reviewed by John of the Dead
Anyone involved in the horror scene knows the name of director John Landis. His iconic 1981 masterpiece “An American Werewolf in London” set the tone for what a REAL werewolf transformation should look like. Definitely known more for his comedic films such as “Animal House”, “The Blues Brothers”, and “Three Amigos!”, he is one of the few who has been able to leave the horror genre completely, and still return years later in awesome fashion. His second installment into the “Masters of Horror” series titled “Family” is a testament that shows the guy still has “it”. “It”? Yeah, you know…his awesome blend of horror and subtle comedy. No one else does “it” like John Landis.
“Family” stars George Wendt as Harold Thompson, a peaceful and innocent looking neighbor in a suburban neighborhood. Harold likes to spend his days with his “family”, a collection of real human skeletons dressed in full attire, but that will soon change when a new couple moves in across the street. The young wife, Celia Fuller(Meredith Monroe), looks to be the perfect addition to Harold’s small family of three, and he embarks on a creepy journey to make her his next of kin.
If you like quirky horror, then this one is for you. John Landis’s direction in this film is beyond me as he set up each scene perfectly with just the right lighting, camera work, score, and overall atmosphere. You get the feeling like you should not take things as they appear due to this setup, and it works wonderfully when the real horror kicks in, quite abruptly actually. The pacing is perfect as I never once found myself straying away mentally nor being un-visually engaged in what was going on. George Wendt’s performance was top notch and he sold his character wonderfully. His scenes with his “family” had to be my favorite usage of his character.
The storyline for this one is great, and it gives several developments along the way that I never saw coming. In a way you do feel for the lonely Harold Thompson, especially because we really do not have any concrete proof that his “family” really ever was his real family. In other words, we never know whether or not he really even had a family, until the end of the film of course. His anguish and hostility towards those who failed to rear him was a nice addition to this innocent and happy go-lucky “perfect” neighbor. Of course, this film excelled in the fact that not only was the bulk of it great, but the ending is one I not only never saw coming, but was awesome as well. It seems a lot of these “Masters of Horror” flicks give us the endings we WISH Hollywood films would give us. Of course when making money outweighs great filmmaking, we will have to resort to un-Hollywood films to provide “the goods”.
Overall, this is an awesome entry into the “Masters of Horror” series by one of the genre’s coolest and most well-known directors. Give this a watch if you are a fan of John Landis or would like to see a film that is not horrific on the outside, but downright horrific on the inside, much like Harold Thompson.