Masters of Horror: The Washingtonians
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The Washingtonians starts out with a pretty clever premise. A man and his family head to the estate of his departed grandfather. The plan is to keep what they want and sell the rest after the funeral. His daughter heads to the basement and gets scared by what she believes is a man. Turns out it is just a large painting of first president ole’ George Washington himself. While trying to get a nerve to be around the painting (in the episodes most ridiculous part, I thought) she knocks the painting over. When the father heads over to pick it up he sees something behind the painting. It turns out to be an old scroll and fork looking to be made of bone. The scroll seems to be written by George Washington himself praising the killing and eating of children’s flesh. At first the man thinks it has to be a fake. When he gets threatening visits from men wearing powdered wigs and carrying axes, he realizes that this might actually be real.
The premise is very clever, like I said. Washington was really a blood thirsty cannibal and there is a secret sect protecting the truth of our founding father. The secret sect likes to dress like their hero and share his table habits. Brilliant!! The problem with the episode is, while there might have been tension at the beginning of the flick, it quickly veers into lunacy and plain stupidity. I understand tongue in cheek. I in fact, am a fan of the tongue in cheek style dark humor. The idea of the secret society and the fact that Washington was a cannibal is tongue in cheek already. Now, try to take this absurd (or is it?) premise and make it into a tension filled episode. That is where the episode failed. Started clever, then fell apart and capped it off with one hell of a groan inducing ending.
Frankly, I do not look at director Peter Medak as a “Master of Horror”. I get the Changeling. Nice movie. Not great, but nice. It was kind of slow for my tastes. Then we have Species 2 which…..well, that was just horrible. With the Washingtonians, Medak put no flare into the story. It seemed all point and click.
The script was also lacking. The first moment that Mr. Franks (played by That Thing You Do’s Johnathon Schaech) thinks something’s not quite right with the little town his grandfather lives in, should have brought on some much needed mystery and tension. It did actually at first. Then it almost went into Keystone Cop territory with how the family dealt with the Washingtonians. It lost all mystery. Add to the story a professor that seems to know everything about the Washingtonians played by the normally great Saul Rubinek, and it all just went downhill.
If this was a half an hour episode then this could have kicked ass. Flashbacks of Washington history and finding out what “chopping down the cherry tree” really meant was pretty clever and funny. Again, sprinkles of a smart script were scattered throughout, but there wasn’t enough to sustain much volume. The characters were uninteresting, the Washingtonians were over the top, and there was very little scare factor or tension build up.
Like this review, the Washingtonians was mediocre at best. There were definite moments of groans from pure stupidity, but rays of cleverness trying to shine through every once in a while. Overall this was a disappointment and 2 cans at best. If this was a little flick about Benjamin Harrison then this would have scared the sheit out of me. I guess Washington just doesn’t do it for me.
Added: Wednesday, October 03, 2007
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