Judge Dylan Charles wants to yell "Ab-Norm" as George Wendt takes on a psychotic role.
"Do you like your new family?"
For those who don't know, Masters of Horror is a Showtime series in which various directors and writers who have made their money in blood 'n' guts display their talents in a series of hour-long short films. John Carpenter, Dario Argento, Tobe Hooper, and many others show up on the small screen to do what they do best: scare the bejesus out of folks.
In a small, sunny, nauseatingly cheerful suburban neighborhood, where the trees are always in bloom and the birds are always singing, Harold (George Wendt) is busily building his family from the remains of his murdered victims. However, his orderly life is disrupted when a young, happily married couple (Meredith Monroe and Matt Keeslar) move in next door. Harold hopes they'll be quiet, unlike the last family that lived in that house. They were so very noisy. Soon Harold has plans to add some new members to his family…
"Family" is the second episode of the second season and is directed by John Landis. Landis will always have a special place in my heart for An American Werewolf in London. "Family" is written by Brent Hanley, who was responsible for Frailty, a movie that gave me mixed feelings. But I was looking forward to seeing what they would come up with together—and I wasn't disappointed.
George Wendt (Cheers, House) is great as the cheerfully psychotic Harold. As soon as I got over my near-constant urge to shout "Norm!" at the screen, I was able to completely believe he was capable of boiling down little girls to the bone. Matt Keeslar and Meredith Monroe are uneven, sometimes coming across as over the top and other times as real people. However, since this is a black comedy, over the top isn't such a bad thing, even adding to the whole "Leave it to Beaver with dead bodies" feel of the proceedings.
The ending leaves a bit to be desired, if only because I wanted to know more. There were some things left unsaid and others that I just wanted elaborated. There's also the issue of the special effects, which at times looked extremely digital. Both of these problems are more the results of the constraints of television than the fault of the filmmaker.
Brent Hanley's audio commentary is funny and insightful, in spite of his early admission that he wasn't involved with the actual production of the movie. He still has plenty to say about developing the script, as well as interesting choices for who he originally had in mind for the main characters (William H. Macy as Harold, for instance). The two "making of" featurettes, one dealing with the score and one dealing with "Family" itself, are also thorough and entertaining. They also show that John Landis is the most enthusiastic director I've ever seen. It's fairly easy to tell where the energy in his movies comes from after seeing him bouncing around the set.
This was an entertaining hour of television, wickedly funny in some areas, genuinely creepy in others. This DVD gives me all the more reason to check out other entries in the Masters of Horror series. Not guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Starz Home Entertainment
• Skin and Bones: The Making of Family
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