Eye For Film >> Movies >> American Gothic (1995) Film Review
In Trinity, a small North Carolina town, a family is murdered. The only survivor is a young boy named Caleb (Lucas Black). The town's sheriff, Lucas Buck (Gary Cole) seems to have an unnatural sway over all the townsfolk. All except Caleb that is, who is being guided by the ghost of his dead sister Merlyn (Sarah Paulson).
The whole series is built upon masterful performances from Gary Cole and Lucas Black. What could have been easily dismissed as simple supernatural horror is given immediate gravitas by their involvement. Lucas Black gives one of the finest sustained performances from a child actor you're likely to see, never being either precocious nor unaccomplished. And if Gary Cole doesn't flat out scare you with his unhurried, controlled, and creepy manipulation of people, then there's something wrong with you.
The remaining actors fall either into recurring characters interested in Caleb's well-being or one-off guest stars who fall foul of Sheriff Buck. Of the recurring characters, Nick Searcy, as the town's deputy, best fulfils the potential of his role. Although the others aren't by any means poor, they're definitely in the shadows of Cole and Black.
Strangely, the supernatural and horror elements of this supernatural horror are its weakest aspects! I've never been one to be much scared by films and TV and all the talk of there being someone at the door, ghosts, and whatnot washed right over me. I considered all instances of the occult to be the necessary price I paid in order to get to the real meat of the show. The related special-effects were often noticeable and distracting, although calling them poor would be unfair.
American Gothic never quite decides whether it wants to have an overall story arc or standalone episodes. Too often new people feel as though they have been introduced solely for them to suffer some unpleasant fate or another. Had some of the one-off main characters been lightly woven into a previous episode or two, the town of Trinity would have been more believable and American Gothic would have felt more involving and immersive. A series like Murder One stands up all these years later because the story stretches throughout all the episodes. American Gothic doesn't feel like a must-own show, it feels like regular telly, albeit very good regular telly.
If you've not seen American Gothic before, then definitely seek it out. If you have seen it before, then it might not quite offer enough beyond cherry-picking a few favourite episodes.Reviewed on: 24 Mar 2006