Inspired by the Grant Wood painting, “American Gothic” is a 24-minute experimental horror short. Director Carlos Batts explains in his intro that the idea is that the farmer in the Wood painting killed his wife, and is now consumed by guilt. This is conveyed through a collage of surreal images, mixing Magritte, Goth and splatter, with a soundtrack that mixes portentous poetry and death metal/industrial rock. The latter isn’t a completely successful fit, partly because of audio limitations (s…e below), but also because some of those scenes begin to resemble a fairly conventional rock video. Intriguing work all the same.
The sound is in 2.0, which works just fine for the echoing, ominous recitations and general atmosphere. The metal isn’t as well served by the lack of the full bass offered by 5.1, and is noticeably less loud than the rest of the track, and thus hardly the powerful force it should be.
Though some sequences are very grainy, it is hard to judge is this is something to do with the transfer or the original film (my hunch is the latter, since other, entirely computer generated shots have no grain to speak of). The colours are good, and the overall picture is fine, though it loses some sharpness in not being anmorphic.
Batts introduces not only the main feature, but also the three other shorts included here: “Puppadere” (which features a creature made from the bones of dead animals), “Choke” (a brief anti-smoking message) and “Clone” (where the poetry and collisions of images that achieve greater sophistication in “American Gothic” make their presence known). The original film stocks (Super 8 and 16mm) have been destroyed, so the masters used here are VHS, with the expected visual limitations. Also here is a flabbergasted review of “Puppadere” by Film Threat, and a still gallery. The menu’s main page is animated and scored, and a has a fairly lengthy intro.
I may have some mixed feelings here, but certainly not about the worthiness of the release. This is the kind of thing that Cult Epics does very well – getting the cinematic underground out there. More!
Special Features List
- 3 Short Films
- Director’s Introductions
- Photo Gallery
- Film Threat Review of “Puppadere”