I came upon American Gothic when I was browsing Amazon Prime, looking for something new.
It is an interesting premise. Boston’s most notorious serial killer, the Silver Bell Killer (SBK), would kill wealthy people, strangling them, and arranging them -the final act being placing his moniker, a silver bell, just out of reach. The bell being a mark of their station and inability to use their influence.
A tunnel collapses and a new victim of the SBK turns up, bringing new evidence to light that it must have been someone connected to or a member of, the Hawthorne family.
Mitchell Hawthorne (Jamey Sheridan) is the patriarch and the owner of Hawthorne Concrete. It is hard to pin down what type of man he is as each member of the family has a different view of him. His children find a box of silver bells hidden away, the mom explains that it is because of his love of unsolved murders and memorabilia. When Hawthorne collapsed and went to the hospital, long estranged son Garrett is overheard saying “I’m going to tell them it was you.” And when Mitch is lying in the hospital he tells his wife he wants to tell the truth, she kills him-rather than having it be put out there.
Madeleine Hawthorne (Virginia Madsen) is a blue collar girl who married and shed that skin taking on the role of socialite. She hides her past from everyone and thats not all she is hiding. If anyone has hordes of secrets it is her. Every question they have about their father, any time anything comes up weird or doubts arise-their mother always has an answer for everything. And she is very good at shifting the blame on anyone but a member of her family. Everyone assumes the SBK is man, could it be a woman?
Oldest Hawthorne child is Garret (Antony Starr) long estranged from the family. He was going to marry his long term girlfriend, but he and his father argued one night and he took off. He’s been gone and extremely off the grid for fourteen years, leaving the same time the Silver Bell Killing stopped. Garrett is not only strong but looks like a serial killer, could he be the SBK?
Then there is Alison Hawthorne-Price (Juliet Rylance), city council member and running for Mayor of Boston. She wants to be completely unhelpful to the police and worries about how this will affect her campaign-trying to find a way to spin everything and keep it away from her family. She is always calm, collected, emotions under control, and used to keeping things secret. But is she really interested in saving her family and keeping her campaign running, or is she trying to steer things away from the real killer, herself?
Then comes Cam (Justin Chatwin), the artist in the family and famous cartoonist. He is also a recovering drug addict, trying to get clean but always falling back into it because of the bad influence of his wife Sophie. Cam was only a teenager when the killings happened, but he was already using then and said some weird things about dead bodies and killings. Was it just drug induced hallucinations, withdraw, or something more? Plus his son exhibits all the signs of a serial killer-attacking the neighbors cat, no empathy, obsessed with murder and dead bodies. Who could he have inherited that from?
Tessa Hawthorne-Ross (Megan Ketch), was way too young to have been the serial killer, but how much does she know? She seems like a sweet schoolteacher, always seeing the good in everyone, but is that true or all an act?
Also involved is Tessa’s husband, Brady Ross (Elliot Knight). Brady has just made detective and given the SBK case when the new evidence comes to light. Will he do his job or protect the family? It’s a hard place he’s in and which side will he go to? Find justice and a killer? Or protect his family?
Or could it be someone not in the family? Is there a person out there who is targeting them? Who is the Silver Bell Killer?
So everything sounds good and interesting, what went wrong?
It is too long.
The series is thirteen episodes, which is standard, but too long for this story. It starts off very strong and gets you into it, but you quickly lose interest when they keep finding the killer only to switch it again.
Now this kind of plot twist is fun and great in mysteries, but having an episode with a twist and the next with a twist makes it hard to keep on going. It makes you feel as if the writers are just messing with you and gives you that sense of rage quit.
First it is the dad, then the gardener, then the brother, then the other brother, then the dad…etc. It kind of tiring.
I think it would have been stronger if it was a film or an even shorter a mini series. I mean the end was pretty good, the road was just a bit to long to get there.
To start Horrorfest VII from the beginning, go to It’s the End of the World: The Birds (1963)
For the previous post, go to The Jewel Carries a Curse: Ruby in the Smoke (2006)
For more serial killers, go to Jason’s Out There… Watching… Ready to Kill… Thirsty for Young Blood: Friday the 13th, Part II (1981)
For more Amazon picks, go to The Murderer is Never the One You Initially Suspect: Crooked House (2017)