MOH Review: EP 2.12: Peter Medak’s ‘The Washingtonians’

Inside we’ve posted our latest review from this season’s Masters of Horror (all reviews), which airs every Friday on Showtime. Inside you’ll find Tex Massacre’s review of “The Washingtonians” — In episode 2.12, a grieving man discovers among his recently deceased grandmother’s possessions a shocking and grisly secret about our nation’s past that could rewrite history. Johnathon Schaech and Saul Rubinek star in this episode directed by Peter Medak (The Changeling).
The Washingtonians (MoH 2.12)
Reviewed By: Tex Massacre
6/10 or 3 Skulls

Masters of Horror is no stranger to satire. Of the 22 episodes that have thus far made up Season One and Two of the original series a fair share of the films have skewered traditional terror for a wittier proposal. Some have succeeded, like John Landis’ FAMILY and more than a few have failed, but each week they bring us back for a more rounded approach to our favorite genre.

Just as many of the episodes presented in the past year, this week’s tale is an adaptation. Bentley Little’s saga of The Washingtonians was first published in an assemblage of short stories aptly titled The Collection–now, it is brought to the screen by Director Peter Medak (THE CHANGLING) Co-writer Richard Chizmar (FROM A BUICK 8) and co-writer/star Jonathan Schaech (THE FORSAKEN).

Schaech plays Mike Franks–a family man who along with his wife and 10-year old daughter travels to Virginia to attend the funeral of his Grandmother. Amongst the posessions in her antebellum estate, Franks discovers a letter that may have been written by George Washington. The rarity of this letter becomes even more shocking when it reveals that the father of our country may have actually been a savage cannibal who feasted on the flesh of the young. As the mystery concerning the letter begins to unfold, The Franks’ come face to face with an age old secret so terrible that it must be told and a band of faithful so intent on keeping up the illusions of the past that they threaten to destroy the entire family.

Taking a cue from past Masters of Horror episodes, Medak’s film is as much a comment on governmental cover-up as it is an outright genre film. If the winners write history, then the details of the victories are inconsequential. It’s this kind of thinking that peppers what might have been little more than a bloodbath of organ chomping–and I promise you, there’s plenty to postmortal consumption taking place here. Unfortunately what works in the episode is often overshadowed by the ham-fisted performances and oddly placed moments of out right comedy.

Schaech is saddled with carrying the film and in his expressionless manner he manages to neither convey the gravity of the situation or the utter terror he should experience as his family’s lives are placed in the path of a band of vicious cannibals–maybe he should have watched THE HILLS HAVE EYES a few times to see what terror looks like. Still, the performance of Schaech is hardly questionable when compared to the scenery chewing madness of Saul Rubinek (TRUE ROMANCE) who is normally one of the very best performers in a film. Rubinek’s portrayal of a college professor cum Indiana Jones is exasperating in his mercifully short amount of screen time. In fact, it is with his arrival that the film begins its rapid descent into an almost slapstick anarchy.

Peter Medak has had and long a varied career helming a broad range of feature films and television shows. In that time he has turned out some impressive work, including ROMEO IS BLEEDING, and THE KRAYS aside episodes of TALES FROM THE CRYPT, THE TWILIGHT ZONE and KINDRED: THE EMBRACED. It’s unfortunate that coming on board as one of the few new directors this season, that Medak could not have chosen a more straightforward film. The problem with THE WASHINGTONIANS is that it’s satire moves too quickly from biting to grating, chalking up one more notch in the “nearly good” category–a column, I might add, that is well stocked with other seemingly promising Masters of Horror episodes.

Source: Official website