Main cast: George Wendt (Harold Thompson), Meredith Monroe (Celia Fuller), Matt Keeslar (David Fuller), Hailey Guiel (Sarah), Kerry Sandomirsky (Jane), John B Scott (Grandpa), and Nancy Whyte (Grandma)
Director: John Landis
Family follows the footsteps of John Landis’s contribution to the first season, Deer Woman, in that it is a dark comedy rather than outright horror. In fact, this one doesn’t have any paranormal element, just Norm from Cheers being a cheery but cold-blooded serial killer.
Harold Thompson has a lovely family. His wife Sarah and himself dote on their cute daughter Sarah, and he expects Sarah’s grandparents to join them too. Only, the whole perfect family thing is an elaborate game of make-believe in his head: every family scene that takes place in his head, he plays out using human skeletons as a prop. And he kills the people and melts their flesh in acid in his basement in order to obtain the skeletons. He kills his victims to make them join his ‘family’, so yes, he murdered and did that… thing… to the little girl that became his Sarah.
Then one day, a couple moves in next door. David Fuller, who works at the hospital, is overly conscientious and by the book, and Harold doesn’t think much of this wimp. But David’s wife Celia… ah. He knows that Celia, as an investigative journalist, is someone he should not fool around with if he wants to lay low and keep his cover – and I know he knows, because his doubt manifests in the form of Jane warning him to stay away – but he soon decides that she lusts after him as much as he her, so he will “divorce” Jane and do the necessary to make Celia his new “wife”.
But ah, David and Celia have their own dirty little secret too. Has Harold finally found a prey he can’t close the deal with?
This is clever episode, especially in how it reveals early on that Harold’s interactions with his family are basically an elaborate make-believe fantasy inside his head, but his interactions with “them” still manage to keep me riveted as they are interesting insight into how he constantly talks himself into believing his many delusions and feeding his own ego. Seriously, it takes a big amount of confidence for someone who looks like him to believe that Celia, who let’s face it is way of his league, is lusting after him. Additionally, Harold’s ego insists that Jane becomes insanely jealous over him and Celia. George Wendt does an excellent job here, playing the genial serial killer whose jovial nature can create some very chilling contrast to the moments when he takes his mask off to reveal the monster he really is.
Matt Keeslar has the thankless job of playing a character deliberately written to be as indecisive, whiny, and ineffectual as possible, but that is by design, as everything about David is supposed to give Harold a false sense of superiority over that man. Meredith Monroe’s character has more to do here, and she is an entertaining antagonist for Harold.
The twist at the end is pretty weak, I feel, mostly because there could have been far more interesting ones that they could have come up with. Instead, they opt for a mundane and uninteresting one. Still, the twist fits very well and allows for a neat, if rather anticlimactic, wrap-up.
Oh, and aside from the scenes of Harold “processing” his victims in his basement and a very brief scene of Harold taking a hammer to a victim’s forehead, there is not much violence or gore here; all the actual murders happen offscreen. But Harold’s character is pretty chilling in itself to carry the episode to the finish line.
Family is easily one of the most entertaining, well-acted, and well-done episodes in this series. Jesus, Gave Me Water indeed.