Main cast: Johnathon Schaech (Mike Franks), Venus Terzo (Pam Franks), Julia Tortolano (Amy Franks), Myron Natwick (Samuel Madison III), and Saul Rubinek (Professor Harkinson)
Director: Peter Medak
Mike Franks brings his wife Pam and their daughter Amy back to his childhood home in order to attend his grandmother’s funeral. The house is his now, anyway, so it is also his homecoming. Given that Amy is easily scared of anything and everything, I’m not sure how wise it is to move into a big house with plenty of shadowy corners and what not, but hey, who am I to question the wisdom of turning down a free house.
At any rate, trouble begins when the Franks discover a letter stuck inside the frame of the family portrait of George Washington, which has the gristly threat from the letter writer – one “GW” – to skin and eat the children of the recipient of the letter before fashioning tools out of their bones. There is also a fork that looks like it was fashioned out of bone. When his grandmother’s friend Samuel asks for the letter, claiming that he can link Mike up to a collector, Mike refuses. The townspeople soon turn against them, and the Franks soon realize the gristly truth: these people are all cannibals, and their lineage dates back to George Washington himself, who develops a fondness for human flesh after the event at Valley Forge. Can the Franks avoid becoming their neighbors’ dinner?
The Washingtonians, based on a short story of the same name by Bentley Little, may have cannibals but, unlike the story which has a darker, more macabre kind of humor, the show plays up the camp factor for laughs. The whole thing is far more comical than terrifying, although the presence of cannibals means that there will be the occasional scenes of gore here as well. Not that this is a bad thing, as the campy atmosphere elevates an otherwise tepid and even illogical story into a more entertaining experience.
The cannibals steal the show, believe it or not. There are many oldish people here who leer and practically drools at the sight of Amy, and the effect is both terrifying and amusing. These folks are not subtle at all – they leer, overact in a manic manner, have hideous table manners, and generally act like they are high on something. The sight of them on buggies and wearing bad Washingtonian-style garbs (complete with wooden teeth and wigs) makes me laugh, when normally I’d question the wisdom of cannibals using old fashioned accoutrements and horse buggies in a time when they could be mowed down by guns and armored trucks.
This episode is erratically constructed, and by the time it ends, I’m not sure what really happened in the last act. And really, Amy is an irritating character who exists only to get into trouble and scream every time she is in a scene. Still, this is a creepy fun episode, all things considered, so it’s an alright entry into the tepid second season of this series.