American history gets turned upside down in The Washingtonians, one of the latest entries in the “Masters of Horror”
anthology series. Starring Johnathon Schaech and Saul Rubinek, the movie posits that a grisly secret has been kept for more than two centuries by a homicidal, clandestine sect of cloak-and-dagger historians — namely that first American president George Washington’s had a cannibalistic urge for the flesh of children.
The Washingtonians centers on Mike and Pam Franks (Schaech and Venus Terzo, respectively), a young married couple who, along with their daughter (Julia Tortolano), move into an old Virginia home willed to Mike by his late grandmother. While rooting through some of his grandmother’s old belongings in the basement, Mike finds a strange painting of George Washington (Gozer not included), along with a hidden note in the frame that makes mention of eating children and making utensils from their bones. After deducing that the note is from Washington himself, Mike naturally starts casually mentioning it around town, and receives plenty of cold stares and clenched jaws. Mayhem ensues.
Helmed by Peter Medak (Pontiac Moon), whose abundant episodic television experience no doubt helped him when it came to crunching this production’s brisk schedule, and whose arguable comedic experience on Species II no doubt helped, at least in theoretical terms, in striking a balance between black comedy and horror, The Washingtonians has at its core a deliciously goofy concept, the perfect thing for this sort of anthology series. The problem, though, is that the treatment here doesn’t live up to the parallel story a viewer has in their mind, making for a frustrating viewing experience. If done right, the movie could be a cross between, say, The Da Vinci Code, The Wicker Man and some schlocky slice of ’80s-era horror. Schaech and co-writer Richard Chizmar, though, adapting a short story by Bentley Little, don’t have enough interesting set-ups or layered ideas, and so the movie becomes a quite literal (and boring) exercise in pitchfork-type ensemble cover-up and lynching.
Housed in a regular Amray case in turn stored in a cardboard slipcover, The Washingtonians
is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, enhanced for 16×9 televisions. It comes with superb Dolby
digital 5.1 surround sound and 2.0 audio tracks. Multi-hyphenate Schaech and director Medak team up for a joint, feature-length audio commentary track, in which they dole out mad praise to all involved in the production and talk up both the challenges and the exhilaration of tackling such a shoestring-budgeted movie. Similarly effusive cast and crew interviews anchor a 13-minute making-of featurette, and there’s also a seven-minute-plus featurette on the make-up effects of the movie, and its many powdered wigs and bloody teeth. Rounding out the special features are a photo gallery, a DVD-ROM copy of the
movie’s screenplay, and plenty of trailers for other films in the series. C- (Movie) B+ (Disc)