Family (Masters of Horror)

If you're finding the Masters of Horror series' a bit hit and miss, then this could be right up your well-manicured suburban street. Yes it's all hit in John Landis's (An American Werewolf in London) episode which sees George 'Cheers' Wendt firmly ensconced in a pristine but pretty messy suburban horror. Wendt plays Harold, the seemingly perfect neighbour who's outwardly friendly yet with an air of reserve (just ideal for that picket-fenced parade!). Newcomers to the street, Celia and David, find Harold the ideal, welcoming neighbour and a tentative relationship of social niceties prevails between the three. But who is what they seem when the glossy veneer of manners and acceptability begins to crack?

There are few premises as timeless and workable as that of what lies beneathe the facade of the suburban idyll, and Landis works this to more than satisfying effect, coupled with the scribing talents of Frailty's Brent Hanley. In a turn that knowingly owes much to Psycho, our Portly but peachy man of the seemingly unsullied street, Harold, unravels during Wendt's tight performance to prove he is quite, quite mad. Yes, the mental rot has set in below the outwardly controlled and contained face to the world and some very dark things are lurking beneathe the show-home exterior.

If you're expecting to find the checked tongue-in-cheek humour of American Werewolf then you won't be disappointed here. Landis crafts (sometimes that word gets bandied about quite unneccessarily, but this certainly exhibits craftsmanship, especially if you watch the extras) a subtle yet shocking horror that encorporates pretty much all you could ask for in an episode of a TV series.  It carefully balances the right levels of menace and dark humour, with Landis showing he still knows just how and where to extrapolate a bit of empathy. Like any good horror, there's social commentary thrown in to boot, but Family has the smarts to leave you to pick this up for yourself, leaving you to put the meat on the bones. Be sure to check out the extras, too, as, if you're a fan of horror directors with an exuberant passion for the job, plus some long-time buddying, you'll be most pleased indeed. Not as gory as some, but highly enjoyable and deliciously dark.

Sad, funny and very, very well-rounded 9/10