The Washingtonians (2007) Directed by Peter Medak.
“The Washingtonians” is yet another entry into Mick Garris’s Masters of Horror. As I wrote in my Day 5 review of “The Black Cat,” Masters of Horror ran for two seasons on Showtime from 2005 to 2007–two seasons of 13 episodes each, appropriately–and each of these hour-long episodes was a stand-alone horror mini-movie, helmed by a director known for previous work within the horror genre.
Apparently director Peter Medak’s claims to the title “Master of Horror” are Species II and The Changeling, neither of which I’ve seen. But if they’re anything close to the quality on display here, then they must be awful. Also, “The Washingtonians” stars Johnathon Schaech, who also co-wrote the teleplay with Richard Chizmar. These two had previously written (and Schaech had starred in) the straight-to-video classic Road House 2: Last Call. Based on a short story by Bentley Little, the premise of “The Washingtonians” is that George Washington was actually a homicidal cannibal, and thus the entirety of our American history is a lie.
The weirdest thing about “The Washingtonians” is that I had no idea it was supposed to be a comedy until about halfway through. This was supposed to be a comedy, right? I mean, it wasn’t funny or anything, but I get that it was supposed to be. Actually, I’m really not sure if it was supposed to be a comedy or not. I do know that, as a horror film, it was supposed to be scary. At least, I think it was supposed to be scary. Okay, I’m not sure if it was supposed to be scary either. But it was supposed to make me stop and think about things–things like America, and history, and how much I should really trust the government. That is what they were going for, right? (As you can see, I have no idea what they were trying to go for.)
Anyway, what I am positively sure about is that there are a lot of scary things in the world, and “The Washingtonians” was good enough to bring these things to my attention. So here is:
The Washingtonian Guide To Things That Are Scary:
1. Owls. If you want your movie to be scary, just open on an owl. It doesn’t matter what kind, or whether the sound it makes matches the species, as long as it hoots and is an owl.
2. Dark roads. Dark roads are scary, especially at night and especially if there is an owl.
3. Hitch-hiking. Never go hitch-hiking. It’s dangerous. Especially on dark roads at night. And most especially if there is an owl.
4. Hoofbeats. If you’re hitch-hiking at night, and you hear hoofbeats, run, because nothing good comes on horseback in the middle of the night.
5. Ice cream cones. They melt and get all over your face, and then your mom has to clean you up even though you’re ten years old and should be able to wipe your own face by now.
6. Guys talking politics on the radio. Never, ever listen to guys talking politics on the radio. You will lose brain cells.
7. Old houses. Especially old houses bathed in sunlight on a beautiful summer day.
8. Old dudes dressed in Colonel Sanders clothes asleep in rocking chairs. Why would you ever touch one of those?
9. Even scarier, an old dude dressed in Colonel Sanders clothes suddenly being jolted out of slumber because you touched him.
10. A guy with huge teeth getting all up in your grill.
11. Southern accents. They may seem inviting…
12. Lollipops. If a stranger pulls a lollipop out of his pocket and offers it to you, do not accept. Even if it’s his favorite flavor, cherry.
13. Bathrooms. God help you if you have to use one.
14. Basements. Don’t wander into the basement, especially if you’re trying to find the bathroom which you were just told is down the hall.
15. Painted portraits of dead historical figures. They tend to hide in the dark with a swath of light across their eyes, just in case you ever wander down into the basement because you had to use the bathroom and have an extremely bad sense of direction.
16. Forks carved out of the bones of children. I know this one seems counterintuitive, but trust me.
18. Old people. Especially in packs. Especially at funerals.
19. Bowties. (“A cravat’s supposed to point down to accentuate the genitals. Why would you want to trust a man whose tie points out to accentuate his ears?” David Mamet knows what’s what.)
20. One-dollar bills. Especially in close-up. You can tell that dead president is hiding something behind his pursed expression.
21. This musical score, and every single scene and image it accompanies.
22. Pale men on horseback.
24. Waitresses who work at diners.
25. The entire State of Virginia.
26. The sound of a heartbeat. This always means something bad is about to happen. Or, possibly, that you over-exerted yourself and need to take some deep breaths and sit down for awhile.
27. Or it could mean there is an actual heart that has been cut out and is still beating, sitting on your kitchen table.
28. Being asleep. Never fall asleep or something horrible might happen.
29. Being awake. Never wake up or something horrible might happen.
30. The acting in this movie.
31. Remembering that Johnathon Schaech was once upon a time in That Thing You Do!, and realizing that you might also only ever do one thing worth remembering in your career.
32. Bran flakes. Boxes of bran flakes occasionally come with things other than bran flakes inside. (In fact, as further evidenced in Arachnophobia, pretty much any box of food should be considered suspect at all times.)
33. Historians. They are just a bunch of filthy liars. Fear them. Fear facts. Fear history in all forms.
34. Virginity. It only means you taste better.
35. People doing impressions of Jack Nicholson from The Shining.
36. Dinner parties. Oh, those horrible dinner parties.
37. Ugly art.
38. Wooden teeth. They’re not just to make you look pretty.
39. “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”–which is actually a Civil War song, but whatever.
40. People doing impressions of Jack Nicholson from A Few Good Men.
41. Chinese stereotypes.
42. George W. Bush. He’s still out there. Somewhere.
43. This entire script.
44. Last, but most especially, George Washington and anyone who likes to dress up like George Washington. Hide your children. These people would like nothing better than to eat their flesh and carve dinner utensils from their bones. You’ve been warned.
My Netflix rating: 1 star (out of 5)