FX’s American Horror Story
Season 1, Episode 4: “Halloween – Part 1”
Directed by David Semel (Hannibal, The Strain)
Written by James Wong (Final Destination, The X-Files, Millenium)
* For a review of the previous episode, “Murder House” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Halloween: Part II” – click here
Another flashback now, we open “Halloween: Part 1” with the (partial) deaths of the gay couple who previously lived in the Harmon’s latest home.
Chad (Zachary Quinto) and Patrick (Teddy Sears) are getting ready for Halloween. At least, Chad is anyways. Patrick is heading out to the gym, or he says so – turns out Chad knows that he’s unfaithful. They have an argument, but it’s clear they’re in love. The spark is simply a little light on their love life, apparently. When Patrick heads out, Chad is getting ready for more decorations when the Rubber Man shows up – y’know, the one with whom Vivien (Connie Britton) had sex at the end of Episode 1 – and proceeds to drown him in the bob-for-apples tub. Patrick shows up, an intense stare-off ensues, then the credits roll. Highly creepy. I loved this opening!
The house is not selling, which obviously makes Vivien nervous. She keeps hounding her real estate agent, who in turn suggests they bring in a fluffer – did they intentionally reappropriate this word, or is it to show how little this woman knows about sex culture? I don’t know, either way it was hilarious.
Of course, this all plays into what will happen later in the episode. Look out.
Then Ben Harmon (Dylan McDermott) keeps finding himself stuck with Larry Harvey (Denis O’Hare). The melted man is demanding a little pay cheque for handling the body and disposal of Hayden (Kate Mara) whom he killed in the finale of the previous episode. I can all but literally feel the noose tightening, slowly with each episode, around Ben’s neck. On one hand I feel slightly bad. On the other, he only keeps on compounding his infidelity with stupid move after stupid move. All that being said, the house is manipulating every last one of them, the entire family, in the most cruel of ways.
More this episode between nasty, resenting mama Constance (Jessica Lange) and her sweet but troubled daughter Addie (Jamie Brewer). You can see how insecure Constance is in general, as she somehow believes Addie is going to steal her young, hot boyfriend. It’s sad really, however, I think it’s wonderful writing. We’re seeing that sad side of L.A through this first season. While there are so many typical failed actress angles in film and television, I find Constance and Addie truly moving, while at the same time finding Constance’s behaviour towards her disabled daughter awful and deplorable. It’s simply excellently written work.
Chad and Patrick show up once more. Only Chad is somehow alive, as last we left him his dead eyes were floating in the tub of water and apples.
What I enjoy is how the gay couple’s issues with infidelity mirror those of the Harmons. Fascinatingly morbid scenes between them all. Not only that, Patrick comes onto Ben while they’re alone. Of course Ben turns it down, he’s not gay. All the same there’s this unsettling moment where Patrick tells him “we’re alike“, in the sense of their infidelities, and it rings true.
Moreover, Chad seems to play the devil’s advocate by dropping very subtle suggestions for Vivien in regards to her husband’s cheating.
Jessica Lange and Jamie Brewer work so well together, it is unreal. What I find intriguing is how Brewer, a girl with down syndrome herself, plays a young woman just like herself. For her to have to act out some of those scenes between Addie and Constance, it must’ve been difficult. So to see these two actors working in intense scenes off one another, the subject matter tough and unflinching, it’s a testament to their abilities, as well as the writers who are tackling these situations head-on.
More bits of 1922, as the subplot of Charles and Nora Montgomery (Matt Ross & Lily Rabe) unfolds further into the darkness. Their baby, stolen by someone obviously hating the Montgomerys for their work in abortions, turns up cut to pieces; stored in jars much like Montgomery kept fetuses and other macabre things. To Nora’s surprise, her husband tries to Frankenstein their child back together with bits of his tiny, broken body and the amputated pieces of animals. It is real horrifying and nasty stuff.
Vivien has found out about Ben being in contact once again with Hayden. The tension further boils up between them and Ben scrambles to try and fix things. While he knows the truth – Hayden is dead and gone – Vivien of course does not and worries more will happen. Somehow, Ben is almost able to convince her, but then Hayden’s phone starts ringing Ben on his cell. Somehow. The look on Ben’s face says it all; incredible work.
More horror movie score working its way into the series – a bit of music from Wojciech Kilar from Bram Stoker’s Dracula directed by Francis Ford Coppola. That movie is one I absolute love, so to hear a piece of music from it used here again excites me. Glad to see Murphy & Co. know the quality stuff, despite what anyone says about that film. It was an incredible movie with awesome music and an overall well-crafted aesthetic, so I’m glad it’s receiving homage in some form here.
The most tragic thing happens in “Halloween: Part 1”, as Addie – pretty girl mask on and all – runs into the road after a bunch of young girls she wants to trick-or-treat alongside. She’s promptly smashed by a car, something I never once expected. I didn’t realize when I first saw this season, as it originally aired, that Addie made her way out so quickly. On second viewing, I’m amazed that it’s only the fourth episode and already Addie dies. Crazy how you sometimes forget things like that when watching a television show. Just goes to show how much is going on in one season of American Horror Story, that such an important, sorrowful event happened early on and I thought it was much later.
BEST SCENE: a doctor at the hospital faints after viewing Vivien’s sonogram, obviously seeing something which affected her. It’s quick, effective, and spooked me. Nice horror movie moment right there.
The finale of “Halloween: Part 1” is incredibly wild, weird, and creepy. The house is surrounded by people, both past and present – and otherwise – as even a living dead Hayden shows back up at the door. All the while, Larry Harvey is looking for his money, screaming, raving out on the porch, as Violet is left to fend for herself. Then there’s also Rubber Man, standing in the background silent as ever, right behind Violet. There’s seemingly no escape; for any of them.