FX’s American Horror Story
Season 1, Episode 7: “Open House”
Directed by Tim Hunter (River’s Edge)
Written by Brad Falchuk
* For a review of the previous episode, “Piggy Piggy” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Rubber Man” – click here
Nice open from when Constance Langdon (Jessica Lange) and Larry Harvey (Denis O’Hare) were together, living in Murder House amongst their dark bliss. Constance tells him to do it, like he said he would. First, I thought it would be the first we know eventually burns Larry. However, he heads upstairs to their son Beau who lives in the attic. He’s terribly deformed, something is wrong with him beyond a mere disability; he looks similar to Victor Crowley in Adam Green’s modern slasher Hatchet. Then, as papa Larry tells him it’s time for bed, instead of a gentle goodnight poem for Beau, his father instead chokes/smothers him to death.
In present day, Vivien Harmon (Connie Britton) is trying hard as she can to sell off Murder House. Marcy (Christine Estabrook), the real estate agent, isn’t quite cutting it, but mostly it’s the history of the house putting things into chaos. Joe Escandarian (Amir Arison) has shown up to see the place; he’s a sleazy land developer type, more interested in the young looking Moira (Alexandra Breckenridge) than the house itself. He only wants to turn it all into a block of complexes, apartments or some other such development.
Of course, any work like that might pose a problem for the ghosts of the house. As well as anyone else involved with them, attached, anyone family to the deceased who are left roaming around the property of the house. Then they’d be stuck in some big complex, forced to live with others instead of able to stay around with their own family, their own friends.
The relationship between Tate (Evan Peters) and Violet (Taissa Farmiga) is deepening. She clearly only wants to help him, but still he’s oblivious to the afterlife. He even outright asks Violet if she believes in ghosts; Tate simply believes that there must be somewhere else better than right here, right now. If only he understood.
Even more, Violet can’t stand her parents, they’re making her feel neglected. Both Vivien and Ben (Dylan McDermott) care that she does not want to leave Murder House – for reasons they know not – however, most of all Ben just wants to get it sold and try to “pick up the pieces” because he obviously feels everything slipping away, trickling out of his grasp. Unfortunately for him, Vivien is resistant. She doesn’t particularly care what Ben wants, nor should she, still – it’s in everyone’s best interest to get out of there.
We know, though, the house is not going to up and let them off without struggle.
Mr. Escandarian is being lured in by the young Moira. Reason being, she wants him to dig up the backyard for a pool. She uses her sexuality to bring him closer, like all the weak men who see her as a twenty-something. But it isn’t only a pool – she wants her bones dug up, so that maybe she might get away from the house. I feel bad for Moira because her sexuality, sadly, is what killed her; Constance punished her fatally for it. At the same time, sexuality is one of her only weapons beyond the grave – I love the angle that men, weak and frail, cannot resist her, seeing the sexy young lady while women see kind and orderly, older Frances Conroy. Great and telling twist.
More of Larry Harvey’s backstory comes out here. He had a wife, but fell in love extramaritally with Constance Langdon next door; she lived in Murder House before them. Turns out, his wife Lorraine (Rebecca Wisocky) set the fire which ultimately killed his family and left him a half-burned man.
So his love for Constance and dedication to her is what drives Larry to try and keep the house in his possession, or at the very least in some way under possession of all the souls on its grounds.On the Murder House tour, Vivien and Marcy discover more of the history.
Back to the 1920s with Charles and Nora Montgomery (Matt Ross & Lily Rabe). Now there is further macabre and grisly stuff to discover. Nora prepares herself to say goodbye and have a funeral for their murdered baby. However, Charles has pieced it back together using all that Frankenstein-like power of his he’d been perfecting in the basement.
When Nora goes upstairs to say hello to the little thing, she tries to breastfeed it. Downstairs with her husband, claw marks all over her chest make it clear the baby needs something else. As Nora says: “It wasn‘t milk he was craving.” Such a spectacularly creepy scene! Charles brought to life a half-baby, half-animal, something not entirely human. It’s more than macabre, it’s downright horrific.
But then Nora does them all a favour – she blasts her husband in the back of the head with a revolver before eating the barrel herself. WHOA! I mean, it was dark to begin with; this came on nasty, and like Gang Busters.
What I most enjoy about “Open House” is how all the ghosts, as well as the still living Constance and half-living Larry, come together in a kind of pact. In order for them all to get what they want, the house must remain in tact. Therefore, Mr. Escandarian is a bit of trouble in terms of keeping it in their possession, under their control. Constance tries to go talk with him reasonably on her own terms, however, he is not the nice businessman-type; he is arrogant and misogynistic and a real douchebag. He all but seals his own fate by brushing Constance off so rudely.
Again, reference to Peter Medak’s The Changeling, as Violet heads up to the attic where she comes across Beau; naturally, dying at the hands of his own father in the house he too is a part of its structure. Why, all of a sudden, is Violet seeing this? Tate tells her she has “evolved“, but there is more to it, I think.
Regardless, I love how the little red ball comes out of the darkness to Violet before she sees anything else. Great little reference, there’s no way it isn’t alluding to Medak’s masterpiece starring George C. Scott.
We’re seeing the veil drop for Violet now in the house. There’s something more to what’s happening with her and each episode brings us closer to whatever realization lies beyond that veil.
Pretty solid episode, once more. Particularly I love how the ghosts are coming together to try and protect the house, as well as themselves. Ultimately, family is a big theme of the season, but also survival – while the family, Ben, Vivien, Violet alike, are all trying to survive in their own rights, the ghosts and the house are trying to survive in their own ways. Their unfinished business carrying them on and on.
Also a nice little end as Violet shows her mother older pictures from her adventure in the attic with Tate. In one of them, Vivien sees the woman who came to her house recently: long since deceased Nora Montgomery.
Next episode is titled “Rubber Man”, directed by Miguel Arteta (Chuck & Buck, Youth in Revolt) and by the name of the episode we can bet there will be revelations concerning the latex Rubber Man creeping about Murder House, the one who most likely impregnated Vivien.
Stay tuned for yet another review, moving along swiftly through Season 1!