FX’s American Horror Story
Season 7, Episode 3: “Neighbors from the Hell”
Directed by Gwyneth Horder-Payton
Written by James Wong
* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “11/9” – click here
We begin with a woman named Rosie (Laura Allen) talking about her fears to Dr. Rudy Vincent (Cheyenne Jackson), discussing her phobias. Her husband Mark (Ron Melendez) supports her. She was locked in a cupboard as a child by an abusive father. Her father is dead now, giving closure. Now she’s “finally free” after a process of desensitisation, breaking down her phobia of coffins, and ultimately of death. All better, right?
At home, Mark has a surprise for Rosie. When he steps out of the room, the clowns arrive. They’ve set up two coffins, one for the husband, the other for the wife. Inside they go. Those deepest fears realised, horribly. Similar to how Ally Mayfair-Richards (Sarah Paulson) is targeted due to her phobias. And now we see a symbol being left at the crime scenes, a crude happy face design.
So, is the doc in on it? Or, is one of the clowns gaining access to his confidential files? Ahh therein lies the mystery. Bring it on, baby.
Of course there’s Ally, who shot Pedro Morales (Jorge-Luis Pallo) on her doorstep, not realising it was him. She feels terrible. Ivy (Alison Pill) and Detective Jack Samuels (Colton Haynes) both assure it was “self–defence.” The cop reinforces it by referencing the Stand Your Ground law in their state. Beginning to see him as a bit of an ominous character, too. We’ll see where it all goes. But now, Ally’s mental state is the most worrisome thing happening, as we’re left to suss out who’s in on the terror. The detective? The doctor? The wife? All of them?
“Now we‘re seeing the collective rage and suspicion of this community has a focus, and it‘s a woman whose critics are calling a lesbian George Zimmerman.”
Oh, damn: we get my man Dermot Mulroney as a news anchor, and MY GIRL, Adina Porter showing up as reporter for Channel 7, Beverly Hope! She’s working on the story about the shooting. Tons of people stand outside chanting “No justice, no peace” in front of the Butchery on Main. And who else shows up? Kai Anderson (Evan Peters). There to assure she did “nothing wrong.” Although you can be sure he’s not doing it out of anything other than his hatred, his xenophobia, his utter racism. Scary to see him on her side.
Back at home, Harrison and Meadow Wilton (Billy Eichner/Leslie Grossman) show up with sombreros on, chastising her for using a gun for the wrong purpose, to murder, so they say. “You‘re no progressive,” says Harrison. These two are a great, confused mix of modern liberals and libertarians mashed together, which I find appropriately hilarious. One of my favourite scenes so far. Ally literally has nowhere else to go, she’s surrounded by the far-right, the far-left.
Even better? There’s a weird tanker truck driving down the street at night, underlit by green neon. Maybe the next evolution of the ice cream truck for the clown gang? Either way, a subtly unsettling image.
Next morning it gets worse, when Ally and Ivy wake up to a ton of dead birds all over the lawn. The couple calls the city about the truck they saw, naturally Ally’s a bit crazier about the situation. Then Winter Anderson (Billie Lourd) walks back in. Ivy’s willing to give her another chance, convincing her wife that it’s best for Oz (Cooper Dodson) to have her around. She also says there’s a man waiting, she let him in.
They find the guy in the living room, naked, jerking off. Someone posted an ad that lesbians were looking for a “stud.” He gets mad, thinking they’re lying. But Ivy runs him out before anything worse happens. They believe the Wiltons likely posted the ad. Ally talks to Dr. Vincent, as usual, he offers to help with getting the ad taken down, so on. If the Wiltons are the culprits, it’s harassment.
Ally willingly goes down to speak with the protesters, believing she understands where they’re coming from, that she is one of them. They crowd her car, she honks the horn. Suddenly, Kai emerges: “Enough.” One word is all it takes and they disperse. He comes to Ally as someone who cares, someone who can help. Much like the beginning of how a cult leader sways people into servitude. Or how a sociopath lulls someone into complacency before an attack.
We’re seeing more of the Wiltons, such as the fact Dt. Samuels is close friends with the couple. They’ve sent a guinea pig over to Oz, because he needs “some diversity” because he’s “drowning in white privilege and oestrogen” in their home. All this before Ally sees the creepy truck again, falling in the street as it nearly runs her over.
And Meadow, she’s playing the pinky game with Kai. She isn’t serious enough, though. So he smacks her around, speaking of “revolution.” The cult leader in him is strong. He tells her: “You want to matter? Then you make the world wrong.” This is the war cry of the delusional, those who aren’t disenfranchised but believe they are. Do not take responsibility: it’s someone else’s fault.
That night, the Mayfair-Richards family find the smiley face left on their front door, the guinea pig in the microwave, exploding in a spurt of blood. So Ally walks right into the house across the street, punching Harrison in the nose and screaming at the couple. Although it appears they don’t know anything about it, or so they act.
In the meantime, those smiley faces are everywhere on their property. Marked for more terror. That truck is still around. Someone in a suit gets out of it this time, spraying Ally’s lawn, and this sends her into hysterics. When she pulls off their mask, it’s a smiley face underneath. She passes out, then they spray some more.
Harrison is across the table from Kai this time, revealing his first gay experience, similar things. Moreover, he admits he wishes Meadow was dead. His darkest thoughts and desires laid bare for the cult leader to see, to use.
Ally and Ivy get talking to Dt. Samuels, unaware he’s in bed, literally, with the Wiltons; mostly Harrison, surely. He also tells the couple the smiley face is genuine, the mark of the killer(s). Upstairs, Oz has clicked on a link and found something nasty: a video of Winter, next to the tub with her hand in the water while Ally’s lying back relaxing. A further wedge between the couple. Ivy sees it as cheating, a betrayal. This sends her off with their boy, bitter and filled with rage.
Across the street is a commotion. Harrison shows up in the driveway, covered in blood and screaming. Inside the Wilton house Oz finds a large smiley face on the wall.
Nothing, no one is safe.
An intense episode. Really dug the premise from the start, and now it’s starting to get even better. Lots of creepiness, lots of unexpected moments. Good horror! Nothing supernatural this season, which is working out because the disturbing factor feels even higher than ever.
“11/9” is next week.