FX’s American Horror Stories
1×01: “Rubber (Wo)man: Part One”
Directed by Loni Peristere
Written by Ryan Murphy & Brad Falchuk
* For a recap & review of 1×02, click here.
Two dads, Michael (Matt Bomer) and Troy (Gavin Creel), along with their daughter Scarlett (Sierra McCormick) are moving into a new house. What a dream, right?! Not so much when it happens to be the infamous Murder House. “Home sweet home,” or so they think. Wonder what terrors lie in wait for this new family, and what familiar faces we might encounter. It’ll be fun, and hopefully interesting, to see Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk & Company revisit things in this way while adding onto the mythology without the use of the primary recurring cast that’s been on American Horror Story over the years.
Scarlett has a look around her new house’s Gothic interiors. Her dads are actually planning to renovate the place and capitalise off its notorious reputation by making it a capitalist industry unto itself, offering haunted getaways and the like. Their daughter’s a bit more concerned about the potential ghosts lurking around, whereas Michael and Troy know more about the horrors of humanity. She plays it off more as “practicality” than fear. But I can tell, Scarlett’s already feeling the nightmarish lure of the property. Her dads are too excited about making money to notice.
Quickly we get that old, wonderful homage to The Changeling with the red ball rolling out of the darkness into Scarlett’s room. She doesn’t think much of it, figuring it’s probably one of her dads messing around. She heads out into the hall for a look and a door opens on its own. She goes inside, coming across the Rubber Man suit. Oh, my. Scarlet takes the suit back to her room, intrigued just by the touch of it. She wants to try it on. More homage, returning us to that first season of AHS, with the whistled tune from Twisted Nerve. Scarlett puts on the Rubber Woman suit, until she sees a frightening face behind the mask in the mirror. She immediately tosses the thing in the garbage outside.
And so it begins.
Sucks for Scarlett, dealing with a haunted house filled with ghosts and monsters on top of having to be the new girl at school, too. Although she might have a crush on another girl in her class. She does a lot of staring. And after class, she gets confronted by the girl she was staring at, Maya (Paris Jackson). Or, it’s more like flirting than a confrontation. Scarlett has one friend in Shanti (Belissa Escobedo) at least, who tries to reason with her that Maya’s probably just fucking with her. That doesn’t stop Scarlett from daydreaming sexy things about Maya. Though the sexiness turns to violence fast, the influence of the house playing awful tricks on Scarlett.
That night, the Rubber Man appears above Scarlett. But it’s just a dream… right?
Scarlett and Maya start talking via text. She finds out Maya is likely a closeted lesbian; I only say likely because I’m worried she may be just a bully, time will tell! And she gets invited to a sleepover at Maya. She’s reluctant, due to Maya’s friends. She’s assured she’ll be protected. A bit later, she gets surprised by her dads. They want to talk about the fact she’s watching porn—apparently extreme, violent porn. Her dads are worried that, at sixteen years old, her brain will end up wired wrong if she’s only consuming violent porn. She reacts badly, and it’s hard to blame her. A bit invasive. Yet Michael and Troy aren’t being assholes about it, either. They’re very open, and clearly just concerned. No less difficult for Scarlett, discovering who she is and experiencing so much resistance, in so many complicated ways.
Makes it even worse to have the Rubber Man in the mix. Will we see Tate Langdon at some point in this season? Or is it merely his spirit that haunts the house? Already, Scarlett’s putting the suit back on, becoming the Rubber Woman. We see her grab a knife, stalking the halls of her new home. Her eyes go black and she looks like she’s about to do something horrible, when she laughs, pulling the mask off. She thinks her dads put the suit back in her closet, but they’re horrified. They’re angry, too. When Troy goes towards Scarlett he gets a slice on the arm. The family’s already falling apart, and violently.
“Fear doesn’t stop us from doing what we want.”
Therapy begins, which is probably a good thing. Although an exorcism might be in order, as well. Scarlett attempts to pass the whole ordeal off as a prank. That’s not exactly out of the realm of possibility, as Michael notes they tend to play pranks on each other. Yet a knife’s an escalation. Then we discover that Scarlett was kidnapped as a child. A woman attacked Troy at the grocery store, stealing his car with little Scarlett inside; she was “missing for ten days.” The dads worry the porn and the rubber suit point to trauma in their daughter. The therapist is more worried about the new house and its history. She doesn’t suggest the place is haunted, rather that a place such as the Murder House can “create a darkness” in the mind and these places force us to confront the darker side of existence in general, that horrific things happen to people. None of the therapy session does them any good. Plus, the therapist gets a little glimpse into the house’s terrors before the Rubber Man—or Rubber Woman!—cuts her throat, tossing her into the basement.
Later that evening, Michael finds the rubber suit with blood all over it at the top of the basement stairs. He and Troy burn it. They wonder if it was that “time of the month,” never once imagining that some kind of true horror could occur in their dream home. They decide to forget it, opting for edibles and The Crown on Netflix. Upstairs, Scarlett’s being enticed by Maya into sneaking out despite the grounding for accidentally stabbing one of her dads. It works for her that the dads are stoned and asleep, so out she goes, taking their vehicle with her. At the sleepover, the girls talk about White Claw, but Maya wonders if their identities are all just fake. The other girls are stuck up. Maya thinks Scarlett’s cooler than her friends because Scarlett is authentic. She definitely has a crush on the new girl, and it’s slightly obvious to her friends, especially when she takes Scarlett into her room to offer some pyjamas. They even kiss. Scarlett admits she’s a virgin, and this turns to a conversation about her porn habits. “I like violent stuff,” she tells Maya, who’s digging it. Except it was all a ruse. Maya was fucking with Scarlett all along, and we see the girls outside the door with their phones in hand, broadcasting it live on social media. Nasty. Shanti confirms to Scarlett afterwards that everyone’s seen it all in real time.
It’ll be easier now for the darkness of Murder House to wrap Scarlett up in its dark, shadowy arms.
She phones Maya, claiming she’s about to commit suicide and explain to the world with her last words it was Maya and her friends who caused it. That is, unless they come to her house within an hour. She’s already got the rubber suit waiting. So Maya and her shitty friends go to Murder House. They head inside and get a text, telling them to go to the basement. The girls go downstairs, where they search for Scarlett. Only instead Maya gets a brief look at one of the house’s monstrous ghosts, moments before she gets stabbed to death by the Rubber Woman? Or the Rubber Man? Either way, the ghosts are out. After all the girls are dispatched we see it’s definitely Scarlett, not content with just giving these nasty homophobes a scare.
The next day, Scarlett’s helping to paint and work on the house. Her dads are pleased. All’s well—yeah, right. At least Scarlett has the dead therapist’s ghost around in case they need to chat. There’s also the Rubber Man, and they seem to get along just fine.An unsettling beginning to American Horror Stories. I, personally, loved this first episode.
Let’s see what more traumatic horrors are lurking within Murder House’s Gothic walls.