FX’s American Horror Stories
1×07: “Game Over”
Directed by Liz Friedlander
Written by Ryan Murphy & Brad Falchuk
* For a recap & review of 1×06, click here.
Once more we’ve returned to Murder House, “built above the devil‘s asshole.”
We’re getting very meta here, too. There’s an outright American Horror Story reference as two horror fans—Connie (Noah Cyrus) and Dylan (Adam Hagenbuch)—who met and got together at a horror convention pull up outside. They’re there for the Escape from Murder House Experience. They’re anticipating “pre–planned crazy.” They’ve got no idea what they’re in for here. They break into the provided wine, that just so happens to taste like blood, and then they follow the trail of black roses all the way upstairs. They’re too horny to think of anything else, jumping into bed while the rush of being in that infamous house courses through their veins. They’re lying in bed after Dylan cums too quick, when they hear the voice of Addie (Jamie Brewer). Of course the couple thinks it’s a speaker. There are screams soon downstairs, so they rush off down to the basement, where one of the nurses is walking around. Dylan mansplains a bit of true crime history about Richard Speck before Connie tells him to shut up. Lots of good meta dialogue here, especially the reference about Sarah Paulson talking shit about Roanoake.
In the basement, Connie and Dylan run into some caged trick or treaters. They think they missed an episode and don’t recognise these characters. But the girls explain they’ve been there for a decade, after showing up at the door on Halloween. They met Dr. Ben Harmon (Dylan McDermott), who warned them they didn’t want to be there. The girls also met a bunch of other ghosts from the house, including the Ruby and the Rubber Man. All too quickly the couple realises the place is real when the monsters come out to attack them. Even Twisty the Clown comes out to play.
That’s because it’s actually a video game. Michelle (Mercedes Mason) has designed it, but it’s not quite hitting the points of what fans love about the show. There’s a great discussion between her and her son, Rory (Nicolas Bechtel). He tries to explain that it isn’t enough to be scary and be in the same setting. He says it’s about the tensions and the people not dealing with their own “human shit.” But it’s a deeper thing, between the kid and his mom, it isn’t just about the fact that Michelle doesn’t get the vibe of American Horror Story. Michelle’s obviously trying, yet there’s a big rift between the mother and son. She and her ex-husband Steven (John Brotherton) have a terrible relationship, as well. He thinks she’s going to drive herself broke attempting to prove something to somebody by working on this game. Michelle’s pretty sure it’d be called “ambition” if she were a man. I like that this episode’s story is looking at gender dynamics in a different way than we traditionally see. Usually it’s the man in Michelle’s situation, which is true to life, but it’s also compelling to see the roles reversed. If anything, American Horror Stories has been doing more of the work that American Horror Story has been doing for years, subverting expected notions about gender, among other things.
“Pretend monsters let us forget about the real ones”
Love the opening for this episode with the video game-like graphics moving through Murder House.
When Rory goes off to stay with his dad for a while, Michelle’s left at home alone. She throws on more AHS and watches continuously by herself, day and night. What does she do to immerse herself more completely? She goes to take a look at Murder House herself. She wants to make a big on the house as an investment. She makes a low ball offer to the realtor for $100K, and she’s the new adopted parent to the “devil baby house.” A lot of work to develop a video game, particularly given she might die within its walls. Although she isn’t actually buying it. The deal won’t close, she doesn’t have the money for the purchase. She’s going to try and get as much info as possible before then.
Michelle heads back inside the house on Halloween night as all the ghosts filter out for their only night out all year. She’s quite confused by all the people she believes are fans coming out of the house, as well as a couple going in. Like Scarlett, who comes back to be with her girlfriend Ruby. Scarlett’s waiting around for Halloween to come each year, excited to see her lady. And tonight they’re going to get up to a bit of trouble. Downstairs, Michelle sees the familiar red ball roll out of nowhere. Then she hears weeping. She follows the sound to discover Dr. Harmon in his office, crying. She starts to wonder what’s going on when she recognises Ben. She’s sure it’s a joke. Ben tells her: “I‘m in hell.” He rants about being a cheater and blames the women in his life. He ends up having a kind of impromptu session with Michelle as she recounts the trouble in her marriage. She admits she can be hurtful when she gets bored with a relationship. She quickly moves on to asking Ben about the house itself, telling him of the video game and wanting to make it fun, to create something more like the actual experience.
After that Michelle runs into Ruby and Scarlett, the latter dressed in her Rubber Woman suit. She wants to get the vibe of the place, but none of the ghosts are looking to help, exactly. Ruby tells Michelle: “The repetition is the point.” For many of the ghosts, it’s about causing more suffering. And before Michelle’s able to get free, with a slight hand from Dr. Harmon, she gets stabbed by Ruby and her rubber-suited lover.
A year later Halloween comes around again.
Michelle’s able to leave the house, going to see Rory. He’s angry at her about lying, not telling her she went to Murder House. He knew her obsession got her killed. He chastises her about leaving him permanently over a video game rather than getting therapy and changing. Michelle says there’s no escape from the house, but Rory suggests burning the place to the ground. She thinks that’ll just take her away forever. Yet her son wants Murder House to be erased, along with all its pain and suffering. Michelle tries to convince him not to, though who knows what he’ll do. All she can do is go back to the house, like all the other souls trapped there.
You just knew that Rory wasn’t about to let this all go. He shows up with cans full of gas. Upstairs, Michelle and Ruby watch him from the window. The other ghosts aren’t going to sit around and let their home be destroyed. At least Ruby’s not. The others want to be released, so they gang up on Ruby. Dr. Harmon, along with Maya and her friends, cut Ruby’s throat: “Sorry, not sorry.” They all want to let the place burn. Ruby’s able to get a text out to Scarlett for help, hoping her girlfriend can get there before the fire’s lit.
Rory says goodbye to his mother, right as Ruby starts stabbing Michelle. The kid’s saved by Dr. Harmon and the girls so he can light his match. He’s just about stopped by Scarlett, except he drops the match and lets the house burst into flames. We hear the whistling tune from Twisted Nerve while Murder House engulfs in fire, all the various ghosts mostly happy that they’re going to have some rest, though Ruby and Scarlett reluctantly say goodbye.
All that’s left of Murder House are “smouldering remnants.”
Three years later, Scarlett’s looking at a condo built on the grounds of Murder House. The realtor doesn’t talk about that history anymore. There have been “no apparition sightings.” He thinks the fire purified the land. Scarlett decides to take the unit for $1-million in cash. She claims she was an assassin, that’s how she made all her money by killing bad people. When Scarlett settles in, she mourns the loss of Ruby, wishing they could be together forever. This sequence is perfectly set to Noah Cyrus’s “Ghost.” In bed, Scarlett sees Ruby return to her in the Rubber Woman suit. Ruby says she chose to stay while the others moved on. They embrace, finally together.
Then we see it’s part of the American Horror Story game. Michelle’s revamped the game and Rory thinks it’s great. They leave together, then there’s the red ball rolling in the living room. WAIT! WHAT? This makes no sense, whatsoever. Did Murder House not burn down? Then how is a ghost out there in Michelle’s house? Plus, they reference it by Rory asking if the ghosts left or if they escaped into the world. So, how’s mom around then? Is she still dead? If so, does that mean she can just go out into the world because Murder House is no more? Not very well established. Might’ve worked better if Ruby had found Scarlett out in the world, then it would’ve clearly shown the ghosts can now freely go where they wish. Way too confusing and ruined what was otherwise a fantastic episode. Hopefully American Horror Stories continues, but what in the hell was this ending about? Brutal.