While Ally tries to escape the cult with Ivy and their son, things only get more devious.
FX’s American Horror Story
Season 6, Episode 5: “Chapter 5”
Directed by Nelson Cragg
Written by Akela Cooper
* For a review of Chapter 4, click here.
* For a review of Chapter 6, click here.
Where does the nightmare go from here?
Edward Philippe Mott – undoubtedly related to Dandy Mott from Season 4 – is the one who built the Big Shaker House, the house where Shelby and Matt Miller (Lily Rabe & André Holland) experienced their personal nightmare. We get flashes of this Mott, as a historian tells us about the old property.
And who is it that plays Edward Mott? In a dramatic re-enactment (remember this well; this re-enactment business has a purpose), Evan Peters plays the man himself.
The historian tells us Mott had severe social anxiety. So he went out into the woods to build himself a home, away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Even during the building process, things got strange. Like they would. Most interesting is that Mott had the house mostly to be with his homosexual lover, away from his family. He’s got lots of other things going on, though. Mott is gay; no big deal. It’s his madness I care about. Before the house starts fucking with him he’s already a bit insane.
Then the haunting begins. Poor Edward, he finds his paintings destroyed. The very things he’d only recently rambled about while in the tub with his lover. He interrogates his staff, not getting any of the answers he wanted. He locks them away like animals. That house is bringing out the worst qualities in him. “Do not judge me,” he tells his lover – a black man – who he also points out is only a servant. Harsh, dude. Fucking low.
Finally, in the night Edward hears sqeuals, noticing a fire outside. It’s Thomasin White (Kathy Bates) and her rowdy band of settlers. They do him in, stabbing a pike through his chest before setting him ablaze. Of course the poor servant gets the blame. They even find the other servants down in the cellar, only starved skeletons left. A truly, unbearably nasty history. Real estate nightmare.
With Thomasin right outside the house where we last left the Millers, Shelby and Matt (Sarah Paulson & Cuba Gooding Jr.) wait at their window, calling 9-11. Ambrose White (Wes Bentley) calls out to them about a “merciless reckoning.” The couple try to enact a plan to escape, although splitting up is never good; at least not for the victims of horror. And when Flora (Saniyya Sidney) gets snatched up by a terrifying, ghostly figure that scampers away on all fours, nothing is looking good for anybody. Then the fucking Pig Man shows up, the dead hunters. All the ghosts and ghouls come out to play, commanded by Thomasin and her power. From nowhere comes Mott, leading the Millers into a tunnel downstairs; is he on their side, or that of The Butcher? “I will keep her from killing you, no more, no less,” explains Edward. He wants solitude. Too many souls kicking around in the house. Y’know, practical ghost shit.
Side note: check out the effects on Peters’ eyes as he moves the torch around, very cool.
Out in the woods after Mott leaves them, the Millers and Flora try to find a way elsewhere, but surprise, surprise – they’re stopped, bags over their head and knocked out.Waking up, they’re at the farm where the feral boys were found. Elias Cunningham (Denis O’Hare) is on a table, bleeding, in terrible fucking shape. He tells Matt: “Mama took my leg.” He warns to leave, before she comes back. Mama Polk sounds like a real butcher in her own right. And Mama, she turns up again: it’s Frances god damn Conroy, baby! She’s as bad ass as ever, trying to serve up a bit of questionable jerky. Oh, you know what it is. A little bit of Elias. To boot, he’s bad meat. BAD MEAT! BAD MEAT!
The head smash here is one of the greatest. Ever. Some legitimately enviable practical effects work. Kudos to the technical team here because this is awesome, in the grisliest horror way possible. JUST. WOW.
Anyway, Mama’s kin made a pact with The Butcher around “200 years ago.” She needs new blood each year. Their family helps, now and then. The crops are the whole deal, so that keeps them going. But cannibals is cannibals; they like doing their thing. Problem is the hillbilly Polks are upset about their feral children being taken away. Mama keeps calling Shelby “sweet meat” and that’s pretty creepy.
Lee (Angela Bassett) got stuck talking to the police, due to Shelby cluing them into her possibly having something to do with Mason’s death, Flora gone. Of course we know the truth, but none of them know what’s been going on back at the Miller place and the Polk farm.Lots of blood tonight! As the Polks take Shelby, Matt, and Flora who knows where, Matt takes advantage, sending a shotgun blast into the cab, as his wife puts one of the men over the truck’s pan into the road. But where can they go?
In the forest they hide. Meanwhile, Lee knows something isn’t right. Mama and her remaining kin take the Millers out to subdue them until they can get to The Butcher. Then Mama goes ahead and nearly chops Shelby’s foot clean off. So. Brutal. This episode has really brought its A-Game in terms of gore.
They’re brought back to the house, again. The Butcher and her colony waiting for blood. Flora is being readied for sacrifice. When Lee arrives, the policeman takes off on her; what a bitch! She’s left to try saving her family on her own. From nowhere, Ambrose smashes his mother with a block of wood, grabbing hold to her and puling her into the fire with him, as they burn alive. Mott frees the Millers, as Lee flies in to save her girl from the Pig Man; to save them all.So that takes us to the end of the story at the house. The Roanoke Nightmare is over, right? Oh, I doubt that.
Shelby has recurring nightmares, long after their experience. Nothing can quite that it away. “We escaped with our lives that night, but I never completely got over it. I‘m not sure I ever will,” the real Shelby explains. And that makes a lot of sense to me.
How do you think the re-enactments will play into the overall season arc? I feel the actors playing the parts are going to be affected by their roles in the re-enactments, in how you always hear about plagued movie productions. I see the actors themselves being haunted further later on. Who knows. I hope it’s a nice surprise either way.
Excited for Chapter 6!
FX’s American Horror Story
Season 6, Episode 4: “Chapter 4”
Directed by Marita Grabiak
Written by John J. Gray
* For a review of Chapter 3, click here.
* For a review of Chapter 5, click here.
In the talking head interviews, Matt (André Holland) relates how Shelby (Lily Rabe) was pissed after supposedly seeing him having sex with a woman in the woods. During the reenactments, Shelby (Sarah Paulson) confronts Matt (Cuba Gooding Jr.) until he breaks down: “It‘s like a part of my brain was cut out.” She comforts him, though the real Shelby affirms that she knew there was something not right, at all. What she saw was real.
That night Shelby sees the Pig Man. And he is also very real. Matt wrestles with him briefly before the couple get away. They’re saved by Dr. Elias Cunningham (Denis O’Hare), from out of nowhere. He uses the “Croatoan” spell, shouting it and dispelling the creature. But warns: “He‘ll be back.”
So Dr. Cunningham tells us about Croatoan. How it was left when Roanoke Colony disappeared. Really, it’s blood magic. Spooky. The doctor quickly relays that he’s the so-called guardian of the house, trying to make sure people know about its history. Matt’s eager to kick him out, although Shelby has seen the Pig Man before. Through the craziness, she believes Elias. In the basement, he shows them some of his work: all the “paranormal activity” that’s occurred in and around the house. Essentially, a history of horror and torture concerning various families that were unfortunate enough to have bought the house over the years. Like the Chens, who were taken by surprise once the Pig Man showed up. And once Thomasin “The Butcher” White (Kathy Bates) came by? Shit. Things got much, much worse. Cunningham tells Shelby and Matt about how even those nasty nurses were afraid of the place. The Butcher did them in good, too. Real medieval style. On and on and on the tales go. He mentions the “Dying Grass Moon” as being when the disappearances and murders take place.
Lee (Angela Bassett) is on the hook for her missing daughter, though Matt and Shelby wanted to get to the bottom of the whole Priscilla mystery. Something with which Elias can help. Lots of creepiness when Matt spies the strange woman (Lady Gaga) from afar. Shelby chases her until eventually getting lost and running into some hunters – the ones Dr. Cunningham told her about, who once stayed in the house and turned their guns on each other. Well, they’re still wearing those wounds. Quite graphically; dig it. Shelby didn’t, and tried using the Croatoan spell. Doesn’t work because of the lunar cycle, so says Elias. Then in the middle of the forest they see Flora with a bunch of ghosts (people who’ve died or disappeared in the house), the Pig Man, and of course Ms. Priscilla. A horn begins to blow soon. An arrow, or three, are plugged into the poor doctor. While the couple run off there’s no doubt we’ll see Elias again. I’d bet on it.At the house, Cricket Marlowe (Leslie Jordan) is ready to rock. They’re obviously ready to do whatever they can to get Lee’s daughter back. He tells them about talking to The Butcher. She’s pretty ready to rock, as well. Y’know, with the bloody moon rising and all. “I‘d kill for a Coke Zero right now,” Cricket says as he tries to get psyched up about what to do next. He takes off only to return hours later: “I met the bitch with the real power.” It’s that strange woods woman. She temporarily blinds him, puts a knife to his throat. Tricky lil’ Marlowe’s able to get himself out of it, after discovering a few things first. She shows him a vision. They’re in a cornfield. Hundreds of years ago. At the Lost Colony in Roanoke. This is where they came, to where the house now stands. They did terrible things, such as sacrificing little children; Cricket witnesses The Butcher smash a girl to death with a rock. Yikes. Her own son Ambrose (Wes Bentley) wasn’t pleased with the new path, under tutelage of that strange woman, the woods witch. The Butcher then pretended to repent for her wrongdoings, only to kill everyone. Even her boy. She puts a cleaver right in his chest to boot before slashing anybody not fully dead yet right into the grave. She binds them to their new land with blood. Lots of it. Her own, too. She lets the woods witch cut her throat, “bonding” the whole colony to the land “for all eternity.” Cricket says he’s got the spell to clue everything up.
Yeah, right. In his Uber on the way home Cricket spies Flora running across the road. So he gets out of the car and now you know he’s not getting back to the Millers any time soon.
Matt and Shelby wait for him. But he never comes. Night comes, Matt’s feeling a little creeped out. Foolishly, he heads outside – though with a gun – after hearing things, seeing fleeting images. The sounds they draw him to the cellar out in the woods. He finds the witch there, waiting. “Debts must be paid,” she tells him. Oh, you know what she means! Don’t pretend. A little later Shelby wakes and can’t find her husband. He’s stuck down in the cellar, mesmerised by her story. She was a “descendant of the Druids and their Roman conquerors.” Instead of being a victim, she slaughtered the soldiers keeping her captive. Anyway, Matt was lured into the honey trap. Meanwhile Shelby’s laid siege to by The Butcher and her ghostly hordes, Flora in their grasp. When Matt finally tears himself out of the spell, they get some help from Priscilla; she manages to get Flora away from them.
But poor Flora, she’s frightened. Then outside they all see Cricket. The Butcher rips his guts open while the Millers watch from inside. The colony gets truly medieval on Mr. Marlowe. Absolute savagery.
Things aren’t looking good for Matt and Shelby. We know they survive it. Yet even in the real footage of their interviews – are so sure they’ll be safe in the near future?Love this season so much! Lots of creepiness, a bit of gore. Some strange oddities of various types. Can’t wait for more in the next chapter.
FX’s American Horror Story
Season 6, Episode 3: “Chapter 3”
Directed by Jennifer Chambers Lynch (Chained, Surveillance)
Written by James Wong
* For a review of Chapter 2, click here.
* For a review of Chapter 4, click here.
With Lee’s (Adina Porter) little girl disappeared, nothing in that house is going well. In the talking head interviews, the real Lee tells us about the horrifying feeling involved with a lost child, as if it’s not hard to tell just from the tears running out of her. The dramatic reenactment shows us Lee (Angela Bassett), Matt (Cuba Gooding Jr.), and Shelby (Sarah Paulson) dealing with the aftermath. Not easy. The local police aren’t too keen about helping, though they do. But that house is getting a bad reputation, as well as those living in it. Either way, Lee does her best to help with the search, along with Matt and Shelby.
Then they come across the doll Lee’s daughter Flora had, torn to bits on the ground, with a circle of blood and pig’s head to go with it. Oh, the macabre finds in those terrible woods! Naturally they’re all terrified. A ways off they find a “skeleton of a farm” where there’s more strangeness. Such as the other portions of the doll, and a pig. When the trio go inside there’s only squalor with every turn of the head. Nobody home, either.
Out in the barn, though, they find something odd and sickly. Two mentally feeble young kids left sucking on a pig’s nipples, feeding. One of the most disturbing images yet.
So now the police believe there’s a bit of horror really going on. Finally. The two boys from the barn are useless for help. They only scream: “Croatoan!” The real Matt (André Holland) explains they now, in the present day, understand what they didn’t at the time – this was a warning. Other than that the search goes on, even if Lee and her ex-husband Mason (Charles Malik Whitfield) are losing hope, plus at odds. He is not buying what’s going on, believing it a power play on Lee’s part, a kidnapping to regain custody somehow. For her part, Shelby tries defending her sister-in-law. Matt mostly keeps quiet, not wanting to get too involved until Mason near punches his ex-wife to the ground. The real Shelby (Lily Rabe) points out the obvious: “We were all on edge.”
In the night, Matt gets a call about a body. Is it Flora’s, or no?
Certainly not. It’s her father, Mason – strapped to a symbolic wheel and burned to a crispy bit of charcoal. Holy fuck. That’s rough. Well, what’s troubling is that last night the cameras picked up Lee heading out for several hours at quite a suspicious time. Now Shelby wonders about her sister-in-law. Matt believes something is urging them to leave, and they ought to listen. Just then a stranger turns up: Cricket Marlowe (Leslie Jordan). He claims to have been called there to help find Lee’s girl. A psychic who’s often helped the FBI in tough cases. When Shelby checks him out, he appears legitimate. Then he can hear something, guessing correctly about Flora hiding in the upstairs crawlspace. He also finds a bonnet and knows about Priscilla: “She died in the late 1500s.” You know what this leads to, a good ole fashioned seance.
Cricket gets a typical seance happening, dripping some blood into a candle, all that stuff, y’know. He calls out to Priscilla, but instead gets the response of a “horrible woman.” She speaks to him and reveals herself as The Butcher (Kathy Bates). Cricket tries to ward her off. She then splits a candle in two in front of everybody making believers out of them. “I shall stack the bodies high as cord wood,” The Butcher claims. She tells them they are but trespassers. Screaming out “CROATOAN“, Cricket sends the spirit fleeing – the same word those deformed boys screamed, the same spell Violet tried using unsuccessfully in Murder House.Except now Cricket is asking for $25K to track down Flora. So Matt doesn’t want to deal with his bullshit con artist tricks. Cricket’s telling the truth, but sadly this is not the time for greed. Game changes once Lee has enough, pulling a gun to get her answers. Matt talks her down before tossing the psychic out. Before leaving he whispers something to Lee quietly: “Emily says hello. She wonders why you quit looking for her all those years ago.” Hmm, the first daughter of Lee. Secrets. The real Lee explains about having a daughter at seventeen. When Emily was four, Lee went into a store only to come back and find her daughter gone; never to be seen again. Turns out that Lee later sprung for the $25K to pay Cricket.
We learn more about The Butcher from Cricket. Her “Christian name” was Thomason White – wife to governor of Roanoke, The Lost Colony. She was in charge until her husband came home from a journey. Things were getting scarce, people around her worried. Of course Lee doesn’t care about any of that, but Cricket advises not all the public’s been told about Roanoke is true. Seems that back in Thomason’s day she was overtaken. Even her own son Ambrose (Wes Bentley) is forced to turn his back on her. They left her in the forest by herself as they travelled inward somewhere better. There, a strange woman (Lady Gaga) saves her, killing a wild pig that tries to kill her, before feeding Thomason a beating heart and asking for her soul.
And thus began the revenge of Thomas White, The Butcher. She tracked down the men who left her to die, chopping them down one by one. Ambrose is the last left, whom she asks to “beg for a reprieve.” It’s only the fact he is her son that saves him; this time. Where does this get us? Cricket tells that the colony then moved inland, right to where the big house stands today. Dun-dun-DUNNNN!Out amongst the darkness Cricket calls out to Priscilla, only finding The Butcher and her people. She entertains Cricket’s questions about Flora. A moment later, Lee even says they’ll burn the house down as long as they get her daughter back.
But out of nowhere, Matt disappears. In present day he says he can’t remember ever leaving. When Shelby finds him he’s in the trees having sex with that strange woman who visited The Butcher, animal skull on her head, and two hillbillies watching, masturbating. Good LORD! Present day Shelby looks appropriately torn up.
When Matt shows up he has no clue about what Shelby saw. She’s obviously going crazy, and he’s clueless. No time to worry about that, though. Lee’s being hauled off by the police, and Matt believes it was Shelby, which it was likely. Oh, this is about to get very, very paranoid from here on in.
Another stunningly creepy episode for this season. Loving My Roanoke Nightmare, plenty of eerie, juicy, wild, weird stuff going down!
Excited for “Chapter 4” and whatever it brings.
FX’s American Horror Story
Season 6, Episode 2: “Chapter 2”
Directed by Michael Goi
Written by Tim Minear
* For a review of Chapter 1, click here.
* For a review of Chapter 3, click here.
Last we left Matt and Shelby Miller (Cuba Gooding Jr. & Sarah Paulson in the “dramatic re–enactment“; André Holland & Lily Rabe in the documentary-style clips), things were bad. Shelby’s lost in the woods, finding a strange torch wielding cult (including Wes Bentley) and a man whose skull has been… partially removed. The strange woman Shelby thought she’d run over chants in the darkness (Kathy Bates), a group of people surround a man having a pigtail nailed to him. Terribly creepy little cuts.
After running and running, Shelby stops a moment. Only to find more madness. “I never thought about what could be in the wilderness, hiding in the dark,” the real Shelby recounts. We see Bates’ character lead a strange ceremony involving a man put up on a cross, a pig’s head stuck on his shoulders. Shelby takes off again until passing out in the middle of the road, where Matt’s sister Lee (Angela Bassett) finds her. Of course it all sounds mad to the police and everyone else. Poor Shelby. God damn. Ultimately she too believes it’s the “mountain men” trying to drive them out of the house.
A very bad, tragic misunderstanding.
We get to see more about Lee now, she and her ex-husband Mason (Charles Malik Whitfield) exchange their daughter Flora (Saniyya Sidney) for a while. Yeah, that’s a great fucking idea. Bring a little girl into a haunted house, or at the very least a house out in the country being laid siege to by hillbillies. Anyway, things kick off real quick once Lee finds Flora talking to somebody upstairs. Who? Oh, just somebody named Priscilla. Who isn’t there. A ghost? Or something more? Lee does the smart thing and pries a bit. “She said she‘s tired of all the blood,” Flora responds when questioned about Priscilla and her bonnet. When Lee literally finds one laying around, she gets spooked.
The great thing about any haunted house film or show is that part of everything is the human, psychological drama happening. There’s Lee and her girl, as well as Matt and Shelby, everyone with their own issues, taking things in differently.
That night more pig noises come from outside. Shelby takes action and insists on tracking them down, so Matt tags along. In the dark, out amongst the trees, they get separated. As one would expect from any horror. When they find each other, they come across a large stick figure with a pig’s head on top, roasting in fire; the skin and meat hanging below dripping into the flames. “This was beyond having a cross burned on your lawn. There was something demonic about it.” the real Matt speaks through voice-over.
With a bit more evidence this time, the police reluctantly look into what’s happening around the Miller’s place. Then a phone call comes through to Matt in the night. Except the phone’s disconnected. In the shadows, he finds an apparition: mean nurses tending to an old, frail and sickly woman named Margaret (Irene Roseen). They can’t hear Matt, but he watches on as one of the nurses tells their patient “You‘ve been warned” before blowing her brains out with a revolver. Now he’s seeing terrifying things, it isn’t only Shelby anymore.This incident sets things into a frenzy. The police, as suspected, can’t find anything to backup Matt’s story. He starts questioning the integrity of his brain, literally, after the incident in the city. Problem is the cops are gradually getting less interested in helping, which isn’t all that abnormal by real world standards.
When Mason shows up for Flora, they can’t find her. It used to be a game she played with them. This time, not finding her may have something to do with the house. They find Flora in a crawlspace talking to Priscilla, who disappears quickly. Apparently Flora tried to make a trade: a doll for their lives. Seems Priscilla is homicidal. And it’s not just her. Flora warns her parents: “They‘re going to kill us all. And save me for last.” Fuck. That’s eerie. Dad hauls his daughter off and things aren’t looking any better for Lee as a mother. Especially considering she started drinking afterwards, off the wagon again. She broke a few things. Shelby’s not happy to find knives in the ceiling, although we can guess that probably wasn’t Lee. Those nurses are creeping about, too. In her drunken state Lee sees a lot of things from pigtails to pig heads and it’s one bad hangover she’s headed for in the morning.
There’s a little girl hanging around outside to boot, which sends Matt and Shelby outside. They come to a trap door with a ladder leading below ground a ways; hmm. Inside are a number of things including tapes in a camcorder. On them is a man named Dr. Elias Cunningham (Denis O’Hare). He speaks frantically saying things like “I‘m not what I am” and generally in distress over “forces that will not let me sleep.” He speaks of the house and its forces wanting to kill him. He further assures the viewer he’s not crazy. Then Cunningham tells us of his book about two nurses – Miranda and Bridget Jane. Oh yes, you guessed which nurses. Twisted bitches. They killed people with specific names to spell out MURDER. Everything got even wilder as it went on turning into one of those epic, insane tales of true crime.More craziness to set the Millers off. Peeling away wallpaper, Matt finds the unfinished word MURDE written on the wall. Everything gets more real at this point. They keep on listening to Cunningham’s rambling tape. Doesn’t help any, except to frighten the shit out of them further. Scariest yet is when the tormented doctor heads inside the house with only his camcorder, night vision on, to guide him through the silent hallways. “Show yourself,” he yells to whatever’s in the dark. Before something, someone appears and startles him. And downstairs, a butcher’s knife with blood on it is stuck in the front door.
They just wanted to leave. Not so easy, though. No getting out of that mad house. Everything amps up a notch after Lee shows up with Flora again. When she’s clearly not supposed to have here there. More of that impulsive Lee behaviour already. Her brother tries to talk sense into her. Shelby tries talking the ex-husband down from calling the cops.
But can Mason get there to take his daughter away before anything worse happens? The little girl whom I assume to be Priscilla beckons Flora to come outside, out near the trap door in the field. Then she goes missing. The adults start to search frantically.
In a clearing, Lee finds her daughter’s yellow sweater at the top of a thin, ridiculously tall tree, its trunk looking almost stained with blood. They stand below, not sure what to do next.
And what can they do?Very pumped for “Chapter 3” next week. Some people keep complaining, and I have no idea why. I love the re-enactment stuff, it adds a fun twist to the show. I’m still feeling like there’s going to be an angle to all that. Just like My Amityville Horror had its drama, My Roanoke Nightmare is going to bring something with that faux-documentary posing as a real documentary. Mark my words.
Also, did you catch Lady Gaga in her brief appearance? She shows up a couple times early on. Very unnerving look to her character. Can’t wait for more, of everything!
FX’s American Horror Story
Season 6, Episode 1: “Chapter 1”
Directed by Bradley Buecker
Written by Brad Falchuk & Ryan Murphy
* For a review of Chapter 2, click here.
This year’s theme? My Roanoke Nightmare. Delicious.
We open on a series of talking heads. Almost seems like an Amityville Horror sort of thing, too. My Amityville Horror is a documentary by the man who was a child during the supposed Lutz story, and this seems to mirror its style a bit.
Well, Shelby (Rabe) and Matt (André Holland) are a married couple. They tell us about their relationship, what they do for a living, so on. They talk about the “worst night” of the their lives when Matt is randomly knocked out by some gang of kids. He nearly died because of their foolish brutality. We see Sarah Paulson playing Shelby and Cuba Gooding Jr. as Matt, like reenactments of that night. Sadly, Shelby lost her baby on that evening. After the event they took a trip out into the wilderness: “We weren‘t city folks,” Matt says.
Out in the woods is an old farm house. A massive backwoods mansion. The house is cheap, just like the one the Lutz family fell into buying in Amityville. They snatch it up, now owning a surely haunted house. Shelby knew it from the beginning, in the back of her mind.
Strange banging in the night already starts Shelby and Matt off on a rough note. Interracial couple, rednecks kicking around. They’ve had troubles before, but were more than willing to fend any trouble off. Nothing’s too great. When Shelby’s home alone it starts raining teeth. TEETH! That’s pretty fucking unsettling. Of course no teeth are left when Matt gets back. To be expected when you live in a haunted Southern mansion. I mean, even the house, the big windows upstairs, the shape, it’s so reminiscent of The Amityville Horror. Not in a bad sense. Dig the homage.
One evening while cooking, home alone, Shelby sees two young women pass in the hallway, staring at her. Nice bit of tension, as she goes to check out where the women went. Finding nothing, only a suspenseful moment or two. Later when she relaxes in the hot tub outside until somebody holds her under. She calls Matt, who gets home quick, and the police, of course. Although the police don’t care much. Lots of paranoia swirling already. The couple aren’t sure anymore what to believe. So I LOVE the cinematography so far this season – the house especially looks ominous even in how the shadows cast over everything, big windows everywhere like eyes, darkness crowding around them.
Living in the house only gets worse, as you’d imagine. Weird noises get Matt out of bed and he finds a mutilated pig on the porch outside. He doesn’t tell his wife, he assumes it was the redneck boys who wanted to buy the house. So like a smart person, he hooks up lots of cameras and a nice security system hooked to his phone. Better yet, he gets his sister Lee (Angela Bassett) to go out there and look after Shelby. Lee was a bad ass cop, whose injury from getting shot on the job led her to taking medication a bit liberally. One day, really lit up on pills, she chased a serial rapist and her addiction was discovered. This got her fired, before wreaking absolute havoc on her personal life; she lost her husband, even her daughter. A sad, human tragedy.
Nothing changes in the house. Just because a security system’s in place and a former cop is looking after Shelby doesn’t mean whatever inhabits that house is going away. Paranoia runs mad now with another person kicking around. Only makes it easier for Shelby to confuse ghostly apparitions with Lee moving things, walking around, et cetera. An added interest is that Lee is still an addict. She asks Shelby not to drink, though I’m not sure how well that will hold up. On the other side is the fact Lee is also sceptical of her sister-in-law.
Then the house starts working on Lee. A lone wine bottle rolls across the floor at her, so she assumes it’s Lee being a bitch. “Why would you do something like that?” she questions Shelby. Now the accusations fly between the both of them. Meanwhile, Matt gets a text from his automated security: people in hoods carrying torches have headed through the gate up to the house. Oh, my. He tries to call the ladies, but they’re too busy arguing.
Suddenly, Shelby and Lee are interrupted by a videotape playing on the television, the strange noises from the night coming out – then on the tape appears a pig-headed man in the wilderness, squealing and bloody. Like anybody would be, the women are terrified. The hooded people with their torches get inside the house while the pair hide, and Matt rushes from a couple hours away to try getting home. When the ladies finally come out of hiding there are tons of creepy stick figures a la Blair Witch Project hanging about the house. Cops once more do nothing.
When Matt is back he watches the video, only getting angrier at the local hillbillies. He still doesn’t want to leave; Shelby takes off in the car thinking only “fight or flight.” On her way she hits somebody in the road (it’s Kathy Bates and she just walks it off). Shelby chases her into the nearby woods and gets lost. She winds up finding more of the stick figures that were hung in the house, which sends her running into a place where the earth below seems to breathe. Deeper in she comes across a man missing some of his scalp and skull, brain exposed. And in the darkness lurks a man holding a torch, among many others holding torches – Wes Bentley’s character. We’ll just have to wait and find out who he is, as well as what happens to Shelby out there.
I don’t care what any of these other horror sites are saying – they probably won’t continue watching after the first episode of the series, anyways. So fuck ’em. This was a great start to the new series. Fun references, eerie shots and sequences, a bit of character intrigue and gritty development. “Chapter Two” will likely be good fun.
Malcolm X. 1992. Directed by Spike Lee. Screenplay by Lee & Arnold Perl.
Starring Denzel Washington, Angela Bassett, Albert Hall, Al Freeman Jr., Delroy Lindo, Spike Lee, Theresa Randle, Kate Vernon, Lonette MCKee, Tommy Hollis, James McDaniel, Ernest Thomas, Jean-Claude La Marre, O.L. Duke, & Larry McCoy. 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks/Largo International N.V./JCV Entertainment Networks/Warner Bros.
Rated PG-13. 202 minutes.
Sometimes I’m not a fan of Spike Lee as a public persona, simply because he doesn’t always think before speaking. However, I’m usually a fan of his work as a director. He has a big, wide mind and puts that to work usually tackling issues within the African American community. There are too many of his movies to talk of in an introduction, but suffice to say I do think he is a great director. One of the greatest in his generation, and certainly one of the best African American directors out there, period.
And that’s perhaps why Malcolm X is the film out of his catalogue which resonates most. It isn’t necessarily his greatest. Yet there’s such a poignancy and depth to the work Lee does to portray Malcolm X (played wonderfully by Denzel Washington), not just as a powerful black leader, but also as a human being; one not completely above judgement, one not perfect as some might idealise him. Furthermore, we’re able to get a look at the inside of the Nation of Islam, as far as fiction allows. Many prominent figures in the life of X and circling the NOI, as well as the Civil Rights movement in general, are included, from cameo roles such as Nelson Mandela, Al Sharpton and others, to the portrayals of characters like Elijah Muhammad (Al Freeman Jr.) and Thomas Hagan (Giancarlo Esposito), among more. The nearly three and a half hour runtime of Malcolm X may seem daunting. If you’re sitting down to watch a film, you’ve really got to be prepared for this one, though it’s beyond worth the effort. For me, the 202 minutes rushes by in a beautifully shot and directed, phenomenally acted story that jams a whole man’s life into one screenplay. Not everything gets covered, and there’s also plenty of story to be told after X’s assassination. Above all else, the character of X comes out, as does his struggle. For some this was a stepping stone to learning more about the Civil Rights movements that began raging during the 1960s and 1970s, and onward. I won’t ever forget my first time seeing this one. It’s a classic that stands the test of time, telling an important, crucial story about America during the early latter half of the 20th century, and examining one of the more turbulent times of race relations in the country’s history. Sadly, some of what happened back then is still much too alive and much too well in American society, and if X were still alive he’d likely still be as fiery and determined as ever.
The best aspect of Malcolm X is the fact Lee doesn’t attempt to make him above reproach. As a person, X was not perfect. Nobody is, so Lee never tries to make him out to be anything else. Some worried that he would include X’s life before he converted to Islam, and that’s exactly part of what makes this story interesting and intriguing. There’s no sense in ignoring that part of his existence. X himself never did ignore it, he always kept himself open and honest and raw. That’s a huge part of why many did, and still do(/always will), admire him. He was not like most other leaders. He didn’t admit every one of his faults – again, he is only human. But on the whole, he never shied away from his once criminal past, as that in a way led him to where he went after and helped him attain the enlightenment of Islam.
One of my favourite moments happens between Malcolm X’s speeches. A young white woman approaches him, admiring his work, and wondering what a white person without prejudice might do to help further his cause: “Nothing,” he says smiling before walking on. This is such a brief, powerful moment. I’m reminded of watching a recent documentary about the KKK, where they also spotlighted the Black Lives Matter movement and the shooting in Charleston; one scene shows a white woman, with a mixed race child, trying to march in solidarity, who’s told by a black woman to go home – she does in fact leave after, though the black lady gives her a hug and seemingly explains this is just not the time or place for her presence. There’s a stand-off element to X and his feelings for white people. Again, that changed once he went to Mecca on his Hajj, and then essentially transformed into a full blown humanitarian. Yet Lee never strays away from that inflammatory perspective X held towards white American society, and makes clear it’s simply about black people gaining back their power, or retaining what they have, not so much about hating white people. So in that scene where X shrugs the white woman off, it represents the idea that white people may want to help, but black people don’t need their help. They sometimes just need white people to stand back, let them do their thing and settle the issues on their own. That’s not always the case. Particularly in the time of X, there were tough things happening (not that there still aren’t in this day and age), so this was a stance he felt black society needed to take in those times of near racial war. Not long after X, once Elijah Muhammad was out of his life, he made clear the black community had to unite first, then they could work more on white-black relations. That scene with the white girl epitomises this concept.
I love the inclusion of the conk hairstyle at the beginning with Malcolm and his buddy Shorty. Not simply because African American culture at the time saw a lot of young black men styling their hair that way. What’s most interesting is that Malcolm X later spoke about conk and its double edged sword-like effect on the black community. On the one hand, conk – because of its threat of chemical burns and scarring, hair loss, et cetera – was seen as a ritual of manhood, going from a boy to a grown adult. On the other hand, he and other African American scholars came to see conk also as a way of erasing oneself in order to become more white. This latter idea is presented in the screenplay after the conk is put in, washed out, then Malcolm admires his new hair in the mirror and says to the men in the barbershop: “Looks white, don‘t it?” The whole concept of the conk plays into how we see Malcolm ultimately reject everything white. And yes, he said incredibly inflammatory things about white people. But things can change, people can. He didn’t turn into who he was later because of a hate for white people. Effectively, he hated injustice. The white man, the white culture, the white HAIR, it all comes down to representing the white world that he lived in and found himself subject to at every turn, on a daily, minute-to-minute basis. So the conk is simply one element of the white superstructure that Malcolm came to reject. A great inclusion on Lee’s part to show that. It could’ve been a basic scene that shows us where he came from, his beginnings. Instead the scene represents a microcosm of that influence white culture had (/still has) on black people that are brainwashed into feeling as if ‘white is right’ or any of that other sadness. Later when Malcolm is in jail, the conk becomes a sticking point when he’s confronted by an inmate who tries to help him, out of the life of a gangster and moving towards something better, which is the Nation of Islam; a huge influence in his life during prison, as well as afterwards. It may seem a superficial, brief moment in the 202 minute runtime of this epic biography. And it’s a drop in the pond, really. Although, it is highly significant to the overall themes surrounding the film and X himself as a Civil Rights leader.
This is one of the best movies of the 1990s, certainly one of Spike Lee’s best, too. Malcolm X is a dissection of a cult of personality. It is a film that attempts to get to the core of what X and his struggle represented. Without all the denial some insist on upholding in regards to X’s personal history, who he was, who he became. The movie is not totally perfect, though it is perfect where it counts. Likewise, Lee concentrates on not inflating X as a leader. Rather he takes an inclusive look at the man, not ignoring the good and the bad alike. He dives into the an era where things were different, and somehow not enough has changed as of this writing in 2016. Watching this movie again now, 24 years after its release and concerning a subject decades older, it’s almost sad to watch and think how hard X would roll over in his grave were he able to witness some of the scary racist madness that’s still going on in the streets of America. Love this movie, love Denzel, and Spike is near his best here. A positively entertaining piece of biography, history, all combining to make a well executed film in every respect.
FX’s American Horror Story
Season 4, Episode 8: “Blood Bath”
Directed by Bradley Buecker
Written by Ryan Murphy
* For a review of the previous episode, “Test of Strength” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Tupperware Party Massacre” – click here
After the blood already shed, an episode titled “Blood Bath” sounds quite promising.
Opening on Gloria Mott (Frances Conroy), we begin with her lamenting about Dandy (Finn Wittrock) to a psychiatrist. He believes institutionalizing the young man may be in order, but she won’t have that word bandied about in the same sentence as his name. We see flashback to a young Dandy playing sadistically with a young version of Gabourey Sidibe’s character. She claims no was “an affront” to him, a “battle cry”. He had a history back then of killing small animals, as well as terrorizing others. Until one day a boy he played with frequently vanished, no doubt as a result of Dandy’s nasty predilections. The boy was “never seen again.” She, of course, does not reveal all the “recent incidents” to her psychiatrist which brought on all her worries. No, let’s not mention all the murder.
Just a little note: the more I watch the opening each episode, the more I think Freak Show‘s credit sequence is the creepiest to me. Very unsettling with all the messed up animation and the clowns and the macabre imagery. I loved Coven, and all of them, but this one is particularly wild.
Everyone is out searching for Ma Petite (Jyoti Amge) – Jimmy Darling (Evan Peters), even Dell (Michael Chiklis), Amazon Eve (Erika Ervin) is there too. Out in the woods, Jimmy stumbles across the clothing of the little one. It is brought back to Elsa Mars (Jessica Lange) in a box. She weeps for the tiny girl, who they all believe was taken and killed by some animal in the night. A sad scene, especially knowing what we know after last episode. Although, Ethel (Kathy Bates) seems unimpressed. She thinks it’s all bullshit: “Thought you‘d be high as a Limehouse whore by now,” she says dryly entering Elsa’s tent. A slap across the face for Ethel comes later; we know the truth, but I can understand how Ethel believes all that’s precious to Elsa is “the roar of the crowd.” Only problem is this will cause undue friction between these two, and it makes me worry when anyone crosses paths in any way with Elsa. She’s out for herself and herself only.
Things get tense between Ethel and Elsa. Eventually when the situation gets very hot, ready to boil over, a gunshot goes off putting a hole right through Elsa’s leg; the wooden part, anyways. To the surprise of Ethel, who didn’t even realize he own supposedly close friend was a so-called freak herself.
Another of my favourite sequences this season comes with more flashbacks to Elsa and her past in Germany. We get more Danny Huston, who comes back as a doctor who made Elsa new legs after they were taken from her by the sick men who made those vile films. I think there is such amazing chemistry between Huston and Lange, they are two incredible acting talents and I love that Ryan Murphy/Brad Falchuk brought them together once again after Coven giving them another romance, yet an entirely different kind of one. Such power in this black-and-white flash back sequence.
And then, before Ethel can get revenge on Elsa for betraying her trust, Elsa wings a knife right into her eye. Ethel dies then and there. The titular bath of blood has commenced.
Enter Stanley (Denis O’Hare). His greasiness helps Elsa cover up the murder of Ethel, staging it as a suicide and featuring a performance from Ms. Mars to rival any other performance of hers before. She steps up the dramatics in order to match the ridiculousness of their cover-up plan. Everyone is devastated, not least of which is her son Jimmy (Evan Peters), whose life only gets worse and worse as the time goes on. Headlong into depression Jimmy goes, pushing Maggie (Emma Roberts) away. During the reveal of what happened we go between the present and when Elsa/Stanley set up the scene to have Ethel’s body decapitated in one of the most strange suicides ever.
Elsa is out recruiting once more in the hospital wards. She finds a large woman named Barbara (Chrissy Metz) who gets invited into the troupe. She’s renamed Ima Wiggles and gets fed on the hour every hour. Even more than that, Jimmy begins to fall into her arms in an eerily Oedipal lust for a large woman after his mother died.
Over at the Mott House, Dandy is entertaining Regina Ross (Gabourey Sidibe). Her housekeeper mother hasn’t phoned in so long. Gloria shows up, nervous as usual and especially so seeing as how she knows exactly where mama Dora is buried. She tries to convince Regina her mother is off buying squash somewhere. Not going to work at all. Then Dandy ends up in psychoanalysis with Gloria’s psychiatrist, but it’s all sort of under wraps. Only he figures it all out, he’s not exactly stupid: just fucking crazy. This drives him further mad. He talks about tribes in Papa New Guinea and how they would eat the defeated tribe, their chief – he wonders if it’s possible to “take someone‘s power by eating their flesh” or if you could just get it done by “bathing in their blood.” Hmm, will we see a true to life blood bath tonight? Certainly seems like now that Regina threatens she’ll go to the police if her mother isn’t back by suppertime tomorrow.
Possibly my favourite bit of this season sees the fed-up freak women join together – Eve, Desiree Dupree (Angela Bassett), Legless Suzi (Rose Siggins; RIP, she passed away today), along with the newly minted ‘Lizard Girl’ Penny (Grace Gummer). First they come together over Ethel, who was a “survivor since the day she was born.” Desiree gives an impassioned speech to the women about how they must rise up, take hold of their lives, because the law doesn’t care about them. They decide to go and kidnap Penny’s father Vince (Lee Tergesen). They will have their cathartic revenge against all terrible men by taking revenge upon Vince for what he had done to his own flesh-and-blood. They attack him in his home, drag him back to one of the trailers at the tent city. Then, Vince experiences a good old fashioned tar and feathering. Such a savage and intense moment, yet it’s perfect; Vince deserves everything he gets.
Later on, Dandy goes home. He is enraged with life, his mother, everything. He reveals he’s the product of incest, and a father who did things “to those little girls.” Gloria is astounded by his demeanour. As he goes to put the gun to his head, she cries that she couldn’t go on in life without him. To which he replies with a bullet through her forehead.
Afterwards, we see the titular bathing, as Dandy bathes in a white tub in his lavish room: filled to the brim with his mother’s blood.
“I was born of deadly sin. You knew what father had done to those little girls. You knew the risks of breeding with your cousin. You‘re no better than the Roosevelts.”
“How dare you say that name in this house!”
As the insanity escalates, Father Gore’s looking forward to the next episode, “Tupperware Party Massacre.”
FX’s American Horror Story
Season 5, Episode 9: “She Wants Revenge”
Directed by Michael Uppendahl
Written by Brad Falchuk
* For a review of the previous episode, “The Ten Commandments Killer” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “She Gets Revenge” – click here
This episode begins with Countess (Lady Gaga) explaining that “women age differently than men do,” but the kicker is, of course, as we know she’s a vampire. Here, she stares into the walled off corridor where James March (Evan Peters) had sealed Natacha (Alexandra Daddario) and Rudolph Valentino (Finn Wittrock).
Countess is convinced to build “something new” and makes it clear: “I will not be managed.” Later downstairs, she’s talking about her upcoming wedding to Will Drake (Cheyenne Jackson). She wants it small. Yet he tells her “I‘m a showman” and he wants a big wedding. Finally, she agrees that he will design the gown, she will get everything else taken care of. Then there’s Liz Taylor (Denis O’Hare), who Countess wants to arrange the flowers. Liz does not want any part of her: “Buy your own damn flowerrrrs.” And why would she want to help the Countess, after the Tristan incident. Alex Lowe (Chloë Sevigny) is still kicking around, serving drinks, to a highly disaffected Countess who only grows more and more disdainful about the world around her.
Then Countess tracks down Rudolph Valentino at a motel. While simultaneously at home, she beds Donovan (Matt Bomer) again, screaming “I forgot how good you feel inside me.” They have a nice little bit of pillow talk. He asks that it only be him for her, forever; he needs commitment. Not in the way of just being with one person, but rather he wants to be the ONLY person she loves: “I swear it. But I won‘t make the same mistakes again,” she replies. Is this all a ruse on Donovan’s part? I’m sure he didn’t just switch back to loving her, did he? I imagine Ramona Royale (Angela Bassett) is lurking along the periphery of the Countess’ life, alongside Donovan. We’ll have to wait and see. For now, Donovan and Countess seem to be making a list – of who to murder.
Nice to Iris (Kathy Bates) again. She even tells the people at the front desk the “douche bag convention” is somewhere else. Proper. A couple pornstars show up with their disgusting director. Iris tells them she’ll bring up some “extra towels.” An AMAZING voice-over sequence after this, starting off with a Blue Monday cover and Iris talking about the “Sydney Pollack” of porn and how she went to see Deep Throat back in the day. She even calls herself “Dirty Harriet,” as well as gives us a little lesson on why pornography “hurts people,” what it does to the male and female psyches. Plus, afterwards she goes into the room and starts slitting throats, stabbing chests, and generally bloodying the place up. Good gore. Out of nowhere, Donovan appears. Very impressed with his mother. “You have clearly come into your own,” he tells her. Though, she warns about problems. We slip back to the Bartholomew incident, where that creepy little baby got out to wreak some havoc with its terrifying face; Iris gave up Ramona’s name to the Countess.
However, now we’re getting a bit of the real story. Donovan is definitely in love with the Countess. At the same time, he’s still looking for revenge. Will he get it? Or will the Countess figure it all out? Has she already? You can never tell fully.
Drake explains to his son Lachlan (Lyric Angel) about how the Countess understands him, gets him, all that. Then Miss Evers (Mare Winningham) shows up talking about how the Countess will only “bleed you dry“. It’s an eerie moment.
Then a flashback comes where Miss Evers talks about how she loved March. He claims that the Countess “is a creature from heaven” and tells her: “It‘s not your fault you were graced with… different gifts.” But back in the present, Will does not heed any of her warnings. Despite the fact we know the depth of the darkness into which he is about to plunge. I won’t quote her exact words because you NEED to experience them from her mouth; she lets Drake know exactly how she feels before leaving the room.
Down at the sealed, now unsealed, corridor, the Countess is trying to get a contractor to re-seal the hallway. After a bit of talk from him, March shows up to try and explain how it’ll all get done: “Make haste – much to accomplish!” Some people don’t like Evan Peters this season. Me, on the other hand, I think he is classic. At times he’s darkly funny. Others he is downright fucking terrifying, to me. Here he shows off a few more chops, as the Countess gives him an ultimatum, of sorts.
Donovan shows up at Ramona Royale’s place. He has an offering: the pornstar guy from the hotel. But she thinks Donovan is a big “pussy” in her words. Though, for all Donovan’s love for the Countess, and all the doubts Ramona may have, he actually seems to be against the Countess. He admits his “addiction” for her. Yet then Donovan claims he slipped enough ghb in her drink to “knock out an elephant.” He further admits he can’t “pull the trigger.” At least Ramona “appreciates a man who recognises his own weakness.” They seem together, toasting on the blood of the pornstar.
Another excellent flashback to Ramona in the ’90s, running back to her father (Henry G. Sanders) in L.A. Her mother (Marla Gibbs) and father helped straighten her out. Also, there’s sadness. Her parents are getting older, forgetting things, getting sick. Then her mother died and her father went further off the deep end in his mind. Such a tragic sequence, yet gives such an amazing depth to Ramona. There’s a break-in scenario and her father ends up getting hurt badly, which sees Ramona give the gift of the ancient virus to him. I saw this coming. I still found it effective, and beautiful in a sense. Eternally sad, though, as “a diseased brain is not a broken bone” and not everything can be fixed with vampirism. We see more and more how absolutely shattered inside Ramona is, having to effectively euthanize her own father so that he wouldn’t remain “frozen in amber.”
Alex Lowe is off doing her own thing, too. Not only serving up drinks for the Countess. She spies on a house, then makes her way inside only to find a bunch of dead, bloody corpses. Further in, there are a bunch of vampire kids with Max as the leader; remember, the kid from the hospital to whom she gave her blood? A few of the kids are getting sick, probably drinking bad blood. Earlier in the episode there was a news report about homeless people dead in the city: all the kids. Some of the kids don’t want to drink, they’re feeling worse and worse. They want Alex to help. Other kids are alive and thriving, one even saying they should “off them,” y’know – “all the sickies.” Such a creepy scene, evoking lots of the creepy children aesthetic. Makes things quite tense and eerie. The kids, most of them, don’t want anything to do with Alex.
Back at the Hotel Cortez, Ramona and Donovan stand outside the Countess’ room, as she lays just inside sleeping on the bed.
Then a double cross, I think? The Countess wakes up before Ramona can sink a knife into her. Donovan tasers Ramona and takes her downstairs. Iris is upset about it all. Donovan is in love and he actually fell into the abyss, even though I imagined he was on the straight and narrow. Ramona ends up locked in one of those neon-lit cages. “You‘re weak. I should‘ve let you die,” Donovan tells his mother getting a slap in the face as a response. Where’s this going to lead Iris and Ramona now?
Rudolph and Countess are having drinks at the motel. Meanwhile, Natacha is off with her head full of “shopping and Uber.” I feel even worse for Donovan now because he’s fallen back for the Countess, while she’s still wrapped up in a time almost a century ago when she and Rudolph had their first great love. All the same, Rudolph hates the modern world. He is disgusted with everything in it, no “enchantment left” anywhere. Countess claims to hate the modern world even more than him and wants to turn the Cortez into a “fortress” against it. Still there’s Natacha to deal with. She loves everything out there. Somehow the Countess begins to try reeling her in, though. Sets up a girls night for them both without Rudie. Hmm.
And then, outside as she strolls away happily, there is Donovan. Will he finally see the light?
At the Cortez the wedding is about the be finished. Naturally, Liz objects with a hilarious quip: “Don‘t mind her. She drinks,” says the Countess. But the happy couple is proclaimed man and wife. The Countess wants to get the honeymoon started, so she plans to go get changed and get going. First, she gives over the flowers to Liz and gives off some nonsense about hoping she finds true love. Sad, to see Liz have to grin and bear it against this awful vampire of a woman.
Nice little meeting at the bar between Will Drake and James March. Very good stuff with James, having a little drink with Will in congratulations. “Here‘s to new worlds to conquer,” James toasts the newlywed gentleman. Even better is when March brings Will up to see Bartholomew in his black little crib. “What the hell is that thing?” Will draws back in terror after seeing the child-thing. Countess shows up and doesn’t like the “hateful things” Will has to say about little Bart: “I‘m going to make sure you suffer immensely,” she says before whacking him over the head.
Following this new development, Will finds himself down with Ramona. Only he’s on the floor while she stays locked up. But I’m sure he’ll be caged up right away, as soon as the Countess or March or whoever returns.
However, Drake doesn’t last long. He gets Ramona out, finds their in a sealed hallway, to which he quips: “Nobody knows we‘re in here. We‘ll starve.”
“I won‘t,” replies Ramona. She then pounces on him, starts to feast on his bloody neck. Miss Evers shows up to gloat, as the Countess watches on a screen up in her room comfortably. The end.
I’m interested to see who the she is in the next episode’s title, “She Gets Revenge”. Who will get it? Who will be revenged upon? Very exciting. Honestly, the haters can keep on hating this season. I’m digging it. Especially once we see more of John Lowe (Wes Bentley) next week. Curious to see where he goes now plot/character-wise after the revelation last episode that he is, for certain, the Ten Commandments Killer.
Stay tuned with me friends and fellow fans, more to come!
FX’s American Horror Story
Season 3, Episode 11: “Protect the Coven”
Directed by Bradley Buecker
Written by Jennifer Salt
* For a review of the previous episode, “The Magical Delights of Stevie Nicks” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Go To Hell” – click here
Another flashback at the top of this episode, with Delphine LaLaurie (Kathy Bates) coming back from Paris, though reluctantly. She rambles on about the lack of “intellect” and “inner light” present in the slaves, as well as the loathing of her own family. Nobody seems on her level, I suppose; that’s funny. It’s 1830. Delphine has a chicken brought over for slaughter, ending up cutting the head off herself. She feels its blood run warm over her hands. Then cut to up in the dank attic, a slave has a deep injury to his leg, blood pooling out of it. Looks like this is the first time Delphine realized her inner bloodlust. There’s no other slaves kept in cages there as of yet, so it must have been long before her disgusting habits became regular; in fact, this is when she first arrived. Very interesting to see the start of her love of blood. She doesn’t help the poor injured servant, only knocks him out to keep for further use. She bleeds him out and just from the sound of her breathing, it’s exciting to her. “I think I’m gon‘ like it here,” she tells the gagged and moaning man in front of her. Eerie start to this episode, giving us more glimpses back into the history of LaLaurie and her murderous impulses.
Fiona Goode (Jessica Lange) and Marie Laveau (Angela Bassett) show fake sympathy for the dead Nan (Jamie Brewer), who is being laid to rest in the cemetery. All the witches are present. Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe) shows up with LaLaurie reconnected at the head and on a leash; brutally, darkly funny. Everyone is sort of pissy. Myrtle (Frances Conroy) is naturally suspicious of any death in the coven, Cordelia (Sarah Paulson) backing her up nowadays. Zoe (Taissa Farmiga) has Kyle (Evan Peters), who might as well be on a leash. But they all leave after the brief funeral, still wondering where Misty Day (Lily Rabe) could be.
Across town at the Delphi Trust, Harrison Renard (Michael Cristofer) receives word from his right hand man David (Mike Colter) that the story on Hank and his death will be covered up; he was, on record, as a homeless veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Back at the academy, Fiona and Marie are still scheming to get the witch hunters. For once, for good. All the while, we get an excellent voice-over from LaLaurie who goes about the house cleaning up after everyone, lamenting every last minute of it. Even better there are great moments such as Myrtle tasting a beautiful soup made by Delphine, then when Delphine is given a cute little black baby to hold by Marie. So many perfect scenes, it’s a great sequence that lasts almost 5 minutes; the score underneath it all is so good, such an intense and emphatic bit of work.
But the best? A gardener comes in from outside, his hand bleeding; a black man, it so happens. Right as Delphine wonders “what fed my soul back then.” Perhaps a bit too perfect. She’s taken up residence in Spalding’s old room upstairs. The whole voice-over has been Delphine talking to the poor black man she has tied up currently. Such an expertly written sequence, I’m beyond impressed with this episode. This is my second time watching this season again and I’m noticing how well it was actually written. Great job in particular this episode by Jennifer Salt, who is a frequent writer every season in the series.
“You flush my shit, bitch.”
Zoe wants to find out what happened to Nan. Like we’d expect, Madison doesn’t care at all. She’s more concerned with Kyle and his sex. But then Kyle resists, he claims to love Zoe. Is there a fight brewing? Madison gets the room quaking, things flying. A lamp cracks Zoe in the back of the head. Then Myrtle shows up, a little verbal spar with Madison. All three of them – Myrtle, Kyle, Zoe – they see the threat that is Madison. Some sort of devastation is coming. Not sure, though, in which form it will come.
Over with the Axeman (Danny Huston), Fiona lounges in discontent. He seems pretty focused on being able to “give up the axe” and Fiona giving up the coven. He wants to help her sort out who is becoming the next Supreme, to kill her. No good can come of that, either.
Then up in the attic, Spalding (Denis O’Hare) appears to Delphine. He’s impressed with her, what he calls, “art.” Spalding is upset with the new alliance between Laveau and Fiona. He hates that Fiona has forgotten herself, forgotten who she’s supposed to be. A new bond is now forming between Spalding and LaLaurie. They’re forging an agreement.
More news in the house sees Queenie still growing further from the coven, now even more so due to her hating Marie, too. She doesn’t want any of Cordelia’s nice talk and they have a slight confrontation. I hope this doesn’t hurt Queenie because I do love her character, though, I can understand why she’s sort of saying fuck everyone. Nobody has been fully treating her with the respect she deserves.
Still, Cordelia is tough and she is a woman with a vision. Even if that vision comes at a price: her eyes. Down in the greenhouse she tries more herbal magic, but breaks down in the middle. Then, to regain her second sight, Cordelia stabs herself in the eyes with a gardening shear. She ruins her own eyeballs to find the power again. Fiona shows up worried once more about her daughter, even after shunning her previously for the debacle with Hank. But as Myrtle makes clear, she should only be worried if “harbouring bad thoughts.”
Up in the eerie attic playhouse of Spalding, he receives the item he asked for. Delphine brings him back a doll baby, which drives him to near ecstasy. Such a creepy moment, he even sniffs the thing. Very “unsavoury” in the words of Delphine.
In the basement, Myrtle gives Zoe some sort of sapphire ornament to keep. “To hawk in case of emergency,” she says. She also wants Zoe and Kyle to leave, to get away from the coven somewhere. Myrtle warns of both Madison and Fiona, each of them with murderous intent towards any next emerging Supreme. Probably smart, really. Is being the next Supreme worth all of that deadly competition?
Harrison Renard, his right-hand David and a bunch of other suited gentleman go to meet Fiona and Marie. The two sassy women against all those unsuspecting dummies. Very calmly, Marie and Fiona talk with Harrison, who is pretty damn on edge. He offers up a century long truce. Fiona counters: “You disband this little merry troupe of assholes, vowing never to harm another witch from now until the end of time.” The ladies play with them a bit before David tries laying down the line. Fiona tells them plainly: “Then here’s my other offer: you can all just die.” After which the Axeman, tending bar unnoticed, turns and chops everyone to death, except for Harrison. Renard has a cup of coffee trying to be nonchalant, his last words being a spit and “Go to hell, witch bitch.” But Fiona has the last word, planting her man’s axe right in the side of Harrison’s neck. A beautifully gory end to their boardroom meeting.
“I love you more than jazz, baby doll.”
At the academy, Marie is getting drunk on French 75 made by Delphine, as Fiona takes off to “hail the conquering king” who “swung a mighty axe” for them. Although, LaLaurie has other plans. She stabs Marie with a huge kitchen knife right in the chest. But a little medication and a knife are nothing compared to the Voodoo Queen. When Marie goes after Delphine, Spalding shows up and cracks Laveau over the head and sends her over the stairs. He tells Delphine to bury her and make sure she can’t dig her way out, similar to what she had done to her. Then creepy Spalding goes back to the way things were for him. Except now he has a little baby to dress up, too. So he gets in his baby outfit, puts the baby in one, and they sit in a rocking chair like two weird babies together. “Finally, a living doll all my own,” says Spalding while they rock back and forth. Wow – damn unsettling, and I dig it. Denis O’Hare is a wonderfully talented actor.
“That ain‘t magic. That‘s an antihistamine.”
Zoe has to try and convince Kyle to go with her, away from the academy. He’s afraid that he may hurt her, or someone else. He has uncontrollable feelings boiling up inside of him all the time. He doesn’t want any of that to inexplicably come out and affect the world around him. Poor FrankenKyle, he’s made up of a bunch of different parts, all warring against one another inside I’m sure. But there’s something about Zoe which calms him.
Then they’re off, running to the bus for Orlando, Florida. The future is ahead of them, bright and gleaming. Is it meant to be? We’ll see.
Another solid episode. I’m looking forward to more developments closer to the season finale in the next episode, titled “Go to Hell”. Stay tuned, friends and fellow fans!
FX’s American Horror Story
Season 3, Episode 10: “The Magical Delights of Stevie Nicks”
Directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
Written by James Wong
* For a review of the previous episode, “Head” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Protect the Coven” – click here
This episode opens with Marie Laveau (Angela Bassett) being tended to with a cup of tea and a warm bed from Fiona Goode (Jessica Lange). Marie even admits to being over “300 years old.” They talk about their new situation only briefly. “Tomorrow we’ll draw the battle lines,” says Fiona. So we’re in for a good deal of interesting stuff.
Even better, as Marie sleeps in the night up shows Papa Legba (Lance Reddick), the voodoo father. He looks incredibly, almost impossibly creepy. Apparently, Legba and Marie have some sort of agreement. He wants what’s coming to him, the terms of their bargain they made “so long ago.” Love the choice of having Reddick play this character. He is a great talent, who has showed it time and time again from The Wire to Oz and much more. Nice addition to this season, and so late in the game.
Then we see Marie saunter into a hospital ward, lightly crying babies behind a glass door. She voodoos her way in to where the unsuspecting infants lay. The music and the cinematography here are beyond eerie, setting such a perfectly unnerving sequence. Marie picks out a cute little baby, takes him away, and runs into some armed security guards. But they’ve got nothing on her. She rolls her eyes back, they go cloudy, and then BANG, BANG! The guards are dead. What does Legba want with the baby? Does he eat them? Oh, goody. Something new and sinister to add into the American Horror Story lexicon of weird and disturbing characters.
With the fallout from Hank Foxx (Josh Hamilton) comes a revelation by Marie to Fiona and Cordelia (Sarah Paulson): she hired him. Now, there’s no doubt going to be further tension and problems between Cordelia and her mother. Fiona sees it as a sign of weakness that Hank infiltrated them: “You‘re not just blind, you are wilfully blind. You married Hank to prove some childish point and brought a viper into this sacred house!” They’ve now go to face the task of finding “the hive,” as Fiona calls it. They need to take down the whole group of hunters, not just one; they travel in packs, like vultures.
In other news, Misty (Lily Rabe) is weary of getting too close to Fiona, whose murderous impulses aren’t exactly secret. Fiona tries to talk Misty up, but the swamp witch is not too interested. Is Fiona driving towards something here? Surely she can’t be trying to kill another one; can she? Well, Fiona brings Misty downstairs. She has a guest to meet her: it’s god damn Stevie Nicks, a white witch in her own right apparently. As they’re introduced, Misty faints. Excellently, Fiona steps over her claiming “You owe me $5” and giving Stevie a friendly smooch. This was hilarious, and fucking awesome. Even further, Stevie sings and plays “Rhiannon” on the piano as the young witches come home. Such a fun inclusion to have Nicks here, like a little treat on top of an already delicious ice cream that is Coven.
“I‘m a huge fan of Eminem. When‘s he get here?”
“Marshall? You‘re not his type. And more importantly, you‘re not the next Supreme.”
There’s new jealousy afoot. Madison doesn’t want any of Misty and her shit, she thinks she has what it takes; her heart murmur is even gone since coming back from the dead. Madison even gives Nan shit, which prompts Nan to use mind control almost ending with Madison jamming a cigarette in her vagina. Lots of inter-coven trouble happening.
But the witch hunters are still the biggest threat to anything, whether or not the young witches are all clamouring over who the next Supreme could end up being. Cordelia tracked down the Delphi Trust, the witch hunters hub. She found out who Hank was, the son of Harrison Renard; Renard is, of course, Francais pour Fox(x). So now, Marie, Cordelia and Fiona are scheming. Trying to figure out a way to get at the witch hunters. Shouldn’t be hard to take down some capitalist pigs, right? Fiona won’t have any help from Cordelia who she sees as “tainted.” There’s a violent emotional nature to the relationship between these two. Sad, because Cordelia is a tough, smart, capable witch. Doesn’t matter, though. Marie and Fiona together? Two bad witch bitches. They set up a cross between the Salem witchcraft and Marie’s Haitian voodoo, attacking the Delphi Trust at the source of their money and causing lots of problems for the hunters. Except it might take the good out of Fiona, who collapses after their spell is cast.
Now we get more talk between Fiona and Marie. Fiona talks about her new love, the Axeman (Danny Huston). Marie explains her debt to Papa Legba, who she conjured back when she thought she was “the shit” and “shockingly strong” magic. Then in the night, Papa showed up to give her eternal life and strength. Unknowingly she “made a deal forged in Hell.” Only problem then was, she had to provide Legba with his price: her baby. And after that she was shackled to their agreement, requiring her to give him an innocent child’s soul when he comes calling. Nasty, huh? But immortality has its prices. That’s a part of why I love this season, there are very interesting portrayals of immortality between the dead coming back, Marie herself and also the curse she threw on Delphine. So it’s fun to see how immortality isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. All these situations help us understand the horrifying aspect of living forever (it’s always been horrifying to me anyways).
Meanwhile, Madison takes Misty on a walk through New Orleans. Fittingly they stroll behind what looks like a music funeral, horns and drums ringing through the streets. Madison tries to fill Misty’s head with the concept that being Supreme will bring more needless stress than it does perks, such as plenty free “merch” and “swag“. Gotta watch out for Madison, though. They end up at a graveyard, deserted except for a couple groundskeepers. Madison wants to show Misty they have equal powers; she literally raises a man from out his coffin and back to life. Certainly impressive. Trusting Madison too much, Misty ends up knocked out by a brick and tossed into the casket; Madison returns the groundskeepers to normal after they were frozen in a spell, and Misty is entombed in a small grey mausoleum. Didn’t see that coming before this sequence, honestly. But should have. Madison is just as vindictive and paranoid as Fiona.
Zoe and Nan drop over to see Joan, after they discovered at the hospital Luke is now dead. Nan wants to see the body; she needs to find out what happened to him in the end. He was cremated, but Nan knows what happened: he was suffocated by his mother. Then Nan goes wild on Joan, forcing Zoe out of the way and making Joan drink down a few gulps of bleach. Yikes – though, I can’t say I hated it. Joan deserved what she got.
In the basement of the academy, Myrtle plays away on the theremin while she and Cordelia have another heart to heart. The younger of the two feels she has “nothing left to offer this coven.” But we know different, as does Myrtle.
The worst comes when Fiona conjures Papa Legba on her own. She wants to do whatever possible to attain eternal life. Only Legba can’t make a deal because she has no soul with which to bargain: “You have nothing to sell.”
Things get dicey now, as Fiona ends up determined to kill all the others in the coven if necessary, all in order to figure out who will be the next Supreme. She has truly gone over the edge. Is this going to do her in, or the others?
The finale sees Nan discovering a newborn child meant for sacrifice over to Legba. Marie and Fiona label her a threat. Then, Legba accepts her as a substitute. The two older witches drown Nan in the upstairs bathtub, and Papa Legba deems Marie/Fiona’s union as “big trouble.” No doubt. A sad and tragic end for a character like Nan, who could’ve been a contender for Supreme had she not been disturbingly murdered.
Very excited for the next episode titled “Protect the Coven” – more wildness to come!
FX’s American Horror Story
Season 3, Episode 9: “Head”
Directed by Howard Deutch
Written by Tim Minear
* For a review of the previous episode, “The Sacred Taking” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “The Magical Delights of Stevie Nicks” – click here
After the head of Delphine LaLaurie (Kathy Bates) showed up at the witches doorstep last episode, we get a chance of pace in this one.
“Head” starts off with a father and son hunting in 1991. They’re sitting at camp and having some coffee together. The father calls the son Hank – is this the young version of Josh Hamilton’s character, husband to Cordelia (Sarah Paulson)? And what exactly are they hunting here? I may know, considering Hank’s dear ole dad loads the gun up with silver bullets. Then out from the woods comes a woman in tattered clothes, dad yelling to young Hank: “Put her down!” Before he can get the job done the woman, a witch, sets fire to the grass between her and the boy. Father jumps in, killing her and reminds his son: “Never forget what they are.”
Ominous past for Hank, whose entrance into the family business of witch hunting certainly began at an early age.
Fiona (Jessica Lange) shows up over at the salon to see Marie Laveau (Angela Bassett). She has Delphine’s head in town in the box. Out back, the body of Delphine still stands rotting in her cage, swatting flies off her bloody neck wound. Fiona wants an alliance between the coven and Marie’s voodoo powers. But Marie believes “witch hunters is white womens‘ worry!” There are lots of fun things happening in the dynamic between Marie and Fiona, the dual sects of witchcraft and so on.
Poor Cordelia is having a hard time as a blind woman. She and Myrtle (Frances Conroy) have a heart to heart. Myrtle worries Cordelia still might believer she had something to do with blinding her. However, she knows Myrtle would never hurt her, which is good. They need one another, especially in the new landscape of their existence with witch hunters right outside the academy’s doors.
Excellent sequence involving Hank going to see his father, Harrison Renard (Michael Cristofer). There’s “Sarabande” by Handel playing in the background, the Delphi Trust headquarters, all the witch hunting talk and much more. I love this whole aspect because I didn’t want it to simply sit in the background, as an anonymous entity Hank worked for; rather, we get a sense of an elaborate war between these hunters and the witches they pursue. And it’s not all hugely expository. We get bits and pieces from the writing which leads us to our own conclusions. They don’t go too far with it, other than to make them a viable threat and install them as a proper part of the story. Great stuff.
“You haven‘t forget what she is? What you are?”
Myrtle is having Quentin Fleming (Leslie Jordan) and Cecily Pembroke (Robin Bartlett) over to the academy for dinner. They’re thrilled to see her back, with better skin than ever, as well as very excited to hear all about Misty Day (Lily Rabe), the powerful girl hiding out in the swamps. But after a moment or two, Cecily freezes up in mid-sentence. To no surprise on Myrtle’s part. Almost as if this were planned, right? Quentin soon freezes up, too. A little “monk‘s wood“, she tells them while they remain like statues. She has at them with a good few jabs, not for revenge, but mostly for Cordelia. Okay – a little for revenge. She uses the melon baller to scoop out some eyes.
Upstairs afterwards, Cordelia comes to and has her sight once more. The ravaged sockets where her previously muddied eyes sat, scarred skin all around them, now are beautiful and wide eyes once again. Fiona is happy to see her daughter restored, though, there’s still tension between herself and Myrtle. Luckily it seems as if Cordelia is now most concerned with the witch hunters prowling around, no longer so focused on her mother’s indiscretions and faults. Sadly, though, Cordelia no longer has second sight; her new eyes have changed all that.
We’re also privy to a nasty, gory cut-scene where Myrtle disposes of the two former Council members, chopping them to bits and throwing them into a tub of acid down in the basement. Brutal, yet amazing!
“Good luck. Call the Council – I hear they‘re not seeing anyone right now.”
Nan (Jamie Brewer) is waiting at the hospital. She wants to see Luke Ramsey (Alexander Dreymon), but his mother Joan (Patti LuPone) won’t have any of it. When Zoe (Taissa Farmiga) and Madison (Emma Roberts) show up, Madison doesn’t want her to take that. They barge in and hear a bunch of nonsense from Mrs. Ramsey, but the witches overpower her. With reason. In addition, there’s a great little moment where Nan hears Luke talk to her, as we see him literally standing behind her, whispering in her ear. Instead of another big confrontation, we finally see Joan give in. She sings the song Nan brought up, the one Luke told her about a moment before, and then calls Nan to her side. It’s actually a beautiful scene in the end, and I have to say – great choice to have LuPone play this part, she is an amazing actor.
Contrasted with such seriousness, after this comes Queenie starting off a film festival for the stationary Delphine’s severed head: Mandingo, The Color Purple, B*A*P*S, and to start, Roots. Hilarious, brief scene. Delphine starts singing Dixieland to try and contrast the “jungle music,” as she calls it.
Then bam, we get another intense sequence – all of a sudden, Hank Foxx is plagued by a voodoo-style attack, his bones cracking, his body bleeding. Marie Laveau is not happy with what their former agreement is yielding so far, having one of the white witches show right up at her doorstep. So, even though Hank is a piece of shit, I feel bad watching him get bent and torn out of shape.
Back at the academy, Cordelia is helping Misty with some of her powers. Nice visuals with the flowers growing, the bright colours of the greenhouse in the basement, plus the look of the small garden itself. Very cool set design. Then, Hank shows up crawling back like a slug to Cordelia. He’s happy her eyes are back, of course. But who cares what he thinks, certainly she doesn’t, and nor should she at all. He is not just a cheater. He’s a god damn witch hunter! Even though she doesn’t know that full extent yet. Regardless, Cordelia is not having any of Hank and his drama.
Neither is Fiona. Though, she’s never had any liking for the man. She brought home an attack dog. That doesn’t last long, not after she meets Kyle (Evan Peters), who hugs the dog a bit too hard like Steinbeck’s Lenny and cracks her neck. Uh oh.
But Fiona does one better, making a real guard dog – she slightly fixes Kyle, enough to make him competent for protection, and a good game of cards.
Cut to Nan and Joan at Luke’s side in the hospital. We find out more about the dark side to Joan Ramsey. Luke discovers, in the afterlife, her father did not die by accident. Seems Luke’s dad was having an affair with another woman, someone he actually loved. Then Joan set him up to die: trapping him in his car with bees, to which he was allergic, prompting a deathly reaction. Whoa, did not expect that! Although I was sure Joan had something seriously wrong with her either way.
Hank is gearing up to lay waste to the witches. Only now his sights aren’t set firmly on Cordelia and Fiona and their coven. He’s headed directly for Marie Laveau. The guns come blazing, blood flies over the walls and the mirrors; first a shotgun blast, then Hank takes out two dual pistols. Even Queenie gets a shot in the stomach. All the while, “Oh Freedom!” is sung over top, LaLaurie’s head watching footage of civil rights marches. Queenie manages to pick up a gun and blow Hank’s head off right before he can manage to do Marie in for good. A truly incredible sequence, complete with a teary eyed Delphine and an equally sad Harrison Renard mourning his now dead son Hank.
And at the very end of this bit, Luke wakes up accusing his mother of killing his father. Then, Joan puts him back to sleep. And puts a pillow over his head, smothering him.
The finale sees Marie Laveau now show up at the academy for a chat with Fiona. What will this bring? A real alliance finally?
A great, great episode. The next one is titled “The Magical Delights of Stevie Nicks”. Stay tuned for a fun one!