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American Horror Story – My Roanoke Nightmare: “Chapter 4”

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.
screen-shot-2016-10-06-at-1-26-34-amIn 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: “Its 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: “Hell be back.”
screen-shot-2016-10-06-at-1-29-36-amSo 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.screen-shot-2016-10-06-at-1-44-14-amAt 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. “Id 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?screen-shot-2016-10-06-at-2-06-26-amscreen-shot-2016-10-06-at-2-07-15-amLove 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.

 

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American Horror Story – My Roanoke Nightmare: “Chapter 3”

FX’s American Horror Story
Season 6, Episode 3: “Chapter 3”
Directed by Jennifer Chambers Lynch (ChainedSurveillance)
Written by James Wong

* For a review of Chapter 2, click here.
* For a review of Chapter 4, click here.
screen-shot-2016-09-29-at-1-46-49-amWith 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.
screen-shot-2016-09-29-at-1-55-09-amscreen-shot-2016-09-29-at-1-59-04-amSo 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.screen-shot-2016-09-29-at-2-05-52-amExcept 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!screen-shot-2016-09-29-at-2-33-44-amOut 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.

American Horror Story – My Roanoke Nightmare: “Chapter 1”

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.
screen-shot-2016-09-15-at-1-23-25-amThis 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 werent 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.
screen-shot-2016-09-15-at-1-23-34-amStrange 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.
screen-shot-2016-09-15-at-1-45-55-amscreen-shot-2016-09-15-at-1-59-43-amWhen 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.

American Horror Story – Hotel, Episode 12: “Be Our Guest”

FX’s American Horror Story
Season 5, Episode 12: “Be Our Guest”
Directed by Bradley Buecker
Written by John J. Gray

* For a review of the penultimate Season 5 finisher, “Battle Royale” – click here
screen-shot-2016-11-17-at-4-07-52-pmThis finale for the wild Season 5 begins with Liz Taylor (Denis O’Hare) talking about taking over the Hotel Cortez. Only she has her throat slit with a gloved hand, not unlike the one we’ve seen Countess (Lady Gaga) wear earlier in the season.
Cut to a couple checking in. Iris (Kathy Bates) and Liz woo them, with champagne on arrival, hoping to make the guests feel at home and ready for a wonderful time. They’re apparently from some website, one which reviews hotels. “It was going to take 4stars on the internet,” Liz tells us. All the rooms are newly redone, looking beautiful; even Egyptian Cotton on all the beds. Looks a far cry from where it was once.
Except Sally (Sarah Paulson) shows up from out of nowhere to greet the new guests, lazing around smoking in her usual leopard print. She’s even getting ready to shoot up, which soon does in one of the guests. The other one goes running in the halls, coming across Will Drake (Cheyenne Jackson). “Im new at this murder game and jesus christ is it a thrill,” he says before stabbing her to death. Seems like things aren’t exactly perfect at the Hotel Cortez, despite the beautiful surface.
A very wonderful start to this final episode for the season. Plenty more macabre, nasty fun to come, I hope.
screen-shot-2016-11-17-at-4-09-27-pmThe meeting is called, as Liz and Iris try to create order among the ghosts of the Cortez. They all meet at the bar, everyone wanting something different. Marcy wants a new room. Will and Sally would rather kill. The rest are too self-involved, but not those two. They’re more excited for killing: “Im dead,” Will tells them, “but Ive never felt more alive.”
Up turns James March (Evan Peters), wanting them all to stop the killing. Funny, right? He’s mostly concerned about what happens if the Cortez gets shut down, torn down, bulldozed. Where will they go? In the meantime, everyone’s aruging. Until March flips a lid and sets them all straight. They need to make it a historic landmark, March claims, only they’ve got to keep the building there another 10 years, until 2026. Sally needs a “soulmate,” though, and she doesn’t look poised to change. Even with the threat of March sicking the Addiction Demon on her, as once he did before.
Most interesting is how Iris shows Sally about the world outside, social media, which will help her not be so alone in the world. She can’t go out, but that doesn’t mean Sally can’t interact with the world. Great way to bring the issues of today into the show, instead of only relying on dates onscreen from time to time. Plus, it goes well with Sally’s 1990’s rock/grunge character, to think she might be someone who would fall into social media and all its trappings.
Mainly, everyone is now trying to figure out the way to head into the future. Liz has all but convinced Drake to stay holed up in the hotel, all “Howard Hughes” and such. In fact, Liz is now Will’s acting hand at his company. Amazing new age company being led by Ms. Liz Taylor. The fashion goes on, the clothing still coming out – even Sally models bits of his work, plus Ramona (Angela Bassett) and other ghosts in the Cortez.
But sadly, Liz misses Tristan. Then we’re introduced to an old, familiar face – Billie Dean Howard (Sarah Paulson) back from Season 1’s Murder House. What a beautiful return to the original season, another character linking things together. Great season for this sort of thing, with Queenie in the last episode, Marcy showing up from time to time, and more. This sequence sees Billie helping Liz to try reconnecting with his now lost, murdered love, Tristan Duffy (Finn Wittrock). But it seems Tristan isn’t willing to fully reconnect, he’s angered and doesn’t want to talk with Liz. Not right now, anyways.
But wait – it’s Donovan now reaching from the other side, talking of “pancakes with blueberries” and that it’s “always Saturday morning” wherever he is.


Gathering the ghosts together, Liz tells everybody she’s got prostate cancer; inoperable, “nothing to do.” All those ghosts are worried, but Liz absolutely has a plan. Of sorts. Weapons are out on the bed, ready for everyone. She wants to be hacked, bludgeoned, et cetera, to death. “Its not murder,” Sallys says to them: “She wants to be reborn.”
“The Ballad of Lucy Jordan” by Marianne Faithfull starts to play while everybody weapons up. Liz lays back on the bed, ready for the murder to take place. At the door, though, Countess arrives. “You were always my fondest creation,” Countess tells Liz. She’s there to join in on the fun: “I wanted to be here to help you transition.” Great word play all around with this sequence. Great, viciously bloody fun. This takes us back to that first scene, watching Liz have her throat cut open, the blood flying and beginning to run down onto the floor. Savagery – the best sort which Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk continually give us. And in death? Liz finds Tristan once more.
Down at the desk a woman shows up on Devil’s Night in 2022. She booked a room way in advance. In other news, Iris and Ramona are lamenting too much publicity after Billie Dean Howard’s specials aired on television, bringing out the weirdos, the perverts. Funniest is seeing John Lowe in league with them all, just another part of them. We get cuts back to Howard doing her various specials in Room 44, Room 64, and so on.
Now Lowe has got himself a plan. They call Billie Dean down for another taping, as she continues to try calling on the Ten Commandment Killer to reveal himself.
Then there’s Alex Lowe (Chloë Sevigny) and John’s family. They made things work in the outside world. Or at least, as best as it would work. They tried. Out on the streets, Lowe killed, stockpiling blood in coffee canisters, stalking the streets for more victims with which to feed the family. One night, he finds himself caught by the police. Bleeding, full of bullets, John tries his best to make it back inside the Cortez, to die in there. Instead of making it all the way, he’s left on the sidewalk. Returning on Devil’s Night, though, it is easy to see James March has a hand in it all. Another dinner party, perhaps?


Jeffrey Dahmer, John Wayne Gacy (John Carroll Lynch), Richard Ramirez, Aileen Wuornos (Lily Rabe), they’re all back! Gacy’s trying to teach Jeffrey to talk to guys, in such a creepy scene. The music in the background plays heavy, lazy. Everything is terrifying and dark. John introduces her around the place, acclimating her to the strange surroundings. The Zodiac is there, too. Quiet and chilling in the corner with his baghead costume on, totally silent. A surreal sequence here, as Billie Dean navigates through “all these dark spirits.” March appears soon enough to toast them all. Lots of fun! A top five favourite sequence out of this Hotel season.
This is all a way to get Howard to stop doing specials at the hotel. The ghosts all want, need, to be left alone. So they need to her to give up. None of the ghosts can leave, but Ramona shows up to tell her: “I can.” Seems ole Billie Dean has more to fear than a few ghosts. Best she start moving on, right?screen-shot-2016-11-17-at-4-15-39-pmIn Room 64, John keeps his family. His daughter has grown a few years, obviously, and the others sleep soundly. Must be strange for her to age while the family stays the same, forever. Yet she seems fine with that mostly. It’s nice for John and Alex, who have their son back and eternally get to sleep next to one another, just like a new family. A creepy finish, as John has to go away for a whole year until the next Devil’s Night, when the family will come back together in the Cortez, to enjoy each other’s company, to love one another for that single day. A semi-happy ending in one sense, but a deeply tragic one for Lowe.
The very end of the episode sees The Countess at a table in the lounge, drinking, smoking. Out of the dark hallways comes a man she likes the look of, so off she goes to sit next to him at the bar. He sort of looks like Donovan – hair slicked back, handsome, a bit of stubble. Is that the intention? I think so. “You have a jawline for days,” says the Countess, right before everything cuts to black. Beautiful.
screen-shot-2016-11-17-at-4-16-09-pmLoved the end to this season. An impressive full circle, but in a way that doesn’t only recall the beginning of the season, the beginning of character relationships, it also adds things on, making the layers deeper, more enticing. People complained a ton about this season. Me? I dig it. Totally. Stay tuned, we’ll see where Falchuk and Murphy go from here next season.

American Horror Story – Hotel, Episode 11: “Battle Royale”

FX’s American Horror Story
Season 5, Episode 11: “Battle Royale”
Directed by Michael Uppendahl
Written by Ned Martel

* For a review of the previous episode, “She Gets Revenge” – click here
* For a review of the Season 5 finale, “Be Our Guest” – click here
screen-shot-2016-11-17-at-3-53-25-pmThe penultimate Season 5 episode “Battle Royale” begins with Liz Taylor (Denis O’Hare) and Iris (Kathy Bates) coming together, bed full of guns, just before the events of the previous episode’s finale, when The Countess (Lady Gaga) and Donovan (Matt Bomer) were reuniting briefly before getting gunned down, seemingly.
Here, revisiting those moments, we hear “Seconds” by The Human League. As the guns finally blaze, Liz and Iris get a few into The Countess, while Donovan also takes shots. Iris wants to help her soon who wants nothing else but to not die inside the Hotel Cortez. Naturally, right? The pair try and help Donovan, in an excellently filmed scene which almost puts you directly in his shoes, the waving camerawork, the point-of-view, all of it. Luckily they get him out onto the street where Donovan bleeds out – his final word? “Mom.” This season is winding up for a nice, and surely at times brutal finale.
screen-shot-2016-11-17-at-3-53-45-pmFor The Countess, there’s bullet removal by Hypodermic Sally (Sarah Paulson). Then later she wakes to flashes of nastiness before finally coming to all the way. Sally needs her to stick around because there’s all but literally no one else left for her; to use, to manipulate, whatever. Sally reminisces about a drug dealer, whose past included a first handjob from – you guessed it – the woman herself. This leads into a bit of backstory for her, a slight and tenuous bonding between her and The Countess.
Flashback to 1993 in Los Angeles, as Sally’s musician friends use her songs, record them, and go to the top. Meanwhile, she’s more like the nasty delinquent enabling the talented people around her to do all sorts of drugs, et cetera. Not that they weren’t eating it up, but still. “Do you trust me?” Sally asks them, before we see cuts of them sewing one another together, higher than the sky on drugs. Of course, then they both overdose, as Sally’s trapped between them, linked up. A sort of nasty Human Centipede-like homage except better, more fitting; Sally was truly trapped with addiction for five long days. This is where the Addiction Demon comes in, torturing her for days. Finally she ripped herself out of the bonds. WOW! Amazing, amazing story to Sally. Never expected such brutality. This episode is honestly one of the most filmic in the entire history of the series, to me. The way it’s filmed, the look, the heaviness, every bit amounts to an incredible masterpiece. And that’s only the first 12 minutes. Lots more to come.
Over at the Lowe household, John (Wes Bentley ) and Alex (Chloë Sevigny) bring their children home, to be “a family again.” Alex calls drinking blood taking medicine, though, young Scarlett knows better. But John’s committed to shedding his life as The Ten Commandments Killer, everything at the Cortez; he wants a normal family life again.
The Countess is still suffering. Sally brings in the little white haired children, saying she’ll have to use them for blood. Even though Countess doesn’t want that, the children agree: “Let us help, mommy.”
screen-shot-2016-11-17-at-3-56-02-pmAt the same time, Iris is grieving the loss of her son. Liz helped by incinerating him, so as to not have to throw him down the chute with all the rest of the trash killed in the hotel. It’s funny how among all the horror, the murder, the blood, you can really feel for a character like Iris. She only ever came to the hotel for her son, now he’s gone, dust. He was her world. “We were so much alike,” she reminisces, “maybe that’s why we couldnt be close.” Afterwards, leaving Miss Evers (Mare Winningham) to clean up the mess she made with the ashes, Iris heads up on top of the hotel, looking out to the horizon. A sort of beautiful, weird moment all in one.
Dressed and made up, Liz strolls down the hall some time later with a now clean Iris. They head down the locked up hallway, where bodies are strewn everywhere, from that of Will Drake (Cheyenne Jackson) to the bunch of vampire children. Not to mention, Ramona Royale (Angela Bassett) who emerges strong and healthy from around a corner, blood stained, spiteful.

Up shows a witch from down in New Orleans – yes, it’s Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe). She’s going to do a bit of game show fun and all that Los Angeles type of stuff. Unfortunately, though, I think she checked into the wrong hotel.
Theres a lot of bad juju in this room,” says Queenie after entering the place she’s meant to stay all night. She doesn’t like the place, but Iris and Liz con her into staying. Then when Ramona comes out of the shower, slashing away at Queenie, there comes the voodoo doll stuff. Pretty interesting fight starts between the two – a sort-of-vampire versus a voodoo witch. Out of nowhere, James March (Evan Peters) stabs Queenie with a big blade from his cane – he’s a ghost, remember? So the rules are skewed. Ramona drinks Queenie’s blood, getting her fill. Then James says: “I want you to kill The Countess“… he’s got big plans. He doesn’t want to see his love walk away from the hotel.
John Lowe arrives home. In his trunk, he has a man whom he questions about being clean. Do you know what he’s got in store for him? I know I do. Some of that medicine Alex was talking about earlier. Is the new way for the Swiss Family Lowe? We’ll see. Inside, John finds nobody. Only a key for the Cortez hanging from a light fixture.
Cut to Lowe back at the hotel, running through the halls. Straight to Room 64. There on the bed is Sally, waiting. She claims March took his family – “One last kill and I can take you to your family,” says Sally. The final commandment left? Thou shalt not commit murder.screen-shot-2016-11-17-at-4-01-59-pmBusy fitting Ramona Royale for a dress, Liz is preparing her for the coming slaughter. But Ramona has “witchs blood” flowing through her, she doesn’t want any of the assorted guns or weapons Iris and Liz have got kicking around.
With “I Wanna Be Adored” by The Stone Roses playing in the background, The Countess is having a reunion with Ramona. They talk of how their blood smells – “almonds” for Ramona, “black licorice” for The Countess. They miss one another, even if Ramona wants to kill the bitch. Likewise, Countess misses her, too. No matter what’s happened, or what may come next.
Just after the two make love, and The Countess is let free, she meets John Lowe when the elevator heads down. He blasts her away, letting her bleed on the elevator’s floor. Countess is the final commandment. Her head is now in a jar on the shelf upstairs, everyone reeling with pride over John’s accomplishments. Only Sally’s got further plans – thwarted after March stops her from stabbing him, keeping him there forever. Relieved? Well, John’s a killer, as well. Shouldn’t be too relieved for the man.
March sits at his table and asks Miss Evers about when she first discovered being a ghost. Then he gets upset over the dinner arrangements. At the door is The Countess, whose arrival at dinner has prompted James to be a little tempestuous, and Miss Evers to be get a bit saucy. Countess is adjusting to her “new state,” as March calls it.

 

 

 


Big reveal comes when we discover it was Miss Evers who called the police all those years ago. She wanted him, her jealousy got the better of her. “I wanted us to die together,” she wails. Only things went… a little differently, than expected. This leads to Miss Evers being banished from March’s presence, heading off into the darkness.
The episode finishes with March happy to have The Countess back. Although, she’s much less thrilled. Her eternity is relegated to a space where she’ll never be happy, ever again.
screen-shot-2016-11-17-at-4-06-27-pmExcited to review the finale of Season 5, “Be Our Guest”. Looking forward to a weird, wild episode to finish off this bloody, violent, sexy and odd season. Stay tuned.

American Horror Story – Hotel, Episode 10: “She Gets Revenge”

FX’s American Horror Story
Season 5, Episode 10: “She Gets Revenge”
Directed by Bradley Buecker
Written by James Wong

* For a review of the previous episode, “She Wants Revenge” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Battle Royale” – click here
screen-shot-2016-11-17-at-3-43-42-pmOnly a few more nights left at the Hotel Cortez.
Tonight we open with the wondrous Liz Taylor (Denis O’Hare) lamenting “forgotten hotels,” such as the Cortez, and what they’re good for – from drug deals to indiscretions of all kinds. Love that we’re getting more Liz because I find her spectacular. O’Hare is an enormously talented character actor who gives life and luxury to Liz. Here, we see more depth to her and all she is, as she tells us about one particular old couple who commit suicide/murder together in order to not have to see the twilight years come for them. After their brains are blown out, Iris (Kathy Bates) does lamenting of her own. Mostly about the time it’ll take to clean the blood out and scrub the walls. Meanwhile, Liz cries because she may “never be happy again,” unlike the happy couple who chose to go out on their own terms right there in that very room. She picks up a gun, wanting to die. But Iris reminds her that would only see her trapped in the Cortez for eternity. I’m glad Liz choose not to, at least not right now. She tells Iris there’s a little unfinished business that might be good to tend to: her son. The old life of Iris still lingers, that’s how much she obviously cares about his boy. Both she and Iris have their plans, together, for a grand finale to life.
screen-shot-2016-11-17-at-3-44-10-pmLiz has Miss Evers (Mare Winningham) calling up his son. She can’t bear to talk to him herself, not just yet; after all it’s been 31 years. Liz says she’s “written letters” and “god knows Ive written cheques.” But we’ll see if this comes around to a good thing for her. For now, Miss Evers is giving Liz a hard time over lifestyle choices, et cetera. She fears Liz is expecting too much of her son, for him to be too understanding.
In other parts of the Cortez, John Lowe (Wes Bentley) is admiring his Ten Commandments work, while Sally (Sarah Paulson) watches on. We cut to John, knife in hand, approaching some – what looks like – Mexican faithfuls, whom he cuts down. He doesn’t have much work left to do before he’s free: “One more and youll be free,” Sally tells him.
Then there’s Donovan (Matt Bomer) who approaches Rudolph Valentino (Finn Wittrock) in his motel room, all while Natacha (Alexandria Daddario) goes to see The Countess (Lady Gaga). Great editing back and forth between their two paralleled conversations. On the one hand, Rudolph and Donovan have a semi-manly confrontation. On the other hand, Countess seduces Natacha a little before they each take out a knife. Only when Rudolph produces a Middle Eastern style sword, Donovan replies “Bitch please,” along with a bullet, or a couple, to his face. At the hotel, Countess likewise slashes down Natacha. Ouch. How will The Countess react after she discovers Rudie dead?
Back to James March (Evan Peters), a late favourite of mine in this season. He’s suited up in his creepy leather mask with a new sacrifice at his hands. He lights a man on fire, who quickly perishes in flame. Right afterwards, Lowe shows up. They’re quite cozy now, the two buddies. Murderers in league. Nice special makeup effects here, too; some nasty burn work. That’s something I forget to mention often in these reviews. I love all the makeup and special effects work in general the series has done, from blood and gore to more understated stuff. Plus, there’s great costume and set design.
John is reunited with his wife Alex (Chloë Sevigny) for the time being. She has certainly changed. As has John, or perhaps he hasn’t changed just accepted his identity. He’s hurt by the lies she fed him, concerning their children. But at the same time, John has both accepted his new murderous identity, as well as accepted his own faults in everything. A dark turn of events. Regardless, the husband and wife are seemingly back on the same side. She admits to him what happened with the children, and the fact The Countess has threatened to kill her and their boy if she doesn’t control the vampire outbreak amongst the young ones. John has agreed to help. Will this be a husband-wife blood bath of some sort coming up? Can’t wait to find out.

 

 


Then Douglas (Josh Braaten) shows up at the Cortez, sitting down for a drink. Liz serves him up a drink, then they chat together a good long while. Douglas even talks about his father, who split, and that it was just he and his mother. He mentions about being in town to finally reconnect with his father. Such an emotional moment to watch Douglas walk away, Liz left wanting to say all the things that need to be said, only afraid to go ahead and do it.
But more importantly, John is helping Alex. They sneak into a house, which looks like the one where she last saw the kids. John is still in cop-mode, even holding his gun and flashlight like an officer of the law. There’s blood on the floor downstairs in huge splashes. Upstairs, John tries to find anything in terms of a clue. Out of nowhere, one of the kids shows up trying to stab Alex. More come after John appears. One of the young girls is very sick, dying, but the kids aren’t being any help obviously. The lead kid is upset about the dead girl, though, his other idiot friend seems hellbent against adult involvement.
The Countess is explaining to detectives where she last saw Will Drake (Cheyenne Jackson). He’s nowhere to be found. One cop says it could be “cold feet.” Yet Countess disagrees. Then, to her surprise, Will shows up in a slick black suit looking better than ever. The look on her face is worth a million words. “You murdered me, you bitch,” Will spits venomously at his wife. But she’s not happy how he treated Bartholomew, the things he said. Spiteful, no? She was going to do it anyway. Countess has it all figured out, or that’s what she’d have others believe.
Later on, John and Alex show up with the kids back at the hotel. Finally, the killer vampire children have been convinced to settle down. They lead the kids to a hallway and tell them there’s a room a ways down where they can rest, wait for some food. Reluctantly the children go inside, except the jerk, who John knocks on his ass into the hall. They’re locked away in the darkness by the Lowes. What follows is a descent into Lord of the Flies territory, only with vampire kids, and instead of an island a hotel’s forgotten hallway. Best of all? Ramona Royale (Angela Bassett) turns a corner, full of blood, and sees the children: “Mm. Mama smells appetizers.”

 

 


What I love about this entire sequence of scenes is the way John and his wife seem like a happy couple again, now that they’re both monsters of sorts. On top of all that, Sally shows up asking if he came inside her, or if he “shot it on her tits” the way he does with her, because “with a whore its always on the tits.” So even with the happy couple dynamic, Sally is still kicking around as the mistress in John’s new fucked up world. Sally is a drug addicted ghost of some type, a demon even. Alex is a vampire. John is the Ten Commandments Killer. But Sally says “she doesnt know about younot like I do.” He wants to do it for his family, though, we know that addiction is strong. And it never lets go easily. Sally and John end up having a knife-point confrontation; she isn’t pleased with his decision to be with Alex.
Then, the addiction demon briefly appears in flashes behind Sally in the hallway, its drill-bit dildo barely visible for a moment in time.
Douglas returns to the hotel. He reveals knowledge of his father; at first Liz is a little ashamed, but quickly comes to see things are okay. Well, not okay. But nothing crazy seems poised to happen. Liz is happy to see Doug is a well-adjusted, grown, responsible man. Doug isn’t outraged by his father, his lifestyle: “Theres plenty of room for another woman in my life,” he tells Liz, who staggers back in emotion. Amazing. I hope this is all headed somewhere nice, a bit of a reprieve in the life of Liz.
Other seemingly happy times between Donovan and Countess at dinner. She talks about what she did to Will Drake, which he loves, of course. Lots of hilarious inclusion of modern talk and technology, modern phrases like “hatewatch” and “FaceTime.” Then, Countess finds Rudolph with his face shot to pieces at the motel. Brutal. Though, I don’t care about her pain. She deserves all she gets. Will she get revenge in this episode, or will another she get her revenge?
Over in a different room, Iris shows Liz a various assortment of guns, knives, poison possibly, slipknots, and so on. As well as a final video, tribute to her including good pictures and one of herself with a cat; all to be a “beacon of hope for my 3 follows on Instagram.” Only Liz doesn’t want to go out any longer. She wants a connection with Doug now. Now, Iris is abandoned once more; she feels as if everyone has left her behind. Liz has got other plans: “Dammit, were the ones who should inherit the earth,” she tells Iris. Will these shes get revenge?

 

 


Alex and John go to the weird video game room, where father is reunited with long lost son Holden. He cries and takes the boy in his arms, happily embracing the son he never thought he’d see again. John loves his family, even if two of its members are now vampires. But what will The Countess have to say about this? Is she simply going to let Holden leave, letting Alex go? And what about John – can he abandon his Ten Commandments work? On their way out of the hotel, the Lowes are confronted by an angry Sally who swears on her soul: “I will kill you.”
In the penthouse, Donovan rocks out to Drake’s “Hotline Bling” until being interrupted by The Countess’ cold, dark presence. She talks about Rudolph, her search for him over a century. She and Donovan exchange thoughts about “being trapped here“, inside the walls of the Cortez.

He made me everything I am
And you made me, in his image.”

Before Countess can kill Donovan, in bust the two bad asses Liz and Iris, each wielding two guns, blasting at their nemesis. Though we don’t see what happens. Only a cut to black.
screen-shot-2016-11-17-at-3-52-06-pmVery excited to see the next episode, “Battle Royale.” We’ll see what happens with Countess, Donovan, and the two new gangsters in Liz and Iris. Stay tuned with me, fellow fans!

American Horror Story – Hotel, Episode 8: “The Ten Commandments Killer”

FX’s American Horror Story
Season 5, Episode 8: “The Ten Commandments Killer”
Directed by Loni Peristere
Written by Ryan Murphy

* For a review of the previous episode, “Flicker” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “She Wants Revenge” – click here

 


The end of the previous episode saw John Lowe (Wes Bentley) watch on helplessly as Wren (Jessica Belkin) ran into the road getting killed by a truck. Here, we begin with him dazed, everyone wondering what exactly happened.
Back at the Hotel Cortez, Liz Taylor (Denis O’Hare) deals with a belligerent Lowe. Sally (Sarah Paulson) shows up, too. He keeps demanding to see the Ten Commandments Killer, over and over. Until finally Sally agrees to take John to the killer, where “hes been hiding.” Ominous. They head up to Room 64. “Is this a joke?” Lowe asks. But Sally insists there are answers inside. She starts talking about James Patrick March (Evan Peters). Though, it can’t be him. He’s dead. In a secret chamber behind one of the walls, there are a bunch of dismembered body parts, teeth, brain, and so on; each inscribed with one of the Ten Commandments. There needs to be a successor. All of a sudden, John seems to be remembering all the murders as being committed by him – he is the Ten Commandments Killer.
Really, though? I’ve got to say, not that I didn’t see it coming a little. But I’m still not impressed. Because you can see this coming a mile away. Or is this the whole truth? Are we really being given such a wild revelation, a supposedly big one, in the opening of an episode? I’m not sure. We’ll see as the episode goes on. I just feel a little disappointed if this is the real case, if John is actually the killer.

Nobody let him in: he had a key.”

screen-shot-2016-11-17-at-3-24-57-pmDown at the morgue, John shows up to freak out his old partner Andy (Richard T. Jones) a bit. He wants to confess. First of all, he looks like absolute roadkill. So it’s creepy. Then he lays out a timeline of when he first went to the Hotel Cortez, a drunken night five years ago – 2010. Flash to that night with Liz tending bar, Sally hanging off it smoking and Donovan (Matt Bomer) lurking among the shadows. They all sort of descend upon him, eerie and foreboding. John sucks down drinks and finds himself invited to a party upstairs.
Meanwhile, the hilariously unsettling March has a monthly dinner with The Countess (Lady Gaga). They’re interrupted by Donovan, who brings along Detective Lowe. I suppose ole Jimmy loves when a man finds himself in despair, looking to “drink himself to death.” The attitude in which Lowe finds himself is perfect for March. He’s very intrigued by John and his lowly state of depression. They have a strange conversation, at times funny and others pretty creepy. March happens to repeat a phrase Iris (Kathy Bates) said a few episodes ago: “Black as the ace of spades.” I found that a little interesting, maybe nothing. But it was good. The entire sequence between Wes Bentley and Evan Peters is pretty damn awesome. I love them both as actors, personally. It took me a few episodes to warm to Peters’ March character, then after that I couldn’t get enough.
So John’s confessing all this to his partner. It appears to us that March and The Countess played into his madness. John losing his boy, or having him stolen, was all a part of their ruse. To apprentice him into being a successor to the throne of March, unlike Gacy, Ramirez or “that poof” Dahmer as March himself puts it.

 

 


Lowe talks about living two split lives: one at home with his wife, one at the Cortez with March. For the span of five years. March infiltrated his head with horrific ideas. He shows John around the hotel a little, by creepy candlelight, including a spot were he mounted the head of his former accountant. Naturally, John recoils at first. But slowly, his faith in the law slipping, the poor detective falls into March’s cold dark grip. On the anniversary of what he believed as his son’s death, John is back with March at the Cortez; current day 2015. “There’s no such thing as justice anymore,” says Lowe. March tells the tale of a pedophile who came to the hotel, which includes Polaroids Miss Evers (Mare Winningham) found. Lowe ends up at this man’s place – where the Oscar statuette was supposed to be purchased – and beats him to death. He then claims to have tried to hang himself, but Sally cut him down (she was actually watching him die; March cut him down). March and Hypodermic Sally/the Drill-bit Dildo Demon have a sort of pact, as well.
I’m starting to enjoy John as the killer. But where do we go from here? That’s my only question. Even though the “twist” was predictable to many, I don’t think it’s bad. At all. They tie everything back into itself, so many different little pieces, so well. It’s good writing, in my mind. More than that, I love the Bentley plays Lowe. Lots seem to disagree, but fuck ’em. He’s a solid actor, always has been, and here he gives a pretty unnerving performance as the man driven to complete insanity, to terrifying murder.screen-shot-2016-11-17-at-3-31-31-pm

Youre home, John.”

screen-shot-2016-11-17-at-3-32-09-pmWith the end of this episode, we’re left with John as the killer. Is it real? Or is John only being manipulated into believing it so? I’m still unsure. But as I said, I’m easing into the idea of Lowe as the Ten Commandments Killer. Although, one little screenshot I included in this review does make me question, very subtly. Supposedly, though, this is the case. John is the killer. Just not sure where Ryan Murphy & Co. will be taking things from here.
Stay tuned for a review of the next episode, “She Wants Revenge.”