From Murder House

American Horror Story – Apocalypse, Episode 6: “Return to Murder House”

Madison and Chablis go to Murder House looking for answers about Michael Langdon

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American Horror Story – Murder House, Episode 11: “Birth”

FX’s American Horror Story
Season 1, Episode 11: “Birth”
Directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
Written by Tim Minear

* For a review of the previous episode, “Smoldering Children” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Afterbirth” – click here
screen-shot-2016-11-11-at-11-48-41-pmThe very start of this episode shows us more of the relationship between Tate (Evan Peters) and Nora Montgomery (Lily Rabe). While a young Tate, very little, runs around Murder House while his mother leaves him on his own, he comes across the old child of the Montgomerys, lost and filthy and creepy in the basement. Nora shows up and tells Tate about how all he needs to do if the ghosts scare him is close his eyes, then tell them to go away. This sets up not just their relationship, which further compounds after Tate becomes a ghost himself in the house, it also goes deeper in this episode. Later, we’ll see where this comes into play even more.
screen-shot-2016-11-11-at-11-49-21-pmNow that Violet (Taissa Farmiga) is completely aware of her living dead situation, visually we’re seeing how it affects both her and her father Ben (Dylan McDermott). He tries taking her to go and see Vivien (Connie Britton), as well as bring her home finally, but naturally Violet cannot make it off the property. When Ben pulls out of the driveway, we pan around to Violet up in her window, talking with Tate. She’s slowly accepting the situation, however, that does not make it any better for her.
Moreover, Chad (Zachary Quinto) and Patrick (Teddy Sears) are also planning for the babies. They’re hilarious together, painting the room and the cribs and the dresser, et cetera. Great scene as Tate confronts them saying they ought not mess with Violet’s mother; I thought the way Chad gets in his face and says “What are you gonna do – murder me?” was darkly hilarious yet also just bad ass at the same time. Well written scene. I always enjoy how American Horror Story as a series overall both includes and confronts gay issues. This scene and the whole subplot of Chad/Patrick in Murder House is one small example of how well the series uses gay characters. And why not? Too many people get hung up on the fact they’re gay, instead of simply the fact they’re a human, they’re a person, a character. As long as they’re written well and enjoyable, who cares if the character is gay, straight, transgender, or whatever? I’m glad the writers have the ability to write the characters of Chad and Patrick well enough, they’re a great addition to the whole mix of ghosts traipsing around Murder House.
Also, their addition ups the ante even more, as it seems each and every ghost in the house has their own plan in regards to Vivien Harmon’s babies. It’s almost like an old western where a bunch of outlaws all end up in the same place, each angling to their own ends. Very cool episode in this sense because we get a good look at all that, out in the open.
Billie Dean Howard (Sarah Paulson) shows up to help Constance and Violent. I like how Billie is truly psychic, so she can tell Violet is dead. Neat little moment between them while they connect telekinetically.
My favourite part is a brief little bit where Billie tells Constance and Violet all about the supposed story behind Roanoke – the Lost Colony in the 16th century whose citizens all up and left, seemingly. Only the word ‘croatoan’ was left carved in a tree. Of course, Billie’s story is a fabrication, using the idea of spirits lingering to explain how they might purge the spirits o the house; particularly, Constance wants to get “the gays” out.
This all plays more into how the ghosts are all vying for the Harmon babies, each with their own misguided and mental plan to sort of start over and integrate the newborns into the ghostly, haunting family of Murder House.

 


Vivien’s doctor at the psychiatric hospital advises her and Ben she might need an emergency C-section. This is due to the fact one of the twins seems to be growing at an abnormally fast rate, while the other is growing weaker; the ‘alpha’ is draining all the nutrients, leaving the second to essentially wither away. And we all know what’s going on there, right? That little demon baby is sucking up everything useful, hoping to spring from the womb and deploy its evil.
Once Ben gets back to the house, Violet unfortunately has to make it painfully clear for her father in order for him to accept that she is dead. All the same, Ben doesn’t believe her. Everything comes down at once – right as she’s about to make him understand, Vivien’s water breaks and the birth is upon us.
I think this might be one of my favourite sequences in the entire first season of American Horror Story, maybe even in the series as a whole. Reason being is that it’s intensely chaotic, there are a hundred things happening all at once. We even get the original twins from the Pilot, who help Murder House by smashing up the Harmon vehicle, puncturing its tires and beating it to pieces. Then ole Charles Montgomery (Matt Ross) shows up, the dead 1968 nurses stab holes and all at his side to assist in the birth; they’re all present. It’s one of the most surreal group of scenes out of the season, and that is saying something.
The way it’s shot, half blurry bits as Vivien screams and prepares to give birth to her new twins, it is dark and weird, as well as absolutely beautiful. There is very sombre-like chamber music playing in the background, we get flashbacks to Vivien giving birth to Violet – a much happier time for Ben and Viv – and the whole aesthetic here is out of this world! The dark, candle lit birth is so weird. Shots here remind me of Rosemary’s Baby at times, when the titular character was experiencing those extremely strange dream-like moments (but they were no dreams); this is even more fun because I find there are other moments in Season 1 with Vivien which are definitely an homage to Roman Polanski’s classic psychological horror.

 


What I’m thrilled so much by is how Violet tries to use the whole Roanoke spell, courtesy of psychic Billie Dean Howard, and it fails hilariously on Chad – that scene was killer. Quinto is full of charisma. The thing I enjoy about that part so much is how Quinto hammers it home that basically there’s no getting rid of the ghosts; they’re doomed for eternity. Chad is stuck with Patrick, a man who doesn’t truly love him, for the rest of time, and so on, and so on. They each have their own burden to bear eternally, there’s no end to it. The pain simply goes on endlessly and there will be no rest. With all the dark comedy on Quinto’s end during that scene, it is actually a traumatic conversation in the end. Violet faces down the fact she’ll never find any sort of peace, ever again. The afterlife is merely an abyss, there’s no closure.
Then poor Vivien – after the savage birth of one stillborn and the child of Rubber Man Tate Langdon a.k.a the offspring of a human and a ghost – bleeds out and passes on to the other side. This moment falls with such heavy impact. Everything from the way it’s shot, to the sound design and dialogue. All those elements come together to make the finale ridiculously spooky. The best shot is how when Vivien finally dies, the camera reveals Ben Harmon alone – his wife pale and dead and the bed covered in blood between her legs and everywhere else – and now all the ghosts are gone. It’s an eerie set of shots.
Furthermore, Violet has been told the truth about her love – Tate the rubber rapist. More and more, she discovers what lies behind Tate. She thought he was merely “attracted to the darkness“, but Violet tells him: “You are the darkness.”
While Tate clearly does love her, he is still an awful and terrible ghost, one who has caused havoc in the afterlife as he so horrifically acted in flesh and blood. So I find the way he and Violet end things here both sad and highly interesting. Finally, she screams at Tate to go away, which we already know is the way to dispatch the ghosts who you don’t want to bother you.
The best part is another pan around reveal – once Violet screams Tate into the mist, the camera turns and sees Vivien caressing her daughter’s head, arm around her shoulder. They’re now together, perhaps even happier in a tragic ghostly sense than ever before.
screen-shot-2016-11-11-at-11-55-33-pmMassively impressive penultimate episode for the first season. The next episode and finale is fittingly titled “Afterbirth” and is directed by Bradley Buecker, a Ryan Murphy regular on GleeAmerican Horror Story, and also a producer on Nip/Tuck.
Excited to do a review for the finale, as well as to get on into the Season 2 reviews. Stay tuned for lots more horror and creepy stuff!

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American Horror Story – Murder House, Episode 10: “Smoldering Children”

FX’s American Horror Story
Season 1, Episode 10: “Smoldering Children”
Directed by Michael Lehmann (True Blood)
Written by James Wong

* For a review of the previous episode, “Spooky Little Girl” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Birth” – click here
screen-shot-2016-11-11-at-11-40-16-pmThe opening scene in this episode treats us to a view of the past. Slowly, we’re unravelling the truth about Constance (Jessica Lange), her eternally troubled son Tate (Evan Peters), and both of their relationships with Larry Harvey (Denis O’Hare).
This sequence shows them all together at a dinner table, nice meat and other assorted foods presented to eat, and Addie (Jamie Brewer) is also present. Another flashback to a different time. This is when Larry’s family has already burnt up, after his wife discovered the affair with Constance, and now Larry has become the stepfather of the Langdon house.
However, we’re finally drawing back the curtain on Larry and his mysterious burns. Now we see that Tate, before going in to kill his classmates, poured gasoline over his new stepfather and set him ablaze at his office building, while Larry was trying to work a regular day behind a computer. Vicious and macabre beginning to “Smoldering Children.”screen-shot-2016-11-11-at-11-41-33-pmAt the same time, Ben Harmon (Dylan McDermott) has finally come to realize that his wife Vivien (Connie Britton) told the truth all along: the Rubber Man did something to her, he attacked and raped her. After coming to see the light, Ben is able to help get her out of the loony bin. Unfortunately, though, Vivien does not want to go back to that house. Obviously; who would?
Things are clearly messed up at Murder House. Ben’s also coming to see the full extent of how hard everything has been on his daughter Violet (Taissa Farmiga). She has missed 16 straight days at school, so he can see how depressed she is, how weak and fragile to the harshness of the world she can be. But there’s something else worse going on in the house, all around them at every turn.
One thing I love about American Horror Story, every season, is how there are plenty of anti-heroes. Then, there are also just not likeable characters who you also simultaneously can feel sorry for at certain times.
For instance, while Larry Harvey has done terrible things in his lifetime, he is also a tragic figure. I do think he’s awful for having an affair with Constance behind his wife’s back – but in the same breath, I feel bad because he’s been manipulated by her. She only wanted back in Murder House, that’s all she ever wanted, so from the beginning the guy has been a means to an end; never an end in and of himself. So, even with all the bad stuff in his character, there’s likability at moments. In the scene during “Smoldering Children” where Constance goes to see Larry, accusing him of killing Travis (Michael Graziadei) because of jealousy, I really did feel for him. He was cowering and looked so pathetic, it was real touching, sad stuff.
An intensely satisfying scene comes when we discover how Constance dispatched of her husband’s body: ground up into dog food. I mean, that is perfect! I wondered why his bones hadn’t turned up in the hole out in the yard where Moira (Frances Conroy/Alexandra Breckenridge) was found earlier in the season. This was just too good for words.

 


Very quick and creepy scene with guest star W. Earl Brown playing Phil Critter – an exterminator whose expertise is called in by Ben Harmon. Murder House seems to be having an epidemic of flies and other bugs flittering about, so Phil gets into the crawlspace and tries to root out the problem. However, too bad for Phil, as he comes across Tate Langdon down there; the young man attacks him, claiming he has taken lives and deserves to repent for his sin, and shoves the bug repellent sprayer down Phil’s throat. SAVAGERY! Love a good, brutal horror kill like that. Just goes to show American Horror Story isn’t solely about that high aesthetic feel all the time. There is downright shocking and gory horror sometimes, along with brutish kills such as this one.
Even further with Larry, we see him reunite with the titular smoldering children, as well as his deceased wife. He promises her Constance will pay for what she’s done, however, his wife reaffirms it was only him who did anything to the family; he was the one who broke his vows. A tragic scene, as it seems to constantly roll in when Larry is concerned. I feel bad, yet don’t feel bad. Sort of a war within myself. Part of it has to do with the burns; I always feel bad if I see someone scarred so viciously by fire, it’s a truly horrific thing to have gone through. Still, it’s tough to give in totally and feel pity for Larry, as so much of his fate came by his own filthy hands.
What we’re seeing more now in the past couple episodes is how much Tate has to do with the influence of the house. It’s as if the walls have assimilated Tate into its structure, he’s become like a figurehead for Murder House and its vile intentions.
In “Smoldering Children”, it’s obvious how deceitful and misguided Tate is because we’re seeing him manipulate Violet. Instead of telling her the truth, he wants to commit suicide with her.
But then, she comes to discover something extremely tough to understand: “it’s too late for that.” Violet is already dead, she killed herself and became a part of Murder House herself. I’d suspected this ever since her long absences from school first became apparent, now it’s a confirmed fact. Violet has been wandering awhile in the house as a ghost, no different from Tate, the Montgomerys, or any of the other entities. While I did suspect this, I was still shocked by the revelation. That’s how good this series is, you can get lulled into a feeling by the way they present the story and plot/sub-plots, then out of the blue an episode will show things in a certain way that it comes to have a strong impact. Such an example comes in this episode with Violet’s revelation.
When she sees herself curled up and dead on the floor – reminding me very much of the dead bodies from The Ring – it is WHOA! Great, emotional moment between her and Tate. And while some may see this as Tate being more likeable, after trying to ease her into the realization, he’s still a dirty little bastard. He raped Violet’s mom, he has killed and maimed and tortured countless men and women. The afterlife love he has fell into with Violet does nothing to change his character, except it blinds us to his true intentions. This comes out in spades here.screen-shot-2016-11-11-at-11-45-46-pmBeing accused of killing Travis, Constance ends up saved from the predicament by Larry; he takes the fall for the murder, giving up details nobody else could’ve known. Of course it’s all because of his affiliation with Murder House. I love this scene because we get a trove of treasure out of O’Hare – from the way he talks to Constance, his shuffle and the arm held against his chest, tendons burned into that position by his fiery accident. A marvellous performance!
Also, I found this portion of the episode to be fitting. Larry decides it is high time he pays for everything he’s done, all the crimes and the death he has caused by his very own hand, so that’s why he decides to let Constance go free and take the wrap. But tragically, again with Larry, he’s too in love with Constance. He could’ve turned himself in for crimes, other ones, instead he decides to let her walk and take that punishment. It’s a sad scene when she goes to see him in jail, but it’s beyond perfect and eerie and sad and beautiful.
screen-shot-2016-11-11-at-11-46-20-pmNext episode is titled “Birth” – the penultimate episode of Season 1, and it is directed by series regular Alfonso Gomez-Rejon.
Stay tuned for more horror and tragedy and all around weirdness.

 

American Horror Story – Murder House, Episode 9: “Spooky Little Girl”

FX’s American Horror Story
Season 1, Episode 9: “Spooky Little Girl”
Directed by John Scott (Nip/Tuck)
Written by Jennifer Salt

* For a review of the previous episode, “Rubber Man” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Smoldering Children” – click here
screen-shot-2016-11-11-at-11-28-56-pmCannot get over or stop raving about the opening 1947 sequence for Episode Nine, “Spooky Little Girl”.
Not only is there a fabulous, brief cameo by Mena Suvari, she plays the well-known murder victim Elizabeth Short – otherwise known as being associated with the Black Dahlia case. The whole thing is macabre, as yet another naughty doctor seems to be taking up residence in Murder House, even after the debacle concerning the Montgomery family (Matt Ross & Lily Rabe).
screen-shot-2016-11-11-at-11-29-19-pmTurns out, the man who killed Short and left her with that gruesome, wide, bloody smile, cut in half in a field, is the doctor in ’47 working out of the new Harmon home. Highly creepy stuff! I love how American Horror Story incorporates a lot of real life events into its DNA, which is an essence of the show even as time stretches on – each season seems to have something linking it directly with real history, whether it’s the story of Anne Frank and Project Paperclip from Season 2 – Asylum, or the Stevie Nicks angle in Coven during Season 3, there are plenty of instances where true life horror stories come into their own in episodes of this series. Another thing to love.
Poor Constance Langdon (Jessica Lange) can’t seem to catch a break. Everyone she cares about and loves seems to be slipping away. Even her beefcake boyfriend who is lured into sex by living dead Hayden (Kate Mara). She actually does more to drive him away than to keep him. Constance wants a family so badly to try and make up for how the first one was screwed up beyond belief and recognition that she lashes out and everyone around her. That’s all she needs, but it clouds her vision.
After an argument with her, the boyfriend goes back for another round with Hayden. Unfortunately for him, Hayden needs somebody to take her aggression out on and he’ll be spending the rest of eternity in Murder House with all the rest of the ghosts and demons and spiritual presences. This show has a great streak of morals concerning cheating; all the infidelity gets punished, eventually somewhere down the line.
This cheater’s body gets a Black Dahlia treatment, tossed half cut into pieces in a field somewhere. Nasty, grim business.
At the same time, Ben Harmon (Dylan McDermott) is confronted by Hayden’s sister Marla (Tanya Clarke), who believes he has something to do with her supposed disappearance. Then, out of nowhere, the ghostly Hayden shows herself. Naturally, inside the house – in La La Land, as she puts it herself – Hayden can do what she wants. Ben still doesn’t know the true nature of Murder House, so he believes she’s stalking him or playing games. Instead, she’s just another ghostly presence, a demon or spirit wandering around inside the walls of the Harmon home.
Then, even worse than Hayden, Ms. Elizabeth Short (Suvari) shows up, non-cut in half and without a giant bloody, sliced up smile. She needs a doctor to talk to, and certainly Ben can’t say no to a pretty face. There’s so much twisted stuff revolving around Dr. Harmon, it’s unbelievable. He’s constantly being seduced, and worst of all that now it’s mostly ghosts trying to lure him in; his wife hates him, which is clear and understandable, so the poor guy is susceptible to all this sexualised spirit influence around him.

 


Ben receives a call from the doctor, revealing his wife Vivien (Connie Britton) is having twins from two different fathers. Meaning she must have slept with someone else during the same ovulation cycle, something extremely rare. Though, we know this is most likely not intentionally the case, Rubber Man Tate Langdon (Evan Peters) did rape Vivien, or at least had sex with her under false pretence, and so we know what has actually happened. What this will do, though, is confuse Ben and send him into a spiral, believing his wife has given him ammunition to fight back saying “Well look what you did; I can’t be so bad” and using it as a way to justify and excuse his own unfaithful behaviour.
The story between Constance and her lost son Tate deepens in this episode. After Ben’s call from the doctor, Moira (Frances Conroy) lets Constance know about what happened to Vivien – that only one child in her womb was fathered by Ben Harmon. Constance confronts Tate; it’s obvious all she wants, above anything, is for him to get help. From his beginning as a troubled young child, she only wanted to help him. However, the older Tate became the more lost he wandered along the treacherous path of life. Now, he’s not simply a ghost, an entity, he is also a killer, a savage, a rapist. While Constance is no innocent herself in the long run, she certainly is nowhere near the level of Tate. I do pity Constance, in a way, because despite her own terribleness she seems to have had a truly tragic life.
Later in the episode, we come to discover it is in fact the ghost of Charles Montgomery who comes up with the solution for a dead Elizabeth Smart. Quite eerie and further plays into the history of the house. I like how this was the further explanation, as it would’ve been a throwaway to merely have the doctor at the start be the unknown Black Dahlia murderer. To have it be Dr. Montgomery, this adds an extra level of eeriness to Murder House and its long line of history involving murder and mayhem in Los Angeles.
Furthermore, he shows up again to help Hayden and the other ghosts get rid of Constance’s now deceased boyfriend. More of a wonderfully savage touch!
screen-shot-2016-11-11-at-11-32-43-pmFor all the idiotic stuff Ben Harmon has done, he genuinely at one point wanted to piece things back together. The house has twisted him, and everyone else inside/near it, beyond recognition. He thinks his wife is actually insane, that she has cheated on him, when it has been the haunted house in which they live making her seem that way. So there’s a part of me which pities Ben. Hard as he tried, failed as he might have at certain turns, there’s no hope whatsoever for him because the spirits in the house want him to feel a certain way, want him to act in a particular sense and do things they need done. There’s an end game, a long game, the house is playing and sadly for the family dynamic of the tragic Harmons, they are not included on the winning side. All that matters to them, the spirits and the living dead inside Murder House, is that they get the baby (now babies) inside Vivien, so that the lost mothers wounded by the house might have another chance at life, at love, at giving their lives to their children. Endless tragedy, it seems. A great part of why Season 1 has been so perfectly horrific in more than a superficial way.
What I loved is that finally in this episode Ben sees Moira as her true self – the older Frances Conroy. It’s a perfect moment, as she tells him that he’s finally “seeing this as they are” and he literally sees her for her true form. Amazingly poignant bit. Not heavy handed, it works in an eerie manner.
screen-shot-2016-11-11-at-11-33-59-pmThe end of “Spooky Little Girl” is especially creepy. We’re treated to a nice dose of that apocalyptic sort of religious feeling, as Billie Dean Howard (Sarah Paulson) visits Constance and they talk about the coming of the children to Murder House. Her story about the Pope’s box is unbelievably strange in the best sort of way, she recounts a story of The Room of Tears and how the box contains the supposed End of the World, describing how everything will come to a close. This all goes to speak to how Tate, a ghost, has impregnated a flesh and blood woman; Howard says this will spawn the Antichrist.
It is a really awesome little sequence to finish the episode. Personally, The Sentinel is one of my favourite horror movies; it’s an overlooked masterpiece of the genre from the late 1970s. I found this finale reminded me of something straight out of that film, particularly its opening sequence. Also has an Omen-ish vibe. Regardless of where its inspiration comes from in the end, I found this last piece to “Spooky Little Girl” to be one of my favourite moments out of the entire first season. It’s simply spooky, all there is to it.
screen-shot-2016-11-11-at-11-35-12-pmNext episode is “Smoldering Children”, directed by Michael Lehmann (True BloodCalifornication).

American Horror Story – Murder House, Episode 7: “Open House”

FX’s American Horror Story
Season 1, Episode 7: “Open House”
Directed by Tim Hunter (River’s Edge)
Written by Brad Falchuk

* For a review of the previous episode, “Piggy Piggy” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Rubber Man” – click here
screen-shot-2016-11-11-at-10-49-21-pmNice open from when Constance Langdon (Jessica Lange) and Larry Harvey (Denis O’Hare) were together, living in Murder House amongst their dark bliss. Constance tells him to do it, like he said he would. First, I thought it would be the first we know eventually burns Larry. However, he heads upstairs to their son Beau who lives in the attic. He’s terribly deformed, something is wrong with him beyond a mere disability; he looks similar to Victor Crowley in Adam Green’s modern slasher Hatchet. Then, as papa Larry tells him it’s time for bed, instead of a gentle goodnight poem for Beau, his father instead chokes/smothers him to death.
screen-shot-2016-11-11-at-10-49-32-pmIn present day, Vivien Harmon (Connie Britton) is trying hard as she can to sell off Murder House. Marcy (Christine Estabrook), the real estate agent, isn’t quite cutting it, but mostly it’s the history of the house putting things into chaos. Joe Escandarian (Amir Arison) has shown up to see the place; he’s a sleazy land developer type, more interested in the young looking Moira (Alexandra Breckenridge) than the house itself. He only wants to turn it all into a block of complexes, apartments or some other such development.
Of course, any work like that might pose a problem for the ghosts of the house. As well as anyone else involved with them, attached, anyone family to the deceased who are left roaming around the property of the house. Then they’d be stuck in some big complex, forced to live with others instead of able to stay around with their own family, their own friends.
The relationship between Tate (Evan Peters) and Violet (Taissa Farmiga) is deepening. She clearly only wants to help him, but still he’s oblivious to the afterlife. He even outright asks Violet if she believes in ghosts; Tate simply believes that there must be somewhere else better than right here, right now. If only he understood.
Even more, Violet can’t stand her parents, they’re making her feel neglected. Both Vivien and Ben (Dylan McDermott) care that she does not want to leave Murder House – for reasons they know not – however, most of all Ben just wants to get it sold and try to “pick up the pieces” because he obviously feels everything slipping away, trickling out of his grasp. Unfortunately for him, Vivien is resistant. She doesn’t particularly care what Ben wants, nor should she, still – it’s in everyone’s best interest to get out of there.
We know, though, the house is not going to up and let them off without struggle.
Mr. Escandarian is being lured in by the young Moira. Reason being, she wants him to dig up the backyard for a pool. She uses her sexuality to bring him closer, like all the weak men who see her as a twenty-something. But it isn’t only a pool – she wants her bones dug up, so that maybe she might get away from the house. I feel bad for Moira because her sexuality, sadly, is what killed her; Constance punished her fatally for it. At the same time, sexuality is one of her only weapons beyond the grave – I love the angle that men, weak and frail, cannot resist her, seeing the sexy young lady while women see kind and orderly, older Frances Conroy. Great and telling twist.
More of Larry Harvey’s backstory comes out here. He had a wife, but fell in love extramaritally with Constance Langdon next door; she lived in Murder House before them. Turns out, his wife Lorraine (Rebecca Wisocky) set the fire which ultimately killed his family and left him a half-burned man.
So his love for Constance and dedication to her is what drives Larry to try and keep the house in his possession, or at the very least in some way under possession of all the souls on its grounds.screen-shot-2016-11-11-at-10-53-57-pmOn the Murder House tour, Vivien and Marcy discover more of the history.
Back to the 1920s with Charles and Nora Montgomery (Matt Ross & Lily Rabe). Now there is further macabre and grisly stuff to discover. Nora prepares herself to say goodbye and have a funeral for their murdered baby. However, Charles has pieced it back together using all that Frankenstein-like power of his he’d been perfecting in the basement.
When Nora goes upstairs to say hello to the little thing, she tries to breastfeed it. Downstairs with her husband, claw marks all over her chest make it clear the baby needs something else. As Nora says: “It wasnt milk he was craving.” Such a spectacularly creepy scene! Charles brought to life a half-baby, half-animal, something not entirely human. It’s more than macabre, it’s downright horrific.
But then Nora does them all a favour – she blasts her husband in the back of the head with a revolver before eating the barrel herself. WHOA! I mean, it was dark to begin with; this came on nasty, and like Gang Busters.
What I most enjoy about “Open House” is how all the ghosts, as well as the still living Constance and half-living Larry, come together in a kind of pact. In order for them all to get what they want, the house must remain in tact. Therefore, Mr. Escandarian is a bit of trouble in terms of keeping it in their possession, under their control. Constance tries to go talk with him reasonably on her own terms, however, he is not the nice businessman-type; he is arrogant and misogynistic and a real douchebag. He all but seals his own fate by brushing Constance off so rudely.

 


Again, reference to Peter Medak’s The Changeling, as Violet heads up to the attic where she comes across Beau; naturally, dying at the hands of his own father in the house he too is a part of its structure. Why, all of a sudden, is Violet seeing this? Tate tells her she has “evolved“, but there is more to it, I think.
Regardless, I love how the little red ball comes out of the darkness to Violet before she sees anything else. Great little reference, there’s no way it isn’t alluding to Medak’s masterpiece starring George C. Scott.
We’re seeing the veil drop for Violet now in the house. There’s something more to what’s happening with her and each episode brings us closer to whatever realization lies beyond that veil.
Pretty solid episode, once more. Particularly I love how the ghosts are coming together to try and protect the house, as well as themselves. Ultimately, family is a big theme of the season, but also survival – while the family, Ben, Vivien, Violet alike, are all trying to survive in their own rights, the ghosts and the house are trying to survive in their own ways. Their unfinished business carrying them on and on.
Also a nice little end as Violet shows her mother older pictures from her adventure in the attic with Tate. In one of them, Vivien sees the woman who came to her house recently: long since deceased Nora Montgomery.

 

Next episode is titled “Rubber Man”, directed by Miguel Arteta (Chuck & BuckYouth in Revolt) and by the name of the episode we can bet there will be revelations concerning the latex Rubber Man creeping about Murder House, the one who most likely impregnated Vivien.
Stay tuned for yet another review, moving along swiftly through Season 1!

American Horror Story – Murder House, Episode 5: “Halloween Part 2”

FX’s American Horror Story
Season 1, Episode 5: “Halloween – Part 2”
Directed by David Semel (HannibalThe Strain)
Written by Tim Minear

* For a review of the previous episode, “Halloween: Part 1” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Piggy Piggy” – click here
screen-shot-2016-11-11-at-10-26-10-pmThis episode starts off as the last one ended, with Ben (Dylan McDermott) and Vivien (Connie Britton) returning from the hospital. While they can’t seem to find Violet (Taissa Farmiga) – who is out on her date with Tate (Evan Peters), finally letting himself be seen outside of the Murder House – all of a sudden the living dead Hayden (Kate Mara) shows up again, bleeding, dirty on the front porch.
So I love how Ben is being driven completely mad. He’s spiralling further down a dark and dreary rabbit hole. While Hayden has risen from the dead, Vivien mentions they need to talk about Ben moving out of the house. He doesn’t want to, of course, but Vivien seems as if she’s fed up completely with his shit. Rightfully so, I mean, the man is messed up beyond repair, as far as I can tell. Either way, that damaged family dynamic pushes farther in “Halloween: Part 2”, putting more intense pressure on Ben as his issues literally rise up from the grave.screen-shot-2016-11-11-at-10-26-18-pmLarry Harvey (Denis O’Hare) is back pestering Ben Harmon. He obviously knows tons more about the house than he lets on. He’s alive, but still in league with the ghosts and demons in the Murder House, at least in some manner. What I enjoy so much about Larry’s character, and the subplot involving him, is that we’re not able to tell exactly what his deal is early on. There are some aspects I can get a grasp on, slightly anyways. In opposition, I feel as if Larry’s angle keeps me on my toes. I love seeing how the suspense between Ben and Larry plays out with each passing episode.
With the newly secure premises of Murder House, the Harmons have a guard keeping close watch on them – Luke (Morris Chestnut). The house seems to be inviting further trouble, the misguided jealousy of Ben, as an alarm goes off drawing Luke to the Harmon door. Already we can see this will become a sticking point for Ben.
The relationship between Violet (Farmiga) and Tate (Peters) deepens now with their date on Halloween night – the night we’ve been told already when spirits can walk freely. As they relax on the beach, a bunch of kids with bloody bits all over them, gory-looking supposed costumes accost Tate. They say they’ve been looking for him, that he has finally shown his face.
So it’s all but confirmed in this episode: Tate is a ghost. He never leaves the house because he’s stuck there, a part of its fabric like the very wood and paint and carpet inside. Except on Halloween, he can go out. You can just tell even seeing him jump around, prancing, enjoying himself, Tate is SO HAPPY to be outside of the Murder House. Harkening back to Tate’s dream from the Pilot, we’re seeing his story come out now; the high school kids confronting Tate are all shot to pieces, much like what he imagined himself doing in the dream he described to Harmon. It’s pretty much obvious what is happening in this episode, however, I like that the writing doesn’t spell every last bit of information out excruciatingly with expository dialogue that aches the brain; as so many other shows often do. Instead, the info comes to us but mostly through slight remarks, the characters, and how we as the audience piece together all those puzzle pieces scattering around, episode after episode.


The Ben-Hayden subplot keeps on coming hard. Vivien receives a phone call from apparently dead Hayden; a call of pure sass. Then, Ben meets dead Hayden in the basement where she chastises him, spits up blood and bits of teeth, as she’s rotting from the inside; being dead and all. It’s such a sickly intense scene.
Even further, we’re getting more of an idea about Larry’s connection to the ghosts. He pleads with a dead Hayden to let him help her take care of things, more specifically of Vivien. Larry says it’s been too long since he used his lighter. Naughty, naughty.
Ghosts are just pouring down onto Murder House. Chad (Zachary Quinto) shows up again – he trashes the decorations and pumpkins on the porch. He screams at Vivien to get out of the house, that it isn’t hers. Simultaneously, in the bathtub upstairs Hayden seems to be having a nice, steamy bath. It’s like Vivien is wedged between ghosts, unable to escape them both inside and outside.
Which leads us to fully understand that it’s the property itself, not just the physical house, holding all the supernatural entities swarming around the Harmons.
But on Halloween, it does not matter. Everywhere is fair game for spirits. This leads all those highschoolers who taunted Tate on the beach earlier up to the doors of Murder House, calling for Tate to come outside and confront them further.
Now, as everything else is tumbling down, Vivien finally discovers Hayden’s pregnancy, Ben lying even more. Not to mention that Hayden find out about Vivien and her pregnancy. What an awfully twisted moment. Such nasty business! I love how it’s part supernatural horror and part real/dark family drama. There’s a hundred things going on, yet it isn’t clogging up the story with too many subplots. Because everything comes back into play, one way or another. This show goes for the long game, it doesn’t try and throw everything together at once. Some of the ghosts play a part in making things worse, others play different roles. It’s fun to watch everything weave into a bloody, savage, and eerie tapestry of ghosts, murder, infidelity, and horror movie homage.


At the end of the episode, Constance reveals Tate is her son, to Violet; she also asks Violet to promise not to tell Tate his sister Addie has now died. He is clearly a trouble boy who cannot handle the harshness of the world, as we’re slowly seeing by discovering he most certainly committed a high school shooting. It’s incredible, we’re getting more amazing depth to the character of Constance, as well as Tate. Mostly I’m drawn to Constance who is riddled with tons and tons of emotion, so much nuance.
AGAIN THE HORROR MOVIE MUSIC REIGNS!
Bernard Herrmann’s work is back on deck again. This time, it’s a piece from 1968 and the cult film Twisted Nerve. What a classic bit! Excellent movie to reference. Again, proving Ryan Murphy is a horror fan, as well as the others involved in working on the show. Most people will probably recognize the tune from being hummed by Daryl Hannah in Kill Bill, but that’s another testament to the cinephilia of Quentin Tarantino, that awesome bastard. It actually comes from this cult horror, an unsettling little film; if you’ve not seen Twisted Nerve, do so as soon as possible.
This comes as Tate is being confronted by the high school kids, the obviously DEAD ones, and we’re finally, officially, figuring out what Tate has done while alive. Tough and tense scene, very dark. Dig it!
Final few minutes or so are perfect. The ghosts all wander back, after a successful night allowed out on Halloween, towards the Murder House. Each of them lamenting their lives as spirits, made to stick to the house like honey. Solid scenes to end off the two-parter “Halloween.” Also, it plays into how Ben sort of drags himself back home; he’s like the walking dead himself, slowly moving back there to Vivien, as if the both of them stick to their marriage in the exact way the ghosts stick to the Murder House. Nice juxtaposition to finish this off.
screen-shot-2016-11-11-at-10-39-18-pmNext episode is “Piggy Piggy”, an excellent part to the first season. It’s directed by Michael Uppendahl, whose other work includes Ray DonovanShamelessMad Men, and many other shows.

American Horror Story – Murder House, Episode 4: “Halloween Part 1”

FX’s American Horror Story
Season 1, Episode 4: “Halloween – Part 1”
Directed by David Semel (HannibalThe Strain)
Written by James Wong (Final DestinationThe X-FilesMillenium)

* For a review of the previous episode, “Murder House” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Halloween: Part II” – click herescreen-shot-2016-11-11-at-10-12-48-pmAnother flashback now, we open “Halloween: Part 1” with the (partial) deaths of the gay couple who previously lived in the Harmon’s latest home.
Chad (Zachary Quinto) and Patrick (Teddy Sears) are getting ready for Halloween. At least, Chad is anyways. Patrick is heading out to the gym, or he says so – turns out Chad knows that he’s unfaithful. They have an argument, but it’s clear they’re in love. The spark is simply a little light on their love life, apparently. When Patrick heads out, Chad is getting ready for more decorations when the Rubber Man shows up – y’know, the one with whom Vivien (Connie Britton) had sex at the end of Episode 1 – and proceeds to drown him in the bob-for-apples tub. Patrick shows up, an intense stare-off ensues, then the credits roll. Highly creepy. I loved this opening!
The house is not selling, which obviously makes Vivien nervous. She keeps hounding her real estate agent, who in turn suggests they bring in a fluffer – did they intentionally reappropriate this word, or is it to show how little this woman knows about sex culture? I don’t know, either way it was hilarious.
Of course, this all plays into what will happen later in the episode. Look out.
Then Ben Harmon (Dylan McDermott) keeps finding himself stuck with Larry Harvey (Denis O’Hare). The melted man is demanding a little pay cheque for handling the body and disposal of Hayden (Kate Mara) whom he killed in the finale of the previous episode. I can all but literally feel the noose tightening, slowly with each episode, around Ben’s neck. On one hand I feel slightly bad. On the other, he only keeps on compounding his infidelity with stupid move after stupid move. All that being said, the house is manipulating every last one of them, the entire family, in the most cruel of ways.
screen-shot-2016-11-11-at-10-15-19-pmMore this episode between nasty, resenting mama Constance (Jessica Lange) and her sweet but troubled daughter Addie (Jamie Brewer). You can see how insecure Constance is in general, as she somehow believes Addie is going to steal her young, hot boyfriend. It’s sad really, however, I think it’s wonderful writing. We’re seeing that sad side of L.A through this first season. While there are so many typical failed actress angles in film and television, I find Constance and Addie truly moving, while at the same time finding Constance’s behaviour towards her disabled daughter awful and deplorable. It’s simply excellently written work.
Chad and Patrick show up once more. Only Chad is somehow alive, as last we left him his dead eyes were floating in the tub of water and apples.
What I enjoy is how the gay couple’s issues with infidelity mirror those of the Harmons. Fascinatingly morbid scenes between them all. Not only that, Patrick comes onto Ben while they’re alone. Of course Ben turns it down, he’s not gay. All the same there’s this unsettling moment where Patrick tells him “we’re alike” in the sense of their infidelities, and it rings true.
Moreover, Chad seems to play the devil’s advocate by dropping very subtle suggestions for Vivien in regards to her husband’s cheating.
Jessica Lange and Jamie Brewer work so well together, it is unreal. What I find intriguing is how Brewer, a girl with down syndrome herself, plays a young woman just like herself. For her to have to act out some of those scenes between Addie and Constance, it must’ve been difficult. So to see these two actors working in intense scenes off one another, the subject matter tough and unflinching, it’s a testament to their abilities, as well as the writers who are tackling these situations head-on.
More bits of 1922, as the subplot of Charles and Nora Montgomery (Matt Ross & Lily Rabe) unfolds further into the darkness. Their baby, stolen by someone obviously hating the Montgomerys for their work in abortions, turns up cut to pieces; stored in jars much like Montgomery kept fetuses and other macabre things. To Nora’s surprise, her husband tries to Frankenstein their child back together with bits of his tiny, broken body and the amputated pieces of animals. It is real horrifying and nasty stuff.


Vivien has found out about Ben being in contact once again with Hayden. The tension further boils up between them and Ben scrambles to try and fix things. While he knows the truth – Hayden is dead and gone – Vivien of course does not and worries more will happen. Somehow, Ben is almost able to convince her, but then Hayden’s phone starts ringing Ben on his cell. Somehow. The look on Ben’s face says it all; incredible work.
More horror movie score working its way into the series – a bit of music from Wojciech Kilar from Bram Stoker’s Dracula directed by Francis Ford Coppola. That movie is one I absolute love, so to hear a piece of music from it used here again excites me. Glad to see Murphy & Co. know the quality stuff, despite what anyone says about that film. It was an incredible movie with awesome music and an overall well-crafted aesthetic, so I’m glad it’s receiving homage in some form here.
The most tragic thing happens in “Halloween: Part 1”, as Addie – pretty girl mask on and all – runs into the road after a bunch of young girls she wants to trick-or-treat alongside. She’s promptly smashed by a car, something I never once expected. I didn’t realize when I first saw this season, as it originally aired, that Addie made her way out so quickly. On second viewing, I’m amazed that it’s only the fourth episode and already Addie dies. Crazy how you sometimes forget things like that when watching a television show. Just goes to show how much is going on in one season of American Horror Story, that such an important, sorrowful event happened early on and I thought it was much later.
BEST SCENE: a doctor at the hospital faints after viewing Vivien’s sonogram, obviously seeing something which affected her. It’s quick, effective, and spooked me. Nice horror movie moment right there.screen-shot-2016-11-11-at-10-22-40-pmThe finale of “Halloween: Part 1” is incredibly wild, weird, and creepy. The house is surrounded by people, both past and present – and otherwise – as even a living dead Hayden shows back up at the door. All the while, Larry Harvey is looking for his money, screaming, raving out on the porch, as Violet is left to fend for herself. Then there’s also Rubber Man, standing in the background silent as ever, right behind Violet. There’s seemingly no escape; for any of them.
screen-shot-2016-11-11-at-10-23-33-pmCliffhanger.
Stay tuned!

American Horror Story – Murder House, Episode 3: “Murder House”

FX’s American Horror Story
Season 1, Episode 3: “Murder House”
Directed by Bradley Buecker (Nip/TuckThe New Normal)
Written by Jennifer Salt (Nip/TuckEat Pray Love)

* For a review of the previous episode, “Home Invasion” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Halloween: Part I” – click herescreen-shot-2016-11-11-at-10-00-08-pmThe first scene we’re treated to is an explanation of how Constance Langdon (Jessica Lange) and Moira O’Hara (her younger incarnation Alexandra Breckenridge) came to hate one another – and an explanation for Constance’s quip in the previous episode.
Turns out that Constance caught her naughty husband Hugo (Eric Close) forcing himself on an unwilling Moira. They’d had a previous, willing engagement before, but this time Moira is apprehensive because she needs her job and won’t jeopardize it. However, Constance has other plans – she puts a bullet through Moira’s eye (explaining the older incarnation’s faded eye), then shoots her unfaithful husband.screen-shot-2016-11-11-at-10-01-26-pmThings are getting worse and worse in the Harmon house, as Vivien (Connie Britton) is only finding her faith in husband Ben (Dylan McDermott) constantly slipping. Even more, Vivien really wants to get herself out of the house. She’s pregnant, vulnerable, and after the attack wants to distance herself from their new place. This makes things extremely stressful, as Ben isn’t particularly excited; no doubt moving in there took a bunch of money and to turn around and try to sell it, along with its history, will only take more. This ratchets up the tension in the Harmon marriage – as if it weren’t already tight enough.
Meanwhile, ole Ben can’t seem to take his eyes of the young Moira. I feel so bad for him because she isn’t really the young woman whom he sees, but at the same time regardless of how she looks Ben shouldn’t be looking, gawking, wanting. He’s a married man. Moreover, he’s a married man who already cheated once. I don’t think there’s any need on his part to make thins worse, yet it continues to happen. The house is slowly sucking him in and it shows no sign of loosening its grip.
The scenes between Jessica Lange and Frances Conroy are excellent. Two incredible actors doing their business. The history between their characters is excellent, only helps that their performances match such good writing.
Ben starts getting himself in even more trouble. Possibly worse than anything going on in his family. During a session with Sally Freeman (Adina Porter), a patient of his, Ben blacks out. Then all of a sudden he’s in the backyard, blood on his hands. Inside, a sexualized Moira – in young form – is bent over, panties and inner thighs showing, and soaking up blood on the floor. What’s happened? Who knows for sure.
Then Moira rubs up on Ben, causing a big scene as Vivien walks in and he’s shaking her, telling her to stop. This is where we truly see the difference between her older/younger self coming into play with Ben and Vivien. It’s starting to cause big problems between the husband and wife, turning up the heat more on the already rocked family dynamic happening.screen-shot-2016-11-11-at-10-07-01-pmPoor Vivien discovers that their new home is unofficially dubbed MURDER HOUSE, and of course as is Los Angeles there’s a little tour dropping by, narrated by a gentleman over speaker. While Vivien trims the flowers in her frontyard, hovering over the bushes, up it pulls and music blasts out of the speakers, frightening her. It’s not so much a fright in the sense of being scared, mostly it’s the fact she is horrified to learn the house has so much unwanted, infamous attention thrust upon it, and in turn upon them. She even goes on the tour to learn more about what happened in the house, as she’s never ever told the true history by anyone else.
Part of what I love about “Murder House” is that we start getting lots of history about the house itself. Introduced here, we see Charles and Nora Montgomery (played respectively by the equally awesome/creepy pairing of Matt Ross & Lily Rabe). Turns out, Charles was a surgeon. Of sorts, anyways. He did things not especially unanimously approved by doctors. We see flashbacks to 1922 – Montgomery performed abortions, aided in part by his wife. This begins to setup a long line of macabre events in house’s history.
Montgomery doesn’t only perform abortions, he seems to like Frankenstein-ing creatures together – pigs with two heads, a wing. Not only that, it’s clear Charles has a problem with drugs, huffing up inhalants into his lungs before supper, as well as drinking on top of that.
Now we also see during one scene – Moira appears young only to men. A detective looking into the disappearance of Ben’s patient Sally Freeman seems to see exactly what Ben does when looking at Moira. This is tricky, tricky stuff and I like that it’s not only Ben drawn in. Moira, essentially, works on the weakness of men.
screen-shot-2016-11-11-at-10-10-21-pmThere’s a scene where we also see the supposed tale of Sal Mineo’s death at the hands of a man he’d tried to cruise, looking for gay sex. I thought it was interesting Ryan Murphy would let this urban legend surrounding Mineo into the episode. Though this one is written by Jennifer Salt, I’d have anticipated Murphy maybe not thinking it was a good idea to perpetuate a supposedly untrue rumour about Mineo and his homosexuality. Bit of a cheap thing to thrown in here. Maybe it was to make the Murder House tour look sleazy, as so many of those little exploitative businesses are, making bits of cash off the pain and suffering of murder victims. I just thought that, as a gay man, Murphy wouldn’t allow the perpetuation of unfounded rumours. Unless there’s definitive resources saying otherwise, Mineo wasn’t killed because of propositioning a man for sex— he also wasn’t stabbed near as much as the scene makes out.
There’s a very quick moment between Constance (Jessica Lange) and Tate (Evan Peters). We’re sensing more and more about their relationship, though, it’s not actually clear to what extent that relationship goes. She waves to Tate, who stands in the window of the Murder House, but he only backs away into the darkness. We only get that little puzzle piece, yet it speaks volumes. Watch it and you’ll understand, absolutely.
Spooky scene as the past and present merge. I find that it sort of stands as a metaphor for the entire season, which is shaped by all the past events of the house bearing down on the people inside its walls during the present.
Connie, reluctantly, opens her door to a woman. Except it is who we know to be Nora Montgomery (Lily Rabe) who comments about the house, how it has changed, modernized, and she has an eerily intense conversation with Vivien. Even scarier, we pan behind her head as she talks to Vivien, revealing Nora has a hole in the back of her skull; a nice big bloody one. Then, she disappears and Vivien is left in terror, alone.
screen-shot-2016-11-11-at-10-11-41-pmEverything is coming to bear for Ben Harmon. While blacking out during Sally Freeman’s session, she flips out on him for not listening and then opens her wrists up right in front of him. It’s all on tape, Ben did nothing technically illegal, and as the detective tells him: “It’s not a crime to be an asshole.”
However, this disturbance is not the only nastiness Ben will face during “Murder House”. Apparently Ben has laudanum in his system; believing it to be Moira’s doing, he is angry naturally. If we’ll harken back a little, though, remember: Charles Montgomery had quite the addiction in 1922, no doubt to a bit of that soothing laudanum. Hmmmm, intriguing, no?
But the drugs in his blood stream aren’t what Ben needs to worry about most. As Hayden (Kate Mara) comes to hassle Ben at his home, the unexpected happens. Walking outside together, Larry Harvey (Denis O’Hare) smashes Hayden in the head with a shovel, believing himself to be helping Ben with all his latest troubles – infidelity, a pregnant mistress. Hayden dies from the blow. We see a piece of the episode earlier come into play now – after Ben woke up from one of his blackouts, he was digging in the backyard. Turns out, his halfway dug hole is perfect for Hayden’s grave, as well. Not only that, Larry helps to dig it and comes to find some bones and a skull already down in the dirt, obviously of great connection to him and the house.
Ben puts up a gazebo, a concrete pad over the hole. This is a visual metaphor for all the secrets Ben hides. It’s like the storehouse of secrets beneath the gazebo. He just covers things up, never faces the responsibility of his actions, paves it over and moves on with life. This horrible act will most definitely come into play, as the police already have wind of Ben after his patient Sally Freeman went awry.
Not only this, but now Moira – whose bones were in the hole – can never leave the property. She is concrete covered and stuck now. A very emotional scene watching the older Moira weep over her newfound destiny.screen-shot-2016-11-11-at-10-11-23-pmThe next episode is titled “Halloween: Part 1” and is directed by David Semel – his work includes the excellent episode “Takiawase” from the second season of NBC’s Hannibal, the following episode of this two-parter “Halloween: Part 2”, episodes of LegendsThe Strain, Homeland, and more. Excited to review the both of these upcoming episodes, as they’re not only excellent but we see the first American Horror Story appearance of enormously talented actor Zachary Quinto.
Stay tuned my horror hound friends!

American Horror Story – Murder House, Episode 2: “Home Invasion”

FX’s American Horror Story
Season 1, Episode 2: “Home Invasion”
Directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon (The Town That Dreaded SundownMe and Earl and the Dying Girl)
Written by Brad Falchuk & Ryan Murphy

* For a review of the previous episode, “Pilot” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Murder House” – click herescreen-shot-2016-11-11-at-9-40-27-pmThe opening sequence to Season 1’s second episode is an absolute killer. Sorry for that brutal pun, but it truly is an excellent piece.
Again, we’re already seeing the series use famous horror movie scores and nodding to a few of the greats. For instance, in a flashback to 1968, a strange man enters the house (where the Harmons now live) under false pretences. Nurses live there, and a bunch are out for the night. He attacks one and takes them both hostage. As soon as he turns rancid, the Bernard Herrmann score from Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho begins to play. Further as the sequence progresses, before coming back to the present, more of the music continues, as well as a NASTY kill on one of the nurses; she is stabbed in the back, some of the shots nearly mirroring the famous murder of Marion Crane – except this one takes place on a couch instead of a shower. The whole thing has a very Ted Bundy feel.
When we’re whisked back to present day, the memories of the 1968 murders linger.
Even while Tate (Evan Peters) and his trusty psychiatrist Ben Harmon (Dylan McDermott) conduct their latest session, it’s still hard to shake the savagery of the opening scene.screen-shot-2016-11-11-at-9-41-12-pmBig shocker, as a woman – obviously the one Ben cheated on Vivien (Connie Britton) with – calls Ben and tells him that she’s pregnant. So quick into the season and we’re already really past the tipping point with Ben and his infidelity. Which is interesting, because while the house is obviously twisting their lives up and we want to feel bad for them, it’s tough to make Ben, in any way, out to be the victim.
A reference to Peter Medak’s The Changeling, after Ben finds Addie (Jamie Brewer) playing in the basement, laughing seemingly to herself. Once he clears her out of there, we watch the ball she’d been rolling around come rolling back out of the darkness by itself. I mean, the colour of the ball and everything resembles that scene, I can’t help but feel as if it was definitely a reference to the Medak haunted house classic.
Ben has a young lady coming to see him now as a patient, Bianca (Mageina Tovah), who is having dreams about trying to escape a stalled elevator and then being cut in half. She clearly has another fascination with being there other than psychiatry, there’s something about her totally affected by the house, as if she knows all about it, the history and such.
There’s so much perfectness between Addie (Jamie Brewer) and her doting yet also hateful mother Constance (Jessica Lange). While at times Constance is an outright bitch in the way she talks to Addie, there are so many instances of how much she does care for her daughter. I love that Falchuk and Murphy aren’t afraid to bring characters to life here who are complicated. Aside from all the infidelity stuff, we’ve got a wonderful actress like Brewer playing a character whose own mother is resentful of her disabilities. It’s tough stuff, however, I find it incredibly intriguing, especially in a horror-based show. Their relationship, obviously, will flesh out more and more with every episode, and it’s something I end up enjoying a great deal about Season 1.Ben is in trouble. Hayden McClaine (Kate Mara) his supposed one time mistake is back in his life, full-time now, with the prospect of a child. Unfortunately, Ben is not only keeping secrets, he now has the horror of the house and the insanity of Larry Harvey (Denis O’Hare) being pumped into him. It’s dark stuff where this will all be headed.
Another dynamic I enjoy is the one between Vivien and her daughter Violet (Taissa Farmiga). Britton and Farmiga are both great. Their acting here is on point and I found their relationship, the whole season, to be extremely believable. Violet is beyond spiteful, as she tells her mother “I think you’re weak,” and we can see that she’s as much hurt by her mother’s inability to walk away from her cheating father as she is by his unfaithfulness. Probably not fair, however, ultimately I think it’s mostly because Violet is sad. She only lashes out because, as we all once were, she is a teenager and believes her knowledge – supposed knowledge – is the right kind. Britton and Farmiga do well together in their scenes, really have a family feel going on, which doesn’t come off as forced.
Sneaky Ben has snuck off to see Hayden (Kate Mara). She’s supposed to be having an abortion, which they’ve both determined is best for them in the long run. While some might look at Hayden, believing her to be in the wrong or that she is clinging to Ben, I see the character as a girl who was duped into thinking there could be more eventually between them. Ben tries to avoid responsibility, much as he possibly can, but eventually things will catch up with him.screen-shot-2016-11-11-at-9-47-06-pmBack at home, Vivien begins to experience something similar to – or exactly a copy of – what the nurses in 1968 went through on that fateful night at the hands of a strange and murderous man. Bianca (Tovah) was merely casing the house in her session with Ben, and along with Fiona (Azura Skye) and Dallas (Kyle Davis) they plan to recreate the murders. I mean – WILD! Love it, plus today in the sick society we’ve developed, I can totally see a twisted copycat style murder like this happening. If it hasn’t happened yet, it will. This trio is like a deplorable serial killer cult, worshipping the man who killed those nurses in the ’60s; they’ve even got one of the objects used in the crime, bought off E-Bay, in order to bring further authentic and ritualized sense to their present day murders.
I won’t spoil any more of what happens, but we see so many things come to play – one of the cupcakes Addie and Constance made earlier, the ghosts lurking in the basement, as well as the tenacity of both Vivien and her sassy daughter Violet. Amazing scenes here. Tense, suspenseful moments. What’s even worse is the fact Ben is off with Hayden, as his wife and daughter have to deal with the titular home invasion.
Wildly shocking scene between Addie and Constance later in the episode. I mean, I couldn’t get over how witchy Constance comes off at this point. Locking Addie in a closet so she can have peace and quiet with her hunky, young boyfriend, Constance puts her in there – only surrounding the poor girl are mirrors, tons of them, reflecting her appearance right back into her eyes. Obviously Addie doesn’t like looking at herself much, which Constance knows. This part broke my heart – Constance walking away, Addie screaming bloody murder in the closet. Terrifying and sad all at once.
Again, the horrors of the house, from top floor to basement, come out in fine fashion for “Home Invasion.” The murderer hopefuls who broke into the Harmon house in order to reenact those 1968 killings experience the worst of what creeps amongst the shadows. In an act of retribution, the murdered nurses – victims of the serial killer they were there to worship and to whom they wished to pay tribute – are the ones who come back, ghostly and grisly, to take fresh souls for the house to keep.
Furthermore, we also get to start seeing how Constance, Tate, and Moira are all linked to the house. Not in the sense we’re given a ton of expository dialogue, or any exposition beyond what we’ve already started to think ourselves. Merely an effort on their parts, together, to clean up the basement after the would-be killers are dispatched by the living dead nurses. I thought that was a nice, slight touch. Instead of spelling things out too easily for everyone, it’s a brief nod for us to understand – okay, this is going somewhere, these three are up to something. What? We’ll find out.screen-shot-2016-11-11-at-9-49-17-pmNext episode is “Murder House” (what this first season has been retroactively dubbed after each season seems to be given a subtitled name), which is directed by Bradley Buecker whose work includes other work later with American Horror Story, as well as Nip/Tuck and more.