Adam MacDonald's latest movie discusses mental illness and grief through a lens of modern witchcraft.
Day of Wrath. 1943. Directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer. Screenplay by Dreyer, Pol Knudsen, & Mogens Skot-Hansen; based on the play Anne Pedersdotter by Hans Wiers-Jenssen.
Starring Thorkild Roose, Lisbeth Movin, Sigrid Neiiendam, Preben Lerdorff Rye, & Albert Hoeberg. Palladium Productions.
Not Rated. 97 minutes.
History allows us to look back on films and compare them to the times in which they’re made. When there’s a war or a big event happening, people don’t necessarily have the chance – not all of them anyways – to step back from it all and admire the artists creating during times of oppression and turmoil. In 1943, Carl Th. Dreyer made Day of Wrath, and though likely intending it to carry a message more contemporary than its plot, audiences didn’t receive so well. Not only is it a slow paced film, the darkness of the witch hunts and the terrible persecution of so many women for supposedly being in league with the devil makes for heavy viewing. All the same, the witches become a direct parallel to the Jewish people being persecuted at the time of filming under Nazi rule. Of course Dreyer himself denies the film is about the Nazis. Yet artistic intent is not everything. As the witches stand in for the Jews, morbidly fitting is the element of fire existing parallel between the two, this film takes on an even more grim tone than already exists. But even without assuming Dreyer uses the witch hunts as a symbolic way of talking about the Nazis, the Holocaust, Day of Wrath is beautiful as it is difficult, and the importance of this film cannot be undone regardless of interpretation. It only helps cement Dreyer as a significantly powerful filmmaker in the history of moving pictures.
The cinematography is steady, often using long takes. For an early ’40s film, Day of Wrath draws us into the story and its characters almost simply by forcing us to spend so much time in their space. Many would come to identify this technique with Dreyer as part of his style in subsequent works. Coupled with that, the actors never go into overly melodramatic performance. This is perhaps one of the hallmarks of his directorial style. In a time where overacting was most definitely common, in part due to the expressiveness previously needed in the solely silent picture era, Dreyer’s actors manage to express restraint. Their abilities make the characters much more believable. Instead of feeling like a stage play (based on a play called Anne Pedersdotter by Norwegian playwright Hans Wiers-Jenssen in turn based on the woman of the same name), despite well blocked scenes, the film plays out in a more reality driven fashion. There is certainly melodrama in Dreyer, particularly here. The character of Anne is an embodiment of melodramatic elements, as her personal and sexual stifling comes to represent a whole other aspect than the witch hunt plot element.
The terrifying witch burning early on turns up in a later cult film about similar themes, The Witchfinder General, in a scene with a witch strapped to a ladder then dropped into a fire is all but literally ripped from Dreyer. Much more effective here, in my opinion. Especially considering it was 1943. The editing and the timing of that shot is absolutely incredible. Very impressive work all around.
Above Dreyer’s style or anything else it’s the themes here which drive his film. Shadowy and eerie almost constantly, Day of Wrath gets at the fear and intolerance of a society bent on creating the type of citizens it wants, and not being created as what its citizens want/need. The religious cruelty of the plot is a smothering, suffocating force, which is symbolic of the religiously driven (albeit maniacally so) rhetoric and belief of the Nazi Party during the time this film was made.
At face value, though, we can also interpret Dreyer’s movie as one with aims of examining early feminism. The danger a man faces here is much less corporeal, more of the spirit and to do with shame. Whereas a woman is not only subject to shame, she is also in physical harm’s way, often to a fatal point. And ultimately that burning of witches, as well as the final burning, or expected burning, of Anne herself, is way of denying and literally cauterizing the wounds of the male ego. In those final moments after Anne is betrayed totally by Martin, the hypocrisy of the witch hunt is at its most chauvinistic.
The performance of Lisbeth Movin is a knockout. She gets more intense as the film gets going. There are such affecting looks on her face, as the camera captures her perfectly drenched in shadow, half covered by darkness in the flickers of candles, looking both innocent and sinister at once. One reason why the film works is because she offers up such a dual feeling role that makes Anne epitomize the way witches were perceived. Even the audience at times can’t be sure of her attitude, as Movin keeps people guessing. It is an emotional performance that makes the romantic elements, and the briefly sexual elements, work so well. The long takes Dreyer uses are suited to her, as she lets us become part of the character’s world and allows our eyes a peek into her psychology.
While Vampyr is my favourite of Dreyer’s films, Day of Wrath is a loaded bit of cinema that on the surface explores the jaded days of witch hunts, while plumbing the depths underneath and serving as the direct parallel for Nazi power and the plight of Jewish people during the latter days of World War II. The cinematography and style is what goes on to be known as recognizable Dreyer. Here, it takes the audience into a repressed and quiet space where the intolerance of religion, all the fear it creates boils up into a mess of forbidden love, anger, and so much more.
Dreyer is a titan of cinema. If you’re at all serious about your love of film he is someone that absolutely needs to be explored. So if you dig this, keep digging. He has a lot of wonderful work and showed how possible it was to make engaging, exciting, unique cinema even during the early decades of the industry.
FX’s American Horror Story
Season 3, Episode 13: “The Seven Wonders”
Directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
Written by Douglas Petrie
The finale of Coven is upon us!
Fitting enough, Stevie Nicks shows up singing “Seven Wonders” by Fleetwood Mac. There’s a nice montage of all the young witches preparing for the big ceremony. In her room, Zoe (Taissa Farmiga) levitates the bed while studying. In the bathroom, Madison (Emma Roberts) plays it cool and bubbles the water, lighting candles and a fireplace with the snap of her fingers. Misty Day (Lily Rabe) dances in the basement and practices in the small garden Cordelia (Sarah Paulson) keeps. Then there’s Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe), who studies up on voodoo, and even keeps a little picture of Nan by her books. Love this opening and it works so well. This has been a very feminist type season, which I dig. And this opening for the finale gives us a nice bit of equal time with the young witches, highlighting them all and including each in a sort of happy light. Not something we often get on American Horror Story. Plus, it’s fun that Nicks has been kicking around singing Fleetwood Mac songs and being cool as hell.
Consistently I get a great kick out of Myrtle Snow (Frances Conroy) who shares her belief that Leonardo da Vinci was a warlock. She serves up a beautifully rendered meal for everyone. Then Cordelia talks of the start of The Seven Wonders by telling all the girls: “Kick ass tomorrow.”
We start with TELEKINESIS. Kyle (Evan Peters) lights a bunch of candles, with all the girls lined up in front of the table. They’re meant to haul the candle via mind control, which each of them do without much trouble.
CONCILIUM is next, or MIND CONTROL – they pair up and have to make the other do what they wish, prompting slaps, hair pulling and all sorts of stuff you might expect from a few catty young women who want nothing more than to outdo the other. Fun moment sees Kyle being forced to lick Madison’s shoe, being tossed around the room by her and Zoe in a bid to be the best and meanest of the two, but finally Cordelia breaks it all up.
DESCENSUM or DESCENT INTO THE NETHERWORLD comes afterwards. “If your soul hasn’t returned to your body by sun up, you die,” Myrtle proclaims before readying the hourglass to start. The ladies all chant together and then head down into hell for their test. Queenie is back at the chicken shack again just like her encounter with Legba, easily bringing herself back first. Then Madison returns from a “live version of The Sound of Music“. Zoe does too from a breakup hell she barely escaped. But only Misty does not come back yet, she’s stuck in school being forced to dissect a frog; of course, she keeps bringing it back to life. She’s made to dissect the living frog, taunted by the other children, and then the cycle begins over again: over and over. Honestly, this vision of hell returning to your worst moments is terrifying, very great representation of the afterlife. Sadly, though, Misty is not coming back. She lies on the floor, her body limp, as Cordelia hugs her tight. But the sand in the glass runs out, Misty disappears into a black smoke and she’s dead, gone forever. Didn’t see that coming when the tests started out.
Not much mourning before TRANSMUTATION begins as the next challenge. The three remainders don’t seem to be too trouble by it all, quickly zipping around the property. That is until one of them mixes things up and transmutates to the wrong spot. Zoe finds herself impaled on the academy gates high above the ground. They take her corpse down to the basement in hopes of bringing her back. Queenie can’t resurrect her, putting her out of the competition. Cordelia wants Madison to bring Zoe back, in effect proving she must go on and finish The Seven Wonders. But of course, the young mean bitch Madison doesn’t want to do that and jeopardize her position as the next Supreme. She leaves Myrtle and Cordelia, and Zoe dead.
But all is not lost. Myrtle convinces Cordelia she ought to test herself on The Seven Wonders. Finally, someone with sense. Cordelia does several of them pretty quickly. When it comes to DIVINATION, Madison and Cordelia face off; Madison loses, packs up to leave and threatens to expose the witch coven to the outside world. However, Kyle makes sure that never happens: he strangles Madison to death for not reviving Zoe and in turn gives Spalding (Denis O’Hare) a new doll to keep. In the end, Cordelia’s last test is bringing Zoe back – VITALUM VITALIS – which she does. Then promptly passes out hard. But once she’s back, her eyes work again and she is the new Supreme; the one, the only.
After all the wonderful and grim events, Cordelia emerges as the queen witch of them all. She goes public to the world about the academy, about witchcraft, and now many young witches around the world begin to seek her and the academy out. Furthermore, Queenie and Zoe are a part of the new regime, aiding Cordelia in steering the coven correctly.
But then Myrtle, oh Myrtle! She wants to be punished, and I supposed ought to be, for killing the other Council members, Cecily and Quentin. She insists, even with Cordelia refusing to do such a thing. Finally after everything is said and done, Myrtle is resentenced to being burned at the stake, as she already had been earlier in this season. So they trot back out to the dunes where Myrtle is strapped to a stake, set ablaze, and burned, blackened once more. Vicious, yet highly noble on Myrtle’s part: her dedication to the coven is more than evident, time and time again. Her final word? “Balenciaga!” -y’know, for the fashion conscious folk.
I love the end with Fiona (Jessica Lange), as we see her own version of hell. She is forever stuck with the Axeman (Danny Huston), in a little mediocre house down by the river, eating fish for dinner every night. A perfectly normal everyday life, something absolutely unspeakable for a woman like Fiona, a needy narcissist and a woman who needs fame, fortune, who needs extravagance. It’s fitting, and brutal in its own way. Love the writing involved with this finale, it works quite well for Fiona and her final resting place in hell.
With the end of Coven, we see another happy finish. There are still losses, deaths to mourn, and so on. But as Cordelia tells a television interviewer: “We are strong women.” This whole season had a great feminine vibe, and if some male viewers can’t accept or handle that it’s their loss. I found it incredible, and the writing really shined every chance it had. Lots of strong female characters. Plus, there were several excellently placed male characters, even Kyle who Evan Peters played so well almost virtually silent in each episode until the end. Overall, I loved this season. And as Cordelia, Queenie, Kyle and Zoe welcome newcomers to the academy, I almost wish there were more episodes to this season. When I first watched it as it came on FX a couple years ago, I didn’t take to it hugely, though I did enjoy all the episodes. Now when I go back through, I realize how good the writing was, how fun the characters and situations were, and above all else how intricate the plots themselves came off. Great work all around.
FX’s American Horror Story
Season 3, Episode 10: “The Magical Delights of Stevie Nicks”
Directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
Written by James Wong
* For a review of the previous episode, “Head” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Protect the Coven” – click here
This episode opens with Marie Laveau (Angela Bassett) being tended to with a cup of tea and a warm bed from Fiona Goode (Jessica Lange). Marie even admits to being over “300 years old.” They talk about their new situation only briefly. “Tomorrow we’ll draw the battle lines,” says Fiona. So we’re in for a good deal of interesting stuff.
Even better, as Marie sleeps in the night up shows Papa Legba (Lance Reddick), the voodoo father. He looks incredibly, almost impossibly creepy. Apparently, Legba and Marie have some sort of agreement. He wants what’s coming to him, the terms of their bargain they made “so long ago.” Love the choice of having Reddick play this character. He is a great talent, who has showed it time and time again from The Wire to Oz and much more. Nice addition to this season, and so late in the game.
Then we see Marie saunter into a hospital ward, lightly crying babies behind a glass door. She voodoos her way in to where the unsuspecting infants lay. The music and the cinematography here are beyond eerie, setting such a perfectly unnerving sequence. Marie picks out a cute little baby, takes him away, and runs into some armed security guards. But they’ve got nothing on her. She rolls her eyes back, they go cloudy, and then BANG, BANG! The guards are dead. What does Legba want with the baby? Does he eat them? Oh, goody. Something new and sinister to add into the American Horror Story lexicon of weird and disturbing characters.
With the fallout from Hank Foxx (Josh Hamilton) comes a revelation by Marie to Fiona and Cordelia (Sarah Paulson): she hired him. Now, there’s no doubt going to be further tension and problems between Cordelia and her mother. Fiona sees it as a sign of weakness that Hank infiltrated them: “You‘re not just blind, you are wilfully blind. You married Hank to prove some childish point and brought a viper into this sacred house!” They’ve now go to face the task of finding “the hive,” as Fiona calls it. They need to take down the whole group of hunters, not just one; they travel in packs, like vultures.
In other news, Misty (Lily Rabe) is weary of getting too close to Fiona, whose murderous impulses aren’t exactly secret. Fiona tries to talk Misty up, but the swamp witch is not too interested. Is Fiona driving towards something here? Surely she can’t be trying to kill another one; can she? Well, Fiona brings Misty downstairs. She has a guest to meet her: it’s god damn Stevie Nicks, a white witch in her own right apparently. As they’re introduced, Misty faints. Excellently, Fiona steps over her claiming “You owe me $5” and giving Stevie a friendly smooch. This was hilarious, and fucking awesome. Even further, Stevie sings and plays “Rhiannon” on the piano as the young witches come home. Such a fun inclusion to have Nicks here, like a little treat on top of an already delicious ice cream that is Coven.
“I‘m a huge fan of Eminem. When‘s he get here?”
“Marshall? You‘re not his type. And more importantly, you‘re not the next Supreme.”
There’s new jealousy afoot. Madison doesn’t want any of Misty and her shit, she thinks she has what it takes; her heart murmur is even gone since coming back from the dead. Madison even gives Nan shit, which prompts Nan to use mind control almost ending with Madison jamming a cigarette in her vagina. Lots of inter-coven trouble happening.
But the witch hunters are still the biggest threat to anything, whether or not the young witches are all clamouring over who the next Supreme could end up being. Cordelia tracked down the Delphi Trust, the witch hunters hub. She found out who Hank was, the son of Harrison Renard; Renard is, of course, Francais pour Fox(x). So now, Marie, Cordelia and Fiona are scheming. Trying to figure out a way to get at the witch hunters. Shouldn’t be hard to take down some capitalist pigs, right? Fiona won’t have any help from Cordelia who she sees as “tainted.” There’s a violent emotional nature to the relationship between these two. Sad, because Cordelia is a tough, smart, capable witch. Doesn’t matter, though. Marie and Fiona together? Two bad witch bitches. They set up a cross between the Salem witchcraft and Marie’s Haitian voodoo, attacking the Delphi Trust at the source of their money and causing lots of problems for the hunters. Except it might take the good out of Fiona, who collapses after their spell is cast.
Now we get more talk between Fiona and Marie. Fiona talks about her new love, the Axeman (Danny Huston). Marie explains her debt to Papa Legba, who she conjured back when she thought she was “the shit” and “shockingly strong” magic. Then in the night, Papa showed up to give her eternal life and strength. Unknowingly she “made a deal forged in Hell.” Only problem then was, she had to provide Legba with his price: her baby. And after that she was shackled to their agreement, requiring her to give him an innocent child’s soul when he comes calling. Nasty, huh? But immortality has its prices. That’s a part of why I love this season, there are very interesting portrayals of immortality between the dead coming back, Marie herself and also the curse she threw on Delphine. So it’s fun to see how immortality isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. All these situations help us understand the horrifying aspect of living forever (it’s always been horrifying to me anyways).
Meanwhile, Madison takes Misty on a walk through New Orleans. Fittingly they stroll behind what looks like a music funeral, horns and drums ringing through the streets. Madison tries to fill Misty’s head with the concept that being Supreme will bring more needless stress than it does perks, such as plenty free “merch” and “swag“. Gotta watch out for Madison, though. They end up at a graveyard, deserted except for a couple groundskeepers. Madison wants to show Misty they have equal powers; she literally raises a man from out his coffin and back to life. Certainly impressive. Trusting Madison too much, Misty ends up knocked out by a brick and tossed into the casket; Madison returns the groundskeepers to normal after they were frozen in a spell, and Misty is entombed in a small grey mausoleum. Didn’t see that coming before this sequence, honestly. But should have. Madison is just as vindictive and paranoid as Fiona.
Zoe and Nan drop over to see Joan, after they discovered at the hospital Luke is now dead. Nan wants to see the body; she needs to find out what happened to him in the end. He was cremated, but Nan knows what happened: he was suffocated by his mother. Then Nan goes wild on Joan, forcing Zoe out of the way and making Joan drink down a few gulps of bleach. Yikes – though, I can’t say I hated it. Joan deserved what she got.
In the basement of the academy, Myrtle plays away on the theremin while she and Cordelia have another heart to heart. The younger of the two feels she has “nothing left to offer this coven.” But we know different, as does Myrtle.
The worst comes when Fiona conjures Papa Legba on her own. She wants to do whatever possible to attain eternal life. Only Legba can’t make a deal because she has no soul with which to bargain: “You have nothing to sell.”
Things get dicey now, as Fiona ends up determined to kill all the others in the coven if necessary, all in order to figure out who will be the next Supreme. She has truly gone over the edge. Is this going to do her in, or the others?
The finale sees Nan discovering a newborn child meant for sacrifice over to Legba. Marie and Fiona label her a threat. Then, Legba accepts her as a substitute. The two older witches drown Nan in the upstairs bathtub, and Papa Legba deems Marie/Fiona’s union as “big trouble.” No doubt. A sad and tragic end for a character like Nan, who could’ve been a contender for Supreme had she not been disturbingly murdered.
Very excited for the next episode titled “Protect the Coven” – more wildness to come!
FX’s American Horror Story
Season 3, Episode 7: “The Dead”
Directed by Bradley Buecker
Written by Brad Falchuk
* For a review of the previous episode, “The Axeman Cometh” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “The Sacred Taking” – click here
This episode begins with a flashback to Kyle (Evan Peters) and his bros at a tattoo shop, back before they were smashed to bits after most of them gang raped Madison (Emma Roberts). Kyle rocks out to Toto, deflecting awkward jokes about his mother – who we now know molested him – as well as shares his aspirations to be an engineer. And that’s why he does not want to get a tattoo: “I got one life, and I’m not wastin‘ it.” Even as a man with tattoos, I respect him for that, wanting to go into a particular career path and wanting to do everything as straight and narrow as possible. Particularly it’s admirable because he wanted to get away from his mother, who caused him terrible pain. Then we flash to the now Frankenstein-like Kyle; he wails after finding the tattoos of his friends on his newly pieced together body.
But will he live much longer? Zoe (Taissa Farmiga) is armed with a gun in hand coming down to the basement of the academy. And it looks as if she intends to put poor Kyle out of his misery.
Madison is back. She doesn’t seem too pleased, though. In a voice-over, she talks about the Generation of Entitlement, supposedly, the Millenials. There is a great sadness in watching her sort of haunt the halls of Miss Robichaux’s Academy, trying to find a way to not “look like Marilyn Manson anymore.” She can’t feel anything, holding a lighter under her palm as it fries. Not a thing, not since coming back from the dead.
Downstairs, Zoe tells Kyle: “You know how this has to go, right?” And he sort of does, cowering at the sight of the gun. The sad part about this is that Zoe doesn’t have any idea what Kyle’s mother did to him, she thinks he’s just gone crazy and that coming back from the dead like this made him into an animal. But deep down she doesn’t want him gone, she doesn’t want him to die.
One of the funniest scenes in this season yet comes when Delphine (Kathy Bates) and Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe) go to a fast-food restaurant. The way LaLaurie reacts to the drive thru speaker is a crack up. More than that, the way LaLaurie talks about Queenie never being a real part of the coven because she’s black, it resonates with Queenie. You can tell this is going to start causing some problems.
Worse problems yet are the ones Hank Foxx (Josh Hamilton) plans on bringing. He has a ton of guns, he’s drinking. Will it be absolute savagery? Or will someone prevent a massacre?Meanwhile, Cordelia (Sarah Paulson) runs into Madison in the halls and discovers Fiona (Jessica Lange) was the one who killed her. Bam. But her dear mother is still with the Axeman (Danny Huston). They’re back at his place listening to some music, having a drink together. Despite being a brutal mass murderer, this guy has style; how could he not, played by Huston? I love him and Lange playing off one another in a scene. They are two incredibly respectable actors in their own rights. To see them as a pair onscreen is like a treat, one of a magnitude we rarely see on television. Plus, it’s interesting to see where this new relationship is headed. To what end will the Axeman’s character play a part? He’s got bodies in the bathtub, she’s the reigning Supreme, a murderer and cancer patient.
Zoe is trying to teach Kyle to talk again, almost as if he were an infant. They use little cards like a child might. But he gets angry, smacking them out of her hands. He’s frustrated, naturally. I love the interpretation of the Frankenstein type story of Kyle, how he learns to be a person again after coming back from the grave. Because there’s a juxtaposition with others who come back to life, in particular Madison. Whereas she has her own troubles, Kyle is really fucked up because he’s only partly himself; other bits are made up of other people, friends he once knew sadly. So I thought this was great writing, the way each person depending on how they died/how they come back has a different sort of disposition. We’ll see more of this to come with another character.
Over at the hair salon, Queenie shows up to see Marie Laveau (Angela Bassett). Of course more of the racial divide shows up now, with Marie stoking the flames – as well as making what looks like awesome gumbo. However, she makes sense at times. While Queenie isn’t exactly mistreated over at the academy, nobody truly appreciates her. She takes a backseat to the other white witches, when I’m sure Marie could easily integrate her into the house of voodoo she has going over there. Still, might take more than that to completely convince Queenie. You can see she wants to go. Yet some reservation, though. Either way Marie wants her to bring Delphine back to her. Not saying why, or what she’ll do. But she wants that old racist woman in the palm of her hand.
Cordelia’s new sense of sight has brought her more assertiveness. She and Zoe have a frank chat, as Cordelia tips a bit of liquor in her own tea. A little more of a lax type Cordelia now. With all the threats to the coven, and from Fiona no less, she’s finally making sure these young witches are ready for what comes next. Or what’s coming for them. Then there’s more tension between the witches, after Zoe finds Kyle violently humping Madison. Two walking corpses having sex, wow.
“Kill her once. Kill her good. Kill her dead.”
More romance for Fiona and the Axeman. He reveals to her how long his admiration has been growing. Ever since Fiona was a little girl, he watched her in the house and looked out for her. His fondness for Fiona began so long ago, now the Axeman grew out of a fatherly sense of love for her into one of romantic intention; seeing her become a gorgeous young lady, a bonafide woman, he had to have her. So in a sense it’s an eerie, creepy type of voyeur relationship on his part. At the same time, he doesn’t creep on her. He is very charming. Especially considering she’s at the end of her days, Fiona might consider this a good thing. Only she takes it all as insult, as if he “watched her grow old.” Though, he tells her in such a loving way. But she believes he haunted her life.
Up in the attic of the academy, Zoe seems to have found a tongue – belong to, of course, Spalding (Denis O’Hare). Now she has him tied up to his bed in that creepy little room he keeps, his tongue back in working condition. In fact, it was in a box belonged to the recently crispy Myrtle Snow (Frances Conroy). Only Myrtle couldn’t bring it back. Zoe’s powers are stronger and she managed to put it back in place; a very neat and weird little sequence, which I loved. Except after the tongue is back in Zoe compels Spalding to say only truths, looking for information, and he gives it up – Fiona killed Madison. Then he gives up his life. Not willingly, though.
Queenie asks Delphine what the worst thing she ever did was, which prompts a story about one of the slaves who used to serve in her home, back in the day. Turns out LaLaurie had an unfaithful husband whose extramarital affairs involved a servant. A super unsettling moment where Delphine has a new batch of bloody makeup, revealing exactly where it came from to her frightened servant girl; this prompted the poor girl to commit suicide the next morning, jumping off the balcony. Hearing all this, as it would, disgusts Queenie. LaLaurie tries to justify it as being in a “different time” and a “different world.” She genuinely seems to be repentant in how she talks to Queenie, but still. She did atrocious things.
Then there is the new problem between Zoe and Madison. Although, Madison doesn’t seem attached to Kyle. She only wanted to have sex, I guess. It makes her feel something, as opposed to nothing else making her feel anything, at all. She proposes they share Kyle. He’s basically meat in this season, which is fine. There’s always a great powerful female vibe in each season, but I dig how Coven most of all has a very female-centred plot and how the men sort of play these peripheral, yet at times important roles. Overall, it’s all about the ladies and I find it refreshing.
The episode’s end comes with a finale that shocked me, in a great way. Queenie brings LaLaurie out on the town – dressed in a hilarious bedazzled tiger shirt – except they end up at Laveau’s place, in the salon. Now we can see Queenie is giving herself over to the voodoo queen. There are genuinely terrible things about to happen to Delphine, not that I can say she doesn’t deserve it. She does. But it’s sad to see her and Queenie fall out, I thought somehow, some way, Queenie might take a higher road. All the same, I don’t blame her really. Further than that it makes things interesting heading into the next episode. Where will this lead? What more intensity will this bring? Well before the episode finishes, Laveau is applying her own bloody makeup, made from the drained essence of LaLaurie herself. How the tables have turned.Stay tuned with me for the next episode, “The Sacred Taking.”
FX’s American Horror Story
Season 3, Episode 6: “The Axeman Cometh”
Directed by Michael Uppendahl
Written by Douglas Petrie
* For a review of the previous episode, “Burn, Witch. Burn!” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “The Dead” – click here
This episode begins with a flash to 1919 in New Orleans. We hear the voice of Danny Huston, undeniable. He types a letter, and talks about being the titular Axeman. He tells everyone via his letter that anyone playing jazz will be safe on a specific night, everyone else will be murdered. The girls at Miss Robichaux’s Academy plan to make sure the Axeman does not kill anyone else. They’re witches, they’re tough, and plan to make their Salem ancestors proud.
No jazz plays on the street around the school. The Axeman walks through the neighbourhood, eventually making his way inside the big plantation style house. Upstairs, one of the witches listens to classical opera. The Axeman does not like that. The trap is set and all the women of the house stab him to death on the floor against the firelight.
So if he died in the house, will his spirit linger? I’m sure we’re going to find out now with new young witches boarding at the academy.
Zoe (Taissa Farmiga) picks around through the old belongings of Madison Montgomery (Emma Roberts). In the process, she finds old things belonging to the previous schools of witches, as well as a Ouija board – or a Spirit Board. First, to Nan (Jamie Brewer) and Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe), she brings up the fact the number of witches have gone down progressively each year. Now there’s only three of them. So they make a pact over absinthe, agreeing to watch one another’s backs. The three young witches play a game with the board. Soon, they come in contact with – you guessed it – a spirit. It writes out: AXEMAN. Quickly, the whole thing is stopped by Queenie, who knows better than to mess around too hard with the board.
Fiona (Jessica Lange) is having troubles. Taking chemotherapy alongside other patients, she suddenly has the gift of mind reading, attributing it to the medication. It’s all too much for her. A doctor manages to sit her back down, but clearly Fiona does not want to do it for herself, only for Cordelia (Sarah Paulson) who actually needs her for once in a lifetime.
Zoe wants to release the Axeman in order to find out what happened to Madison. Although, nobody else is at all keen on the idea. But Zoe’s stuck on witches banding together, no matter what the consequences. She goes downstairs with the Spirit Board again, except by herself now. Dangerous things at play here. And then, she’s finding her way into the attic where Spalding (Denis O’Hare) keeps his play things: both porcelain and deceased. The air is thick with a deathly reek, dolls lining the shelves. And finally, Zoe uncovers Madison’s body. Only Spalding intercepts her.
Meanwhile, Cordelia is back at home, walking cane and glasses and all. Hank (Josh Hamilton) can’t touch her without flashes in Cordelia’s head of his infidelity; all she can see is the woman he cheated on her with. She has a “different kind of clarity,” as if she’s experiencing the memories firsthand when they come to her. Strong woman, eyes and face burned yet still not afraid to stand up for herself.
Up in the attic, the young witches interrogate the “twisted tea-serving necrophiliac” Spalding, whose arms and legs are tied to a chair. Zoe scalds his chest with a metal spatula, left over a hot burner. He boasts about his first sex was with Madison; disgusting. This whole scene is nasty, in so many ways. But a great, gritty part to a larger story.
Over at the camp of Misty Day (Lily Rabe), there’s a nice big flower bed planted, she’s watering it and making sure it’s tended. Underneath stirs Myrtle Snow (Frances Conroy). And out of the blue, Franken-Kyle (Evan Peters) turns up, mumbling, filthy and needing a bath, scared as usual. Misty gladly takes him back in, helping him get clean. But memories of his mother come back, he trashes the place and throws things around, smashing the little music player Misty kept. Luckily, though, Zoe shows up – able to take Kyle, also needing Misty.
Zoe chains Kyle up down in the basement, and shows Misty the corpse of Madison. She wants Misty to bring the girl back to life. Although, poor Madison’s been dead for ages. Still after a bit of work, Misty and Zoe manage to pull her back from the afterlife and into the world of the living once again.
Big surprise: Hank is in cahoots with Marie Laveau (Angela Bassett). His wife’s new second sight is causing problems, threatening to reveal their working relationship. We get a flashback to Cordelia meeting Kaylee (Alexandra Breckenridge), the one Hank killed after having sex with earlier in the season; she was, in fact, a witch. Hank’s helping to kill all the descendants of Salem, a job done in conjunction with Laveau. But now, she wants all the witch bitches dead, their heads for trophies.
The girls are trying to bring Madison back to consciousness. She can’t drink anything properly, even ginger ale. All she remembers from before death was a red blur, nothing more. And at the same time, Cordelia is confronted in her bedroom by none other than the Axeman himself. He wants release, he doesn’t want to be trapped inside those “four ugly walls,” not any longer. He’s been promised release by Zoe, but nothing has come yet. He is one mad jazz-man. Hearing Cordelia’s screams, Zoe, Nan and Queenie rush to help. Stupid Zoe, she’s the one who did this with her lies. Then she finds a spellbook, releasing the Axeman from the house back out onto the streets. Is this any good, at all? To have this maniac out wandering New Orleans? Especially when jazz isn’t exactly as prominent, even in the South, as it once was back in his day.
At a bar where Fiona is lamenting her illness, literally pulling off a handful of hair, the Axeman sits down for a drink. Will there be vengeance to come? And for whom?
Next episode is “The Dead”, directed by Bradley Buecker.
FX’s American Horror Story
Season 3, Episode 5: “Burn, Witch. Burn!”
Directed by Jeremy Podeswa
Written by Jennifer Sharzer
* For a review of the previous episode, “Fearful Pranks Ensue” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “The Axeman Cometh” – click here
This episode begins back when Madame LaLaurie (Kathy Bates) brings a possible suitor for her daughter through a nasty little chamber of horrors, featuring real eyeballs, bloody entrails and such. While the big party rages on, her own flesh and blood are plotting to get out from underneath the wretched reign of their mother. Borquita LaLaurie (Jennifer Lynn Warren) and her sisters are brought to the place where the slaves are caged up and tortured. Mama LaLaurie promises to let them out: next year.
Cut back to current day. LaLaurie is seeing her own daughters, risen from the grave, banging at the door. Inside, Nan (Jamie Brewer), Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe), Luke (Alexander Dreymon), and Zoe (Taissa Farmiga) try to keep them out.
We can’t forget, poor Cordelia (Sarah Paulson) was attacked with acid, right in the face, while she and Fiona (Jessica Lange) were out having drinks. I feel as if Cordelia’s whole acid burned clouded eye look is Lucio Fulci-esque; anyone agree?
At the hospital, the doctor tells Fiona her daughter is blind, her face is scarred. Nothing we couldn’t have already anticipated.
But the main problem is back at the school, where the zombies shamble more and more towards everyone inside. Marie Laveau (Angela Bassett), meanwhile, is levitating and doing some crazy shit to conjure up the undead hordes. Furthermore, a couple young dudes wander onto the lawn of the witches school, and Luke is out trying to reason with the zombies. SO much happening. Brave Nan tries her best to help Luke, too.
At the same time, Fiona is wandering around in the hospital on an especially dismal, grim floor. A patient wanders by and mumbles: “You didn‘t throw the acid but you might as well have.” Then Fiona finds her way into a room where a woman had a stillborn child. All the guilt of her life tumbles down, right on top of her. She makes the woman hold her baby, and conjures up the life inside it again. It’s a strange yet touching moment. While Fiona’s daughter is blinded, scarred for life, this woman has a fresh start, her daughter allowed new life. Fiona’s done too much damage to her own daughter, at the very least she can give another woman a new one.
Zoe helps lure the zombies away from Nan and Luke, cowering in a smashed up car, but backs herself into a corner. In the house, Spalding (Denis O’Hare) helps get Queenie settled away. Downstairs, LaLaurie confronts her dead daughter Borquita face-to-face, or rotted face to living face. It’s a sad scene, even as terrible as Delphine was before immortality and all that followed. Borquita, the walking dead, doesn’t care either way. She attacks and chokes her mother. Upstairs, zombies keep pressing towards Spalding, then Queenie. Though in the end, LaLaurie saves the day somehow, fire poker-ing the corpse to (its second) death.
Managing to get her hands on a chainsaw, Zoe cuts through a ton of the zombies, saving Nan and Luke. Too much zombie guts and juice in the chain, so the thing goes dead at the worst time. But all of a sudden Zoe hauls out a strange sort of spell, a strong one, knocking Marie Laveau out of whack and stopping the march of the corpses.
When Cordelia finally wakes up, she has a further sight, despite losing that of her eyes. Husband Hank (Josh Hamilton) touches her hand, and Cordelia sees all his indiscretions.
All the corpses are burned, things are being put back together at the witch house. Worst of all, the Council has arrived once more. Quentin Fleming (Leslie Jordan), Cecily Pembroke (Robin Bartlett) and Myrtle Snow (Frances Conroy) show up to unseat Fiona from her title of Supreme. Clearly things have unraveled, to the furthest degree. However, Fiona has things to say. She believes the one who blinded Cordelia was Myrtle. What? Seriously, Fiona? I’m more inclined to believe she’s off her rocker right now, than to see Myrtle as a murderer. Especially once Fiona starts dropping information about Myrtle being in town before anyone else knew, about Myrtle hiding in a motel under a false name. Fiona reveals Myrtle’s hand: burned, presumably from the acid used on Cordelia.
So the witch shall be burned! “Right Place, Wrong Time” by Dr. John plays as Myrtle is lead to the stake, the entire coven along to watch. Then Fiona tosses the last of her cigarette, igniting her old rival into a flaming pillar. Nasty, brutal way to go. Did she really disfigure Cordelia? Or is it more Supreme magic on Fiona’s part?
We find out quickly it was Queenie who helped Fiona – some voodoo doll type stuff. Queenie keeps seeing Myrtle burning, smelling it on the air. She obviously is traumatised by Fiona’s violent ruling of their coven. The older witch convinces Queenie that she could possibly be the next Supreme, putting ideas in her head. I can venture to say this is more of her fiendishness. She needs others along for the ride in order to get the mean deeds done.
In other news around the weird house, Spalding sprays down his room a good deal. In the treasure chest still sits Madison Montgomery (Emma Roberts), long dead, rotting away. In fact, trying to pull her out Spalding tears an arm clean off.
Speaking of corpses, Misty Day (Lily Rabe) finds the charred remains of Myrtle at the stake. She lays hands on her, and the eyes come alive.
Next episode is titled “The Axeman Cometh”.