FX’s American Horror Story
Season 5, Episode 7: “Flicker”
Directed by Michael Goi
Written by Crystal Liu
* For a review of the previous episode, “Room 33” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “The Ten Commandments Killer” – click here
Checking in at the Hotel Cortez for another week, are we? Join me, as we walk the halls.
You can already feel new revelations about the come to light. Construction has broke ground at the hotel under Will Drake (Cheyenne Jackson) and his management. Eventually, the crew comes upon a part of the hotel covered with steel, running along a whole section. Drake tells them to get the job done, knock it down. Once a couple of the construction guys make their way down a hallway uncovered after tearing the wall down, they discover creepy people(things) lurking in the darkness. Not long after, they have their throats chewed out.
One thing others are whining about is the blood and gore. Those elements do not a horror make. However, Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk have explored a lot of avenues with the 4 seasons preceding this one. They’ve stated this season is meant to have more intense brutality and gore. They said that. So, sorry you don’t like blood, but there ARE horror fans who LOVE that. I am one who can appreciate many sub-genres in horror, including the splatter stuff if it’s done well. The splattery nastiness here is done properly between the writers, the directors, and the Murphy-Falchuk banner. Dig it, hugely.
Alex Lowe (Chloë Sevigny) has brought her husband John (Wes Bentley) to the hospital. He’s almost in a trance-like state, walking in catatonia. He virtually mumbles everything coming out of his mouth. But rightfully so, he is definitely failing mentally. At the same time, most of his mental stress is being produced through his wife, through the hotel, through all the things he knows are real but just can’t prove. Not yet. He seems to have a plan, being checked in on purpose, though. I hope so hard he is NOT the Ten Commandments Killer after all. I don’t think he is, he seems to have an ace up his sleeve.
Back at the hotel, Iris (Kathy Bates) accompanies The Countess (Lady Gaga) over to where the construction crew are down two men. They don’t even know who did it, so that’s something I find interesting: Countess doesn’t even have the lid on everything happening under her roof. I’m sure James March (Evan Peters) knows all about the various comings and goings. But The Countess readily admits she’s not sure of what could’ve done the deed, and Iris notes how “I‘ve never seen you scared before.” Very intriguing little scene.
An impressive flashback to The Countess and her former life, 1925 in Hollywood. She is an extra on the set of a Ruldoph Valentino (Finn Wittrock) picture, admiring how beautiful the man is. They end up back at Valentino’s luxurious home. “Flickers are the future,” she says to him. He doesn’t buy her talk of immortality on the silver screen, commenting that in a century nobody will remember any of the movies they were in. We already know this not to be true, 90 years on; highly and almost categorically untrue, overall. Regardless, we’re treated to an excellent few classical film-like moments where the young Countess is whirled around dancing by Rudolph. Then, out of nowhere, Natacha Rambova (Alexandra Daddario) – his wife – shows up and makes the entire thing unpleasant, terribly awkward. This sex-laden season continues with a Rambova-Rudolph-Countess threesome.
Young Countess heads over to a celebration held by none other than Mr. James March. Here, in a brief scene, we get to see Evan Peters really do some excellent acting. I love him, and I’ve loved his performance in each season. Although, at the beginning of Hotel I was not sold on his March; I thought it was too hammy, or something. But more and more I’ve been drawn in. With this scene, and the one following with him/Gaga, I’m beyond pleased. There’s some element of these moments which I can’t escape, so damn infectious.
More than that, March and young Countess come together: man and wife. She doesn’t truly love him, still burning for Rudolph (who in this timeline has faked his death). Nevertheless, we see the beginning of the March-Countess murder double team, plus there is an excellent black-and-white old school sequence featuring Wittrock as Valentino; it reminds me of an actual silent movie from the early 20th century, fitted with an homage to F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu. Not just an homage, it’s actually Murnau who is a vampire seeking to preserve Valentino. There’s lots of good stuff, including a blood orgy of vampires in the Carpathians.
But Valentino and Rambova have plans to whisk The Countess away with them. Will March let anything like that happen? I think not.
Over at the West Los Angeles Health Center, John Lowe is stumbling around, dazed and looking like any other patient. Only soon he knocks out a guard, making his way into a locked wing of the hospital looking for a patient named HAHN. Opening the door, he finds a young blonde girl dressed like all the other kids The Countess took. Her name is Wren (Jessica Belkin), she doesn’t “want to feed anymore.” More than all that, she has information about the Ten Commandments Killer apparently. Wren was present during one of the crimes, but says: “Nobody forced me to do anything.” She doesn’t seem to want to run from any of it, admitting to what happened and claiming it was nobody else’s fault except her own. There are scary parallels happening now, between Wren/The 10 Commandments Killer and John/his daughter. The visuals are awesome, with close-ups on John’s face, as well as Wren. Then she takes us back to a 1986 flashback where her father leaves her in a hot car outside the Hotel Cortez; when she met The Countess. Finally, Wren agrees to take Lowe to where the killer lives if they can escape.
Big surprise! The two creepy things that killed those construction guys are actually zombified, starving corpses, vampire corpses starving for blood… they are Rudolph and Natacha. Trying to get enough blood to return them to a state of beauty, they argue with one another. Natacha hates him for needing The Countess, bringing them into their now horrific state.
“What curious creatures”
“Like Colossus come to life“
James March and The Countess have a nice dinner together, a monthly tradition it seems. He’s very dapper and lovely, she is also gorgeous and looking elegant. She wanted to see him because of the plan to marry Drake. He feigns a bit of sincerity. Clearly, he does not like the idea. The Countess, to James, is his property. The dinner isn’t exactly wonderful or happy. Mostly, they’re tense with one another.
Then we see what could’ve been assumed – March had Natacha and Rudolph attacked, then brought to the Hotel Cortez. After which he proceeded to wall them up in that hallway, where they were left to perish for the rest of eternity. Or, at least until Drake decided to start renovating his latest acquisition. But even while I knew this was coming, I love the sequence. It’s haunting, harrowing even, to see these two lovers – assholes though they were – discovering themselves forever entombed behind a steel, a wall, then a ton of bricks. Best of all, March reveals all this to The Countess.
The finale of the episode is incredible. “Circles” by The Soft Moon plays as we first see Rudolph and Natacha stroll out of the hotel replenished with youthful vigour. Then, John Lowe gets Wren out of the hospital. But instead of any answers, Wren wants it all to end: she runs into the street and gets ran down by a transport truck. Cue the black screen.
Excited for the next episode, “The Ten Commandments Killer“. What do you think? Will John be the culprit? Or is it an unknown, hidden character lurking just beyond the periphery of our vision? Stay tuned with me and find out, horror heads!