Tagged Angela Bassett

American Horror Story – My Roanoke Nightmare: “Chapter 6”

Everything changes in this episode, as we go behind the scenes with Sidney James and discover a Season 2 is underway. Only nobody realises how much blood is coming.

Read more

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

FX’s American Horror Story
Season 6, Episode 4: “Chapter 4”
Directed by Marita Grabiak
Written by John J. Gray

* For a review of Chapter 3, click here.
* For a review of Chapter 5, click here.
screen-shot-2016-10-06-at-1-26-34-amIn the talking head interviews, Matt (André Holland) relates how Shelby (Lily Rabe) was pissed after supposedly seeing him having sex with a woman in the woods. During the reenactments, Shelby (Sarah Paulson) confronts Matt (Cuba Gooding Jr.) until he breaks down: “Its like a part of my brain was cut out.” She comforts him, though the real Shelby affirms that she knew there was something not right, at all. What she saw was real.
That night Shelby sees the Pig Man. And he is also very real. Matt wrestles with him briefly before the couple get away. They’re saved by Dr. Elias Cunningham (Denis O’Hare), from out of nowhere. He uses the “Croatoan” spell, shouting it and dispelling the creature. But warns: “Hell be back.”
screen-shot-2016-10-06-at-1-29-36-amSo Dr. Cunningham tells us about Croatoan. How it was left when Roanoke Colony disappeared. Really, it’s blood magic. Spooky. The doctor quickly relays that he’s the so-called guardian of the house, trying to make sure people know about its history. Matt’s eager to kick him out, although Shelby has seen the Pig Man before. Through the craziness, she believes Elias. In the basement, he shows them some of his work: all the “paranormal activity” that’s occurred in and around the house. Essentially, a history of horror and torture concerning various families that were unfortunate enough to have bought the house over the years. Like the Chens, who were taken by surprise once the Pig Man showed up. And once Thomasin “The Butcher” White (Kathy Bates) came by? Shit. Things got much, much worse. Cunningham tells Shelby and Matt about how even those nasty nurses were afraid of the place. The Butcher did them in good, too. Real medieval style. On and on and on the tales go. He mentions the “Dying Grass Moon” as being when the disappearances and murders take place.
Lee (Angela Bassett) is on the hook for her missing daughter, though Matt and Shelby wanted to get to the bottom of the whole Priscilla mystery. Something with which Elias can help. Lots of creepiness when Matt spies the strange woman (Lady Gaga) from afar. Shelby chases her until eventually getting lost and running into some hunters – the ones Dr. Cunningham told her about, who once stayed in the house and turned their guns on each other. Well, they’re still wearing those wounds. Quite graphically; dig it. Shelby didn’t, and tried using the Croatoan spell. Doesn’t work because of the lunar cycle, so says Elias. Then in the middle of the forest they see Flora with a bunch of ghosts (people who’ve died or disappeared in the house), the Pig Man, and of course Ms. Priscilla. A horn begins to blow soon. An arrow, or three, are plugged into the poor doctor. While the couple run off there’s no doubt we’ll see Elias again. I’d bet on it.screen-shot-2016-10-06-at-1-44-14-amAt the house, Cricket Marlowe (Leslie Jordan) is ready to rock. They’re obviously ready to do whatever they can to get Lee’s daughter back. He tells them about talking to The Butcher. She’s pretty ready to rock, as well. Y’know, with the bloody moon rising and all. “Id kill for a Coke Zero right now,” Cricket says as he tries to get psyched up about what to do next. He takes off only to return hours later: “I met the bitch with the real power.” It’s that strange woods woman. She temporarily blinds him, puts a knife to his throat. Tricky lil’ Marlowe’s able to get himself out of it, after discovering a few things first. She shows him a vision. They’re in a cornfield. Hundreds of years ago. At the Lost Colony in Roanoke. This is where they came, to where the house now stands. They did terrible things, such as sacrificing little children; Cricket witnesses The Butcher smash a girl to death with a rock. Yikes. Her own son Ambrose (Wes Bentley) wasn’t pleased with the new path, under tutelage of that strange woman, the woods witch. The Butcher then pretended to repent for her wrongdoings, only to kill everyone. Even her boy. She puts a cleaver right in his chest to boot before slashing anybody not fully dead yet right into the grave. She binds them to their new land with blood. Lots of it. Her own, too. She lets the woods witch cut her throat, “bonding” the whole colony to the land “for all eternity.” Cricket says he’s got the spell to clue everything up.
Yeah, right. In his Uber on the way home Cricket spies Flora running across the road. So he gets out of the car and now you know he’s not getting back to the Millers any time soon.

 

 


Matt and Shelby wait for him. But he never comes. Night comes, Matt’s feeling a little creeped out. Foolishly, he heads outside – though with a gun – after hearing things, seeing fleeting images. The sounds they draw him to the cellar out in the woods. He finds the witch there, waiting. “Debts must be paid,” she tells him. Oh, you know what she means! Don’t pretend. A little later Shelby wakes and can’t find her husband. He’s stuck down in the cellar, mesmerised by her story. She was a “descendant of the Druids and their Roman conquerors.” Instead of being a victim, she slaughtered the soldiers keeping her captive. Anyway, Matt was lured into the honey trap. Meanwhile Shelby’s laid siege to by The Butcher and her ghostly hordes, Flora in their grasp. When Matt finally tears himself out of the spell, they get some help from Priscilla; she manages to get Flora away from them.
But poor Flora, she’s frightened. Then outside they all see Cricket. The Butcher rips his guts open while the Millers watch from inside. The colony gets truly medieval on Mr. Marlowe. Absolute savagery.
Things aren’t looking good for Matt and Shelby. We know they survive it. Yet even in the real footage of their interviews – are so sure they’ll be safe in the near future?screen-shot-2016-10-06-at-2-06-26-amscreen-shot-2016-10-06-at-2-07-15-amLove this season so much! Lots of creepiness, a bit of gore. Some strange oddities of various types. Can’t wait for more in the next chapter.

 

American Horror Story – My Roanoke Nightmare: “Chapter 2”

FX’s American Horror Story
Season 6, Episode 2: “Chapter 2”
Directed by Michael Goi
Written by Tim Minear

* For a review of Chapter 1, click here.
* For a review of Chapter 3, click here.
screen-shot-2016-09-22-at-1-56-18-amLast we left Matt and Shelby Miller (Cuba Gooding Jr. & Sarah Paulson in the “dramatic reenactment“; André Holland & Lily Rabe in the documentary-style clips), things were bad. Shelby’s lost in the woods, finding a strange torch wielding cult (including Wes Bentley) and a man whose skull has been… partially removed. The strange woman Shelby thought she’d run over chants in the darkness (Kathy Bates), a group of people surround a man having a pigtail nailed to him. Terribly creepy little cuts.
After running and running, Shelby stops a moment. Only to find more madness. “I never thought about what could be in the wilderness, hiding in the dark,” the real Shelby recounts. We see Bates’ character lead a strange ceremony involving a man put up on a cross, a pig’s head stuck on his shoulders. Shelby takes off again until passing out in the middle of the road, where Matt’s sister Lee (Angela Bassett) finds her. Of course it all sounds mad to the police and everyone else. Poor Shelby. God damn. Ultimately she too believes it’s the “mountain men” trying to drive them out of the house.
A very bad, tragic misunderstanding.
screen-shot-2016-09-22-at-1-59-39-amscreen-shot-2016-09-22-at-2-01-50-amWe get to see more about Lee now, she and her ex-husband Mason (Charles Malik Whitfield) exchange their daughter Flora (Saniyya Sidney) for a while. Yeah, that’s a great fucking idea. Bring a little girl into a haunted house, or at the very least a house out in the country being laid siege to by hillbillies. Anyway, things kick off real quick once Lee finds Flora talking to somebody upstairs. Who? Oh, just somebody named Priscilla. Who isn’t there. A ghost? Or something more? Lee does the smart thing and pries a bit. “She said shes tired of all the blood,” Flora responds when questioned about Priscilla and her bonnet. When Lee literally finds one laying around, she gets spooked.
The great thing about any haunted house film or show is that part of everything is the human, psychological drama happening. There’s Lee and her girl, as well as Matt and Shelby, everyone with their own issues, taking things in differently.
That night more pig noises come from outside. Shelby takes action and insists on tracking them down, so Matt tags along. In the dark, out amongst the trees, they get separated. As one would expect from any horror. When they find each other, they come across a large stick figure with a pig’s head on top, roasting in fire; the skin and meat hanging below dripping into the flames. “This was beyond having a cross burned on your lawn. There was something demonic about it.” the real Matt speaks through voice-over.
With a bit more evidence this time, the police reluctantly look into what’s happening around the Miller’s place. Then a phone call comes through to Matt in the night. Except the phone’s disconnected. In the shadows, he finds an apparition: mean nurses tending to an old, frail and sickly woman named Margaret (Irene Roseen). They can’t hear Matt, but he watches on as one of the nurses tells their patient “Youve been warned” before blowing her brains out with a revolver. Now he’s seeing terrifying things, it isn’t only Shelby anymore.screen-shot-2016-09-22-at-2-14-57-amThis incident sets things into a frenzy. The police, as suspected, can’t find anything to backup Matt’s story. He starts questioning the integrity of his brain, literally, after the incident in the city. Problem is the cops are gradually getting less interested in helping, which isn’t all that abnormal by real world standards.
When Mason shows up for Flora, they can’t find her. It used to be a game she played with them. This time, not finding her may have something to do with the house. They find Flora in a crawlspace talking to Priscilla, who disappears quickly. Apparently Flora tried to make a trade: a doll for their lives. Seems Priscilla is homicidal. And it’s not just her. Flora warns her parents: “Theyre going to kill us all. And save me for last.” Fuck. That’s eerie. Dad hauls his daughter off and things aren’t looking any better for Lee as a mother. Especially considering she started drinking afterwards, off the wagon again. She broke a few things. Shelby’s not happy to find knives in the ceiling, although we can guess that probably wasn’t Lee. Those nurses are creeping about, too. In her drunken state Lee sees a lot of things from pigtails to pig heads and it’s one bad hangover she’s headed for in the morning.
There’s a little girl hanging around outside to boot, which sends Matt and Shelby outside. They come to a trap door with a ladder leading below ground a ways; hmm. Inside are a number of things including tapes in a camcorder. On them is a man named Dr. Elias Cunningham (Denis O’Hare). He speaks frantically saying things like “Im not what I am” and generally in distress over “forces that will not let me sleep.” He speaks of the house and its forces wanting to kill him. He further assures the viewer he’s not crazy. Then Cunningham tells us of his book about two nurses – Miranda and Bridget Jane. Oh yes, you guessed which nurses. Twisted bitches. They killed people with specific names to spell out MURDER. Everything got even wilder as it went on turning into one of those epic, insane tales of true crime.screen-shot-2016-09-22-at-2-24-14-amMore craziness to set the Millers off. Peeling away wallpaper, Matt finds the unfinished word MURDE written on the wall. Everything gets more real at this point. They keep on listening to Cunningham’s rambling tape. Doesn’t help any, except to frighten the shit out of them further. Scariest yet is when the tormented doctor heads inside the house with only his camcorder, night vision on, to guide him through the silent hallways. “Show yourself,” he yells to whatever’s in the dark. Before something, someone appears and startles him. And downstairs, a butcher’s knife with blood on it is stuck in the front door.
They just wanted to leave. Not so easy, though. No getting out of that mad house. Everything amps up a notch after Lee shows up with Flora again. When she’s clearly not supposed to have here there. More of that impulsive Lee behaviour already. Her brother tries to talk sense into her. Shelby tries talking the ex-husband down from calling the cops.
But can Mason get there to take his daughter away before anything worse happens? The little girl whom I assume to be Priscilla beckons Flora to come outside, out near the trap door in the field. Then she goes missing. The adults start to search frantically.
In a clearing, Lee finds her daughter’s yellow sweater at the top of a thin, ridiculously tall tree, its trunk looking almost stained with blood. They stand below, not sure what to do next.
And what can they do?screen-shot-2016-09-22-at-2-42-05-amscreen-shot-2016-09-22-at-2-42-58-amVery pumped for “Chapter 3” next week. Some people keep complaining, and I have no idea why. I love the re-enactment stuff, it adds a fun twist to the show. I’m still feeling like there’s going to be an angle to all that. Just like My Amityville Horror had its drama, My Roanoke Nightmare is going to bring something with that faux-documentary posing as a real documentary. Mark my words.
Also, did you catch Lady Gaga in her brief appearance? She shows up a couple times early on. Very unnerving look to her character. Can’t wait for more, of everything!

 

 

 

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

FX’s American Horror Story
Season 6, Episode 1: “Chapter 1”
Directed by Bradley Buecker
Written by Brad Falchuk & Ryan Murphy

* For a review of Chapter 2, click here.
screen-shot-2016-09-15-at-1-23-25-amThis year’s theme? My Roanoke Nightmare. Delicious.
We open on a series of talking heads. Almost seems like an Amityville Horror sort of thing, too. My Amityville Horror is a documentary by the man who was a child during the supposed Lutz story, and this seems to mirror its style a bit.
Well, Shelby (Rabe) and Matt (André Holland) are a married couple. They tell us about their relationship, what they do for a living, so on. They talk about the “worst night” of the their lives when Matt is randomly knocked out by some gang of kids. He nearly died because of their foolish brutality. We see Sarah Paulson playing Shelby and Cuba Gooding Jr. as Matt, like reenactments of that night. Sadly, Shelby lost her baby on that evening. After the event they took a trip out into the wilderness: “We werent city folks,” Matt says.
Out in the woods is an old farm house. A massive backwoods mansion. The house is cheap, just like the one the Lutz family fell into buying in Amityville. They snatch it up, now owning a surely haunted house. Shelby knew it from the beginning, in the back of her mind.
screen-shot-2016-09-15-at-1-23-34-amStrange banging in the night already starts Shelby and Matt off on a rough note. Interracial couple, rednecks kicking around. They’ve had troubles before, but were more than willing to fend any trouble off. Nothing’s too great. When Shelby’s home alone it starts raining teeth. TEETH! That’s pretty fucking unsettling. Of course no teeth are left when Matt gets back. To be expected when you live in a haunted Southern mansion. I mean, even the house, the big windows upstairs, the shape, it’s so reminiscent of The Amityville Horror. Not in a bad sense. Dig the homage.
One evening while cooking, home alone, Shelby sees two young women pass in the hallway, staring at her. Nice bit of tension, as she goes to check out where the women went. Finding nothing, only a suspenseful moment or two. Later when she relaxes in the hot tub outside until somebody holds her under. She calls Matt, who gets home quick, and the police, of course. Although the police don’t care much. Lots of paranoia swirling already. The couple aren’t sure anymore what to believe. So I LOVE the cinematography so far this season – the house especially looks ominous even in how the shadows cast over everything, big windows everywhere like eyes, darkness crowding around them.
Living in the house only gets worse, as you’d imagine. Weird noises get Matt out of bed and he finds a mutilated pig on the porch outside. He doesn’t tell his wife, he assumes it was the redneck boys who wanted to buy the house. So like a smart person, he hooks up lots of cameras and a nice security system hooked to his phone. Better yet, he gets his sister Lee (Angela Bassett) to go out there and look after Shelby. Lee was a bad ass cop, whose injury from getting shot on the job led her to taking medication a bit liberally. One day, really lit up on pills, she chased a serial rapist and her addiction was discovered. This got her fired, before wreaking absolute havoc on her personal life; she lost her husband, even her daughter. A sad, human tragedy.

 

 


Nothing changes in the house. Just because a security system’s in place and a former cop is looking after Shelby doesn’t mean whatever inhabits that house is going away. Paranoia runs mad now with another person kicking around. Only makes it easier for Shelby to confuse ghostly apparitions with Lee moving things, walking around, et cetera. An added interest is that Lee is still an addict. She asks Shelby not to drink, though I’m not sure how well that will hold up. On the other side is the fact Lee is also sceptical of her sister-in-law.
Then the house starts working on Lee. A lone wine bottle rolls across the floor at her, so she assumes it’s Lee being a bitch. “Why would you do something like that?” she questions Shelby. Now the accusations fly between the both of them. Meanwhile, Matt gets a text from his automated security: people in hoods carrying torches have headed through the gate up to the house. Oh, my. He tries to call the ladies, but they’re too busy arguing.
Suddenly, Shelby and Lee are interrupted by a videotape playing on the television, the strange noises from the night coming out – then on the tape appears a pig-headed man in the wilderness, squealing and bloody. Like anybody would be, the women are terrified. The hooded people with their torches get inside the house while the pair hide, and Matt rushes from a couple hours away to try getting home. When the ladies finally come out of hiding there are tons of creepy stick figures a la Blair Witch Project hanging about the house. Cops once more do nothing.
screen-shot-2016-09-15-at-1-45-55-amscreen-shot-2016-09-15-at-1-59-43-amWhen Matt is back he watches the video, only getting angrier at the local hillbillies. He still doesn’t want to leave; Shelby takes off in the car thinking only “fight or flight.” On her way she hits somebody in the road (it’s Kathy Bates and she just walks it off). Shelby chases her into the nearby woods and gets lost. She winds up finding more of the stick figures that were hung in the house, which sends her running into a place where the earth below seems to breathe. Deeper in she comes across a man missing some of his scalp and skull, brain exposed. And in the darkness lurks a man holding a torch, among many others holding torches – Wes Bentley’s character. We’ll just have to wait and find out who he is, as well as what happens to Shelby out there.

 

 


I don’t care what any of these other horror sites are saying – they probably won’t continue watching after the first episode of the series, anyways. So fuck ’em. This was a great start to the new series. Fun references, eerie shots and sequences, a bit of character intrigue and gritty development. “Chapter Two” will likely be good fun.

Spike Lee’s Malcolm X: Has Anything Really Changed?

Malcolm X. 1992. Directed by Spike Lee. Screenplay by Lee & Arnold Perl.
Starring Denzel Washington, Angela Bassett, Albert Hall, Al Freeman Jr., Delroy Lindo, Spike Lee, Theresa Randle, Kate Vernon, Lonette MCKee, Tommy Hollis, James McDaniel, Ernest Thomas, Jean-Claude La Marre, O.L. Duke, & Larry McCoy. 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks/Largo International N.V./JCV Entertainment Networks/Warner Bros.
Rated PG-13. 202 minutes.
Biography/Drama/History

★★★★1/2
POSTER
Sometimes I’m not a fan of Spike Lee as a public persona, simply because he doesn’t always think before speaking. However, I’m usually a fan of his work as a director. He has a big, wide mind and puts that to work usually tackling issues within the African American community. There are too many of his movies to talk of in an introduction, but suffice to say I do think he is a great director. One of the greatest in his generation, and certainly one of the best African American directors out there, period.
And that’s perhaps why Malcolm X is the film out of his catalogue which resonates most. It isn’t necessarily his greatest. Yet there’s such a poignancy and depth to the work Lee does to portray Malcolm X (played wonderfully by Denzel Washington), not just as a powerful black leader, but also as a human being; one not completely above judgement, one not perfect as some might idealise him. Furthermore, we’re able to get a look at the inside of the Nation of Islam, as far as fiction allows. Many prominent figures in the life of X and circling the NOI, as well as the Civil Rights movement in general, are included, from cameo roles such as Nelson Mandela, Al Sharpton and others, to the portrayals of characters like Elijah Muhammad (Al Freeman Jr.) and Thomas Hagan (Giancarlo Esposito), among more. The nearly three and a half hour runtime of Malcolm X may seem daunting. If you’re sitting down to watch a film, you’ve really got to be prepared for this one, though it’s beyond worth the effort. For me, the 202 minutes rushes by in a beautifully shot and directed, phenomenally acted story that jams a whole man’s life into one screenplay. Not everything gets covered, and there’s also plenty of story to be told after X’s assassination. Above all else, the character of X comes out, as does his struggle. For some this was a stepping stone to learning more about the Civil Rights movements that began raging during the 1960s and 1970s, and onward. I won’t ever forget my first time seeing this one. It’s a classic that stands the test of time, telling an important, crucial story about America during the early latter half of the 20th century, and examining one of the more turbulent times of race relations in the country’s history. Sadly, some of what happened back then is still much too alive and much too well in American society, and if X were still alive he’d likely still be as fiery and determined as ever.
Pic1
The best aspect of Malcolm X is the fact Lee doesn’t attempt to make him above reproach. As a person, X was not perfect. Nobody is, so Lee never tries to make him out to be anything else. Some worried that he would include X’s life before he converted to Islam, and that’s exactly part of what makes this story interesting and intriguing. There’s no sense in ignoring that part of his existence. X himself never did ignore it, he always kept himself open and honest and raw. That’s a huge part of why many did, and still do(/always will), admire him. He was not like most other leaders. He didn’t admit every one of his faults – again, he is only human. But on the whole, he never shied away from his once criminal past, as that in a way led him to where he went after and helped him attain the enlightenment of Islam.
One of my favourite moments happens between Malcolm X’s speeches. A young white woman approaches him, admiring his work, and wondering what a white person without prejudice might do to help further his cause: “Nothing,” he says smiling before walking on. This is such a brief, powerful moment. I’m reminded of watching a recent documentary about the KKK, where they also spotlighted the Black Lives Matter movement and the shooting in Charleston; one scene shows a white woman, with a mixed race child, trying to march in solidarity, who’s told by a black woman to go home – she does in fact leave after, though the black lady gives her a hug and seemingly explains this is just not the time or place for her presence. There’s a stand-off element to X and his feelings for white people. Again, that changed once he went to Mecca on his Hajj, and then essentially transformed into a full blown humanitarian. Yet Lee never strays away from that inflammatory perspective X held towards white American society, and makes clear it’s simply about black people gaining back their power, or retaining what they have, not so much about hating white people. So in that scene where X shrugs the white woman off, it represents the idea that white people may want to help, but black people don’t need their help. They sometimes just need white people to stand back, let them do their thing and settle the issues on their own. That’s not always the case. Particularly in the time of X, there were tough things happening (not that there still aren’t in this day and age), so this was a stance he felt black society needed to take in those times of near racial war. Not long after X, once Elijah Muhammad was out of his life, he made clear the black community had to unite first, then they could work more on white-black relations. That scene with the white girl epitomises this concept.
Pic2
I love the inclusion of the conk hairstyle at the beginning with Malcolm and his buddy Shorty. Not simply because African American culture at the time saw a lot of young black men styling their hair that way. What’s most interesting is that Malcolm X later spoke about conk and its double edged sword-like effect on the black community. On the one hand, conk – because of its threat of chemical burns and scarring, hair loss, et cetera – was seen as a ritual of manhood, going from a boy to a grown adult. On the other hand, he and other African American scholars came to see conk also as a way of erasing oneself in order to become more white. This latter idea is presented in the screenplay after the conk is put in, washed out, then Malcolm admires his new hair in the mirror and says to the men in the barbershop: “Looks white, dont it?” The whole concept of the conk plays into how we see Malcolm ultimately reject everything white. And yes, he said incredibly inflammatory things about white people. But things can change, people can. He didn’t turn into who he was later because of a hate for white people. Effectively, he hated injustice. The white man, the white culture, the white HAIR, it all comes down to representing the white world that he lived in and found himself subject to at every turn, on a daily, minute-to-minute basis. So the conk is simply one element of the white superstructure that Malcolm came to reject. A great inclusion on Lee’s part to show that. It could’ve been a basic scene that shows us where he came from, his beginnings. Instead the scene represents a microcosm of that influence white culture had (/still has) on black people that are brainwashed into feeling as if ‘white is right’ or any of that other sadness. Later when Malcolm is in jail, the conk becomes a sticking point when he’s confronted by an inmate who tries to help him, out of the life of a gangster and moving towards something better, which is the Nation of Islam; a huge influence in his life during prison, as well as afterwards. It may seem a superficial, brief moment in the 202 minute runtime of this epic biography. And it’s a drop in the pond, really. Although, it is highly significant to the overall themes surrounding the film and X himself as a Civil Rights leader.
Pic3
This is one of the best movies of the 1990s, certainly one of Spike Lee’s best, too. Malcolm X is a dissection of a cult of personality. It is a film that attempts to get to the core of what X and his struggle represented. Without all the denial some insist on upholding in regards to X’s personal history, who he was, who he became. The movie is not totally perfect, though it is perfect where it counts. Likewise, Lee concentrates on not inflating X as a leader. Rather he takes an inclusive look at the man, not ignoring the good and the bad alike. He dives into the an era where things were different, and somehow not enough has changed as of this writing in 2016. Watching this movie again now, 24 years after its release and concerning a subject decades older, it’s almost sad to watch and think how hard X would roll over in his grave were he able to witness some of the scary racist madness that’s still going on in the streets of America. Love this movie, love Denzel, and Spike is near his best here. A positively entertaining piece of biography, history, all combining to make a well executed film in every respect.

American Horror Story – Coven, Episode 12: “Go to Hell”

FX’s American Horror Story
Season 3, Episode 12: “Go to Hell”
Directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
Written by Jessica Sharzer

* For a review of the previous episode, “Protect the Coven” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “The Seven Wonders” – click here

 


“Go to Hell” begins with a nice opening concerning The Seven Wonders. Filmed in black-and-white, looking like a genuine silent film including title cards in between scenes. Such an excellent sequence, which gives us background into the whole Seven Wonders ceremony and what it entails. It’s also a little creepy, too. Even if nothing weird is actually happening. Just a very good homage to the silent film era. On top of it all, one of my favourite classical piano pieces by Frédéric Chopin plays throughout – Nocturne in E Flat Major, Op. 9, No. 2. A great piece of music to have accompanying this sequence. As well, Fiona (Jessica Lange) comes in near the end via voice-over.
Then we’re back with her talking to Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe). But Queenie knows what the older witch is up to, that she only wants to figure out the new Supreme in order to kill her. I don’t think that has changed, at all. Best of all, Fiona calls Papa Legba a “halfbaked Beetlejuice“. I laughed aloud at this line. Such a good one from writer Jessica Sharzer. But even more fun, Fiona announces to Queenie that this coming Saturday she will perform The Seven Wonders, “or die trying“. Looks like a true competition of powers is going to go down eventually between the remaining young witches at the academy. Will Misty Day (Lily Rabe) somehow return to compete? Or will it be Queenie, Madison (Emma Roberts) and Zoe (Taissa Farmiga) in a trio head-to-head?
Cordelia (Sarah Paulson) is trying to find out about Misty. She tries to touch Madison, to make use of her second sight. However, out of nowhere Madison teleports from one side of the room to the other. Manifesting new powers, huh? Well, Cordelia tells her not to “read too much” into all that. Finally, after a bunch of back and forth, Cordelia lays a hand on Madison. But nothing comes. We know the truth, so is Madison manifesting more powers giving her the ability to block thoughts, to control the thoughts of others?
Down in the basement, Queenie is looking for Marie. She can’t seem to find Laveau anywhere, though. Then she’s back upstairs with a creepy voodo book, on its front is the symbol of Papa Legba (Lance Reddick). She lies back on the bed and chants in a foreign tongue. She finds herself back at Chubbie’s Chicken serving food again, as if gone back in time literally, not just in thought. Outside there’s a seemingly never ending lineup of people around the building, inside. And at the front? Legba himself. This isn’t hell, though. Not “the hell“, he says, but “your hell.”
I love the conversation between Queenie and Legba. It’s sinister, but also pretty damn darkly comical. Reddick and Sidibe are both talented in their own respects, and this brief scene is a lot of fun. When she makes it out of the chicken shack hell, Legba is waiting. He explains all about Marie Laveau and the immortality of both her and LaLaurie; turns out Delphine chopped Marie into pieces to toss around New Orleans. Yowzah. Always a nasty, rough customer, that Delphine.

 

Papa Legba: “Time moves differently in hell

Picture 8Perhaps a favourite scene of mine takes us back to the old stomping grounds of Madame LaLaurie, where now Delphine herself is a guide. She has a different haircut, she wears a green suit jacket and black pants looking very modern. And hilariously, Delphine is now trying to rewrite her own history and past through touring people around the house and setting people straight on the true events; though, all she does is lie. We get a nice flashback to when Delphine has a confrontation with the former tour guide – a superbly eerie moment, as LaLaurie picks up a proper tool and bashes the woman in the head; plus, a little lick of her tongue to clean some of the blood that splashes her face. I mean, what an excellent and gruesome scene! Kathy Bates is a class act and I love seeing her do horror, it’s a true treat. I always thought her performance in Misery was perfect, now she gets lots of true and disturbing horror to work with in this series.
An even better sequence happens when Queenie talks to Delphine about repentance. There’s an inclusion of lots of popular culture controversies, as Delphine is seen watching television with the likes of Paula Deen and others crawling across the screen. Awesome writing.
Then Queenie stabs LaLaurie, who starts bleeding out profusely. What happens next? The formerly immortal Delphine may finally see death, now that she doesn’t want to die anymore.
Fiona’s having her portrait painted for the academy wall. Then her nose starts to bleed out of nowhere, either from the cancer, or the cocaine. Or the cancer and the cocaine in equal amounts, who knows. She continually laments her own face, the way she looks. She’s nearing the end and all she worries about is whether or not she looks youthful. And it’s driving her towards being hateful. Only she and Cordelia have a nice little chat, which shows how much she does care about her daughter. Though, it can’t make up for a lifetime of neglect and hatefulness.
Regardless, Fiona gives her mother’s necklace to Cordelia, as a way of “saying goodbye.” Once it goes around her neck and Fiona touches her, Cordelia’s second sight returns. Only it shows her the thoughts in Fiona’s mind, the intentions – we see a massacre in the academy house, all the young witches dead, impaled, blood everywhere, even Misty returned and murdered. It’s a shocking sight, out of the blue. Even Cordelia is dead in the vision, bullet hole in her head, and Fiona is seen snatching the necklace from her neck. Returning to the light, Cordelia is now aware of what is inside Fiona, what she is really aiming at. Funny how, with the strength Fiona instilled in this scene early on, Cordelia eventually was able to realise her powers once again; all in order to figure out what her mother was actually up to. Love the irony.

 

But Cordelia has plans herself. She goes to see the Axeman (Danny Huston). She warns him about loving Fiona, how dangerous it can be for those who fall into the trap. Cordelia also saw more than just the massacre in Fiona’s head, she saw her plan to the Axeman behind, too. He is only a pawn to her, someone she can use to do her bidding, to get the dirty work done. “She used you,” Cordelia tells him bluntly. Will she try and use the Axeman to do away with Fiona once and for all?
At the same time, Cordelia’s also trying to track Misty down, unaware of her fate at the hands of Madison. Poor girl is still stuck down in that casket, singing to herself, over in the cemetery. So Cordelia takes Queenie out to the mausoleum, and the latter proves to have some more impressive powers. She hauls the coffin right out of the bricks. Yet Misty isn’t breathing. No worries: Queenie’s got this, baby. She also can resurrect the dead, it seems. Her voodoo game is strong.

When the rest of the world sees a wall, we see a window.”

 


So Misty being back doesn’t spell much good for Madison, though, the young sassy lady is not worried too much. Then out of nowhere, Zoe and Kyle show up again. Clearly not in Florida anymore. On their way they had a confrontation with some homeless guy, which ended with Kyle snapping the guy nearly in half. Most of all, they came back because Zoe displayed a new power of her own: more resurgence. Now they all seem to be able to do intense things with their powers. Better yet, Misty shows up throwing fists at Madison, ready for a real fight. They wrestle around a little while the others watch; mostly, Misty kicks the shit out of Madison.
The Axeman shows up trying to swing his axe at everyone, pissed off and threatening to kill them all. The witches send him flying. But then notice he’s covered in blood already: Fiona’s blood. In a step backwards, we see the Axeman in his apartment with her. He’s on to her now, after his visit from Cordelia. She appears completely unaware until he mentions it. And eventually it comes – the death of Fiona Goode by the hand of her jilted lover, the Axeman.
Back at the academy with the girls, the Axeman has to be punished. His original death at the hands of the academy witches is recreated, and he dies a second, horrible, bloody death. Fitting, no?

 


Then we see both Madame LaLaurie and Marie Laveau in their own hell, each bound together in their eternity in the darkness. A truly awful, disturbing end for them both. They’re forever spending time with Papa Legba in hell. The two immortals are now dead – released from the chains of life, only to serve Legba for eternity in the same room. Day after day, over and over.
After Fiona’s portrait is hung on the wall, Myrtle alerts the girls: they will all perform, as I guessed, The Seven Wonders that Sunday at dawn. The next Supreme will be revealed, for better or for worse. And some of the others will certainly die.
Stay tuned for the next episode, the finale of Coven, fittingly titled “The Seven Wonders“.

 

American Horror Story – Hotel, Episode 9: “She Wants Revenge”

FX’s American Horror Story
Season 5, Episode 9: “She Wants Revenge”
Directed by Michael Uppendahl
Written by Brad Falchuk

* For a review of the previous episode, “The Ten Commandments Killer” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “She Gets Revenge” – click here
screen-shot-2016-11-17-at-3-33-35-pmThis episode begins with Countess (Lady Gaga) explaining that “women age differently than men do,” but the kicker is, of course, as we know she’s a vampire. Here, she stares into the walled off corridor where James March (Evan Peters) had sealed Natacha (Alexandra Daddario) and Rudolph Valentino (Finn Wittrock).
Countess is convinced to build “something new” and makes it clear: “I will not be managed.” Later downstairs, she’s talking about her upcoming wedding to Will Drake (Cheyenne Jackson). She wants it small. Yet he tells her “Im a showman” and he wants a big wedding. Finally, she agrees that he will design the gown, she will get everything else taken care of. Then there’s Liz Taylor (Denis O’Hare), who Countess wants to arrange the flowers. Liz does not want any part of her: “Buy your own damn flowerrrrs.” And why would she want to help the Countess, after the Tristan incident. Alex Lowe (Chloë Sevigny) is still kicking around, serving drinks, to a highly disaffected Countess who only grows more and more disdainful about the world around her.
screen-shot-2016-11-17-at-3-34-29-pmThen Countess tracks down Rudolph Valentino at a motel. While simultaneously at home, she beds Donovan (Matt Bomer) again, screaming “I forgot how good you feel inside me.” They have a nice little bit of pillow talk. He asks that it only be him for her, forever; he needs commitment. Not in the way of just being with one person, but rather he wants to be the ONLY person she loves: “I swear it. But I wont make the same mistakes again,” she replies. Is this all a ruse on Donovan’s part? I’m sure he didn’t just switch back to loving her, did he? I imagine Ramona Royale (Angela Bassett) is lurking along the periphery of the Countess’ life, alongside Donovan. We’ll have to wait and see. For now, Donovan and Countess seem to be making a list – of who to murder.

Nice to Iris (Kathy Bates) again. She even tells the people at the front desk the “douche bag convention” is somewhere else. Proper. A couple pornstars show up with their disgusting director. Iris tells them she’ll bring up some “extra towels.” An AMAZING voice-over sequence after this, starting off with a Blue Monday cover and Iris talking about the “Sydney Pollack” of porn and how she went to see Deep Throat back in the day. She even calls herself “Dirty Harriet,” as well as gives us a little lesson on why pornography “hurts people,” what it does to the male and female psyches. Plus, afterwards she goes into the room and starts slitting throats, stabbing chests, and generally bloodying the place up. Good gore. Out of nowhere, Donovan appears. Very impressed with his mother. “You have clearly come into your own,” he tells her. Though, she warns about problems. We slip back to the Bartholomew incident, where that creepy little baby got out to wreak some havoc with its terrifying face; Iris gave up Ramona’s name to the Countess.
However, now we’re getting a bit of the real story. Donovan is definitely in love with the Countess. At the same time, he’s still looking for revenge. Will he get it? Or will the Countess figure it all out? Has she already? You can never tell fully.

Drake explains to his son Lachlan (Lyric Angel) about how the Countess understands him, gets him, all that. Then Miss Evers (Mare Winningham) shows up talking about how the Countess will only “bleed you dry“. It’s an eerie moment.


Then a flashback comes where Miss Evers talks about how she loved March. He claims that the Countess “is a creature from heaven” and tells her: “Its not your fault you were graced withdifferent gifts.” But back in the present, Will does not heed any of her warnings. Despite the fact we know the depth of the darkness into which he is about to plunge. I won’t quote her exact words because you NEED to experience them from her mouth; she lets Drake know exactly how she feels before leaving the room.
Down at the sealed, now unsealed, corridor, the Countess is trying to get a contractor to re-seal the hallway. After a bit of talk from him, March shows up to try and explain how it’ll all get done: “Make hastemuch to accomplish!” Some people don’t like Evan Peters this season. Me, on the other hand, I think he is classic. At times he’s darkly funny. Others he is downright fucking terrifying, to me. Here he shows off a few more chops, as the Countess gives him an ultimatum, of sorts.

Donovan shows up at Ramona Royale’s place. He has an offering: the pornstar guy from the hotel. But she thinks Donovan is a big “pussy” in her words. Though, for all Donovan’s love for the Countess, and all the doubts Ramona may have, he actually seems to be against the Countess. He admits his “addiction” for her. Yet then Donovan claims he slipped enough ghb in her drink to “knock out an elephant.” He further admits he can’t “pull the trigger.” At least Ramona “appreciates a man who recognises his own weakness.” They seem together, toasting on the blood of the pornstar.
Another excellent flashback to Ramona in the ’90s, running back to her father (Henry G. Sanders) in L.A. Her mother (Marla Gibbs) and father helped straighten her out. Also, there’s sadness. Her parents are getting older, forgetting things, getting sick. Then her mother died and her father went further off the deep end in his mind. Such a tragic sequence, yet gives such an amazing depth to Ramona. There’s a break-in scenario and her father ends up getting hurt badly, which sees Ramona give the gift of the ancient virus to him. I saw this coming. I still found it effective, and beautiful in a sense. Eternally sad, though, as “a diseased brain is not a broken bone” and not everything can be fixed with vampirism. We see more and more how absolutely shattered inside Ramona is, having to effectively euthanize her own father so that he wouldn’t remain “frozen in amber.”

Alex Lowe is off doing her own thing, too. Not only serving up drinks for the Countess. She spies on a house, then makes her way inside only to find a bunch of dead, bloody corpses. Further in, there are a bunch of vampire kids with Max as the leader; remember, the kid from the hospital to whom she gave her blood? A few of the kids are getting sick, probably drinking bad blood. Earlier in the episode there was a news report about homeless people dead in the city: all the kids. Some of the kids don’t want to drink, they’re feeling worse and worse. They want Alex to help. Other kids are alive and thriving, one even saying they should “off them,” y’know – “all the sickies.” Such a creepy scene, evoking lots of the creepy children aesthetic. Makes things quite tense and eerie. The kids, most of them, don’t want anything to do with Alex.


Back at the Hotel Cortez, Ramona and Donovan stand outside the Countess’ room, as she lays just inside sleeping on the bed.
Then a double cross, I think? The Countess wakes up before Ramona can sink a knife into her. Donovan tasers Ramona and takes her downstairs. Iris is upset about it all. Donovan is in love and he actually fell into the abyss, even though I imagined he was on the straight and narrow. Ramona ends up locked in one of those neon-lit cages. “Youre weak. I shouldve let you die,” Donovan tells his mother getting a slap in the face as a response. Where’s this going to lead Iris and Ramona now?
Rudolph and Countess are having drinks at the motel. Meanwhile, Natacha is off with her head full of “shopping and Uber.” I feel even worse for Donovan now because he’s fallen back for the Countess, while she’s still wrapped up in a time almost a century ago when she and Rudolph had their first great love. All the same, Rudolph hates the modern world. He is disgusted with everything in it, no “enchantment left” anywhere. Countess claims to hate the modern world even more than him and wants to turn the Cortez into a “fortress” against it. Still there’s Natacha to deal with. She loves everything out there. Somehow the Countess begins to try reeling her in, though. Sets up a girls night for them both without Rudie. Hmm.
And then, outside as she strolls away happily, there is Donovan. Will he finally see the light?
At the Cortez the wedding is about the be finished. Naturally, Liz objects with a hilarious quip: “Dont mind her. She drinks,” says the Countess. But the happy couple is proclaimed man and wife. The Countess wants to get the honeymoon started, so she plans to go get changed and get going. First, she gives over the flowers to Liz and gives off some nonsense about hoping she finds true love. Sad, to see Liz have to grin and bear it against this awful vampire of a woman.
Nice little meeting at the bar between Will Drake and James March. Very good stuff with James, having a little drink with Will in congratulations. “Heres to new worlds to conquer,” James toasts the newlywed gentleman. Even better is when March brings Will up to see Bartholomew in his black little crib. “What the hell is that thing?” Will draws back in terror after seeing the child-thing. Countess shows up and doesn’t like the “hateful things” Will has to say about little Bart: “Im going to make sure you suffer immensely,” she says before whacking him over the head.


Following this new development, Will finds himself down with Ramona. Only he’s on the floor while she stays locked up. But I’m sure he’ll be caged up right away, as soon as the Countess or March or whoever returns.
However, Drake doesn’t last long. He gets Ramona out, finds their in a sealed hallway, to which he quips: “Nobody knows were in here. Well starve.”
I wont,” replies Ramona. She then pounces on him, starts to feast on his bloody neck. Miss Evers shows up to gloat, as the Countess watches on a screen up in her room comfortably. The end.
screen-shot-2016-11-17-at-3-41-56-pmI’m interested to see who the she is in the next episode’s title, “She Gets Revenge”. Who will get it? Who will be revenged upon? Very exciting. Honestly, the haters can keep on hating this season. I’m digging it. Especially once we see more of John Lowe (Wes Bentley) next week. Curious to see where he goes now plot/character-wise after the revelation last episode that he is, for certain, the Ten Commandments Killer.
Stay tuned with me friends and fellow fans, more to come!

American Horror Story – Coven, Episode 9: “Head”

FX’s American Horror Story
Season 3, Episode 9: “Head”
Directed by Howard Deutch
Written by Tim Minear

* For a review of the previous episode, “The Sacred Taking” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “The Magical Delights of Stevie Nicks” – click here
screen-shot-2016-12-10-at-8-05-49-pmAfter the head of Delphine LaLaurie (Kathy Bates) showed up at the witches doorstep last episode, we get a chance of pace in this one.
“Head” starts off with a father and son hunting in 1991. They’re sitting at camp and having some coffee together. The father calls the son Hank – is this the young version of Josh Hamilton’s character, husband to Cordelia (Sarah Paulson)? And what exactly are they hunting here? I may know, considering Hank’s dear ole dad loads the gun up with silver bullets. Then out from the woods comes a woman in tattered clothes, dad yelling to young Hank: “Put her down!” Before he can get the job done the woman, a witch, sets fire to the grass between her and the boy. Father jumps in, killing her and reminds his son: “Never forget what they are.”
Ominous past for Hank, whose entrance into the family business of witch hunting certainly began at an early age.
screen-shot-2016-12-10-at-8-06-09-pmFiona (Jessica Lange) shows up over at the salon to see Marie Laveau (Angela Bassett). She has Delphine’s head in town in the box. Out back, the body of Delphine still stands rotting in her cage, swatting flies off her bloody neck wound. Fiona wants an alliance between the coven and Marie’s voodoo powers. But Marie believes “witch hunters is white womensworry!” There are lots of fun things happening in the dynamic between Marie and Fiona, the dual sects of witchcraft and so on.
Poor Cordelia is having a hard time as a blind woman. She and Myrtle (Frances Conroy) have a heart to heart. Myrtle worries Cordelia still might believer she had something to do with blinding her. However, she knows Myrtle would never hurt her, which is good. They need one another, especially in the new landscape of their existence with witch hunters right outside the academy’s doors.
Excellent sequence involving Hank going to see his father, Harrison Renard (Michael Cristofer). There’s “Sarabande” by Handel playing in the background, the Delphi Trust headquarters, all the witch hunting talk and much more. I love this whole aspect because I didn’t want it to simply sit in the background, as an anonymous entity Hank worked for; rather, we get a sense of an elaborate war between these hunters and the witches they pursue. And it’s not all hugely expository. We get bits and pieces from the writing which leads us to our own conclusions. They don’t go too far with it, other than to make them a viable threat and install them as a proper part of the story. Great stuff.

You havent forget what she is? What you are?”

Myrtle is having Quentin Fleming (Leslie Jordan) and Cecily Pembroke (Robin Bartlett) over to the academy for dinner. They’re thrilled to see her back, with better skin than ever, as well as very excited to hear all about Misty Day (Lily Rabe), the powerful girl hiding out in the swamps. But after a moment or two, Cecily freezes up in mid-sentence. To no surprise on Myrtle’s part. Almost as if this were planned, right? Quentin soon freezes up, too. A little “monks wood“, she tells them while they remain like statues. She has at them with a good few jabs, not for revenge, but mostly for Cordelia. Okay – a little for revenge. She uses the melon baller to scoop out some eyes.
Upstairs afterwards, Cordelia comes to and has her sight once more. The ravaged sockets where her previously muddied eyes sat, scarred skin all around them, now are beautiful and wide eyes once again. Fiona is happy to see her daughter restored, though, there’s still tension between herself and Myrtle. Luckily it seems as if Cordelia is now most concerned with the witch hunters prowling around, no longer so focused on her mother’s indiscretions and faults. Sadly, though, Cordelia no longer has second sight; her new eyes have changed all that.
We’re also privy to a nasty, gory cut-scene where Myrtle disposes of the two former Council members, chopping them to bits and throwing them into a tub of acid down in the basement. Brutal, yet amazing!

Good luck. Call the CouncilI hear theyre not seeing anyone right now.”

 


Nan (Jamie Brewer) is waiting at the hospital. She wants to see Luke Ramsey (Alexander Dreymon), but his mother Joan (Patti LuPone) won’t have any of it. When Zoe (Taissa Farmiga) and Madison (Emma Roberts) show up, Madison doesn’t want her to take that. They barge in and hear a bunch of nonsense from Mrs. Ramsey, but the witches overpower her. With reason. In addition, there’s a great little moment where Nan hears Luke talk to her, as we see him literally standing behind her, whispering in her ear. Instead of another big confrontation, we finally see Joan give in. She sings the song Nan brought up, the one Luke told her about a moment before, and then calls Nan to her side. It’s actually a beautiful scene in the end, and I have to say – great choice to have LuPone play this part, she is an amazing actor.
Contrasted with such seriousness, after this comes Queenie starting off a film festival for the stationary Delphine’s severed head: Mandingo, The Color Purple, B*A*P*S, and to start, Roots. Hilarious, brief scene. Delphine starts singing Dixieland to try and contrast the “jungle music,” as she calls it.
Then bam, we get another intense sequence – all of a sudden, Hank Foxx is plagued by a voodoo-style attack, his bones cracking, his body bleeding. Marie Laveau is not happy with what their former agreement is yielding so far, having one of the white witches show right up at her doorstep. So, even though Hank is a piece of shit, I feel bad watching him get bent and torn out of shape.
Back at the academy, Cordelia is helping Misty with some of her powers. Nice visuals with the flowers growing, the bright colours of the greenhouse in the basement, plus the look of the small garden itself. Very cool set design. Then, Hank shows up crawling back like a slug to Cordelia. He’s happy her eyes are back, of course. But who cares what he thinks, certainly she doesn’t, and nor should she at all. He is not just a cheater. He’s a god damn witch hunter! Even though she doesn’t know that full extent yet. Regardless, Cordelia is not having any of Hank and his drama.

 


Neither is Fiona. Though, she’s never had any liking for the man. She brought home an attack dog. That doesn’t last long, not after she meets Kyle (Evan Peters), who hugs the dog a bit too hard like Steinbeck’s Lenny and cracks her neck. Uh oh.
But Fiona does one better, making a real guard dog – she slightly fixes Kyle, enough to make him competent for protection, and a good game of cards.
Cut to Nan and Joan at Luke’s side in the hospital. We find out more about the dark side to Joan Ramsey. Luke discovers, in the afterlife, her father did not die by accident. Seems Luke’s dad was having an affair with another woman, someone he actually loved. Then Joan set him up to die: trapping him in his car with bees, to which he was allergic, prompting a deathly reaction. Whoa, did not expect that! Although I was sure Joan had something seriously wrong with her either way.
Hank is gearing up to lay waste to the witches. Only now his sights aren’t set firmly on Cordelia and Fiona and their coven. He’s headed directly for Marie Laveau. The guns come blazing, blood flies over the walls and the mirrors; first a shotgun blast, then Hank takes out two dual pistols. Even Queenie gets a shot in the stomach. All the while, “Oh Freedom!” is sung over top, LaLaurie’s head watching footage of civil rights marches. Queenie manages to pick up a gun and blow Hank’s head off right before he can manage to do Marie in for good. A truly incredible sequence, complete with a teary eyed Delphine and an equally sad Harrison Renard mourning his now dead son Hank.
And at the very end of this bit, Luke wakes up accusing his mother of killing his father. Then, Joan puts him back to sleep. And puts a pillow over his head, smothering him.
The finale sees Marie Laveau now show up at the academy for a chat with Fiona. What will this bring? A real alliance finally?

 


A great, great episode. The next one is titled “The Magical Delights of Stevie Nicks”. Stay tuned for a fun one!

American Horror Story – Coven, Episode 4: “Fearful Pranks Ensue”

FX’s American Horror Story
Season 3, Episode 4: “Fearful Pranks Ensue”
Directed by Michael Uppendahl
Written by Jennifer Salt

* For a review of the previous episode “The Replacements” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Burn, Witch. Burn!” – click here
screen-shot-2016-11-19-at-11-05-59-pmThis episode starts in a flashback to 1961 in New Orleans, a young boy being chased on his bike by white men in a car. Obviously something nasty is about to go down. Then we’re across town with Marie Laveau (Angela Bassett) at her shop: lots of discussion about integration in schools, John F. Kennedy, et cetera. Though, Laveau isn’t as rosy eyed as some of the hairdressers who look to the future with hope for blacks and whites living in harmony. Marie would rather go on the offensive, it appears.
And with this opening, we’re introduced to some Haitian zombie voodoo. Interesting. Well, we already know Marie can do things for immortality. Makes sense she can reanimate the dead. This is something George A. Romero would no doubt be proud of – zombies coming back from the grave to kill racist white guys. I know I love it. Then there’s great blood and gore, a guy lifted up on the bayonet of a rifle and torn apart by living dead, guts ripped from his body. Nice way to start “Fearful Pranks Ensue” – with an out n’ out bang.
screen-shot-2016-11-19-at-11-07-12-pmFinally, after Spalding (Denis O’Hare) turns up all the time in the background, specifically when Fiona (Jessica Lange) decides to kill people, we get a better look at his character. We go back to the finale of “The Replacements“, except now from the perspective of Spalding. He walks in on Fiona slitting the throat, semi-accidentally, of Madison Montgomery (Emma Roberts). So now, the aftermath comes by way of ever trusty Spalding, the silent sentinel of Miss Robichaux’s Academy. More so the sentinel of Fiona, the continually loving servant to her every dangerous and tragic whim. Denis O’Hare is an incredible character actor whose talent knows no bounds; he is always a treat, and this role begins his tenure on American Horror Story.
Then Fiona discovers Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe) – she’s been gravely wounded by the Minotaur, nowhere to be found. Cordelia (Sarah Paulson) and her mother are at odds, over everything, but they try their best to take care of Queenie. It all comes out about their respective dealings with Laveau. Regardless, among the arguments and the screaming between mother and daughter, they manage to take care of the poor girl.
Ultimately, Fiona is worn out. She’s got Delphine (Kathy Bates) lurking around on top of everything else, and now that’s pretty well out of the bag anyways with Queenie knowing. I keep feeling a pang of sympathy for Fiona. Time will tell how much that holds up on this second time around watching this season, she is not exactly a heartwarming woman.
Marie Laveau receives a package over at the shop, a big box: inside is the Minotaur’s head. Maybe Fiona isn’t as tired as she seems. Laveau is abandoning the truce set down between the witches, back when Anna-Lee (Christine Ebersole) ran the show as Supreme. So get ready for war.
Poor Kyle (Evan Peters) ain’t doing so well either. Zoe (Taissa Farmiga) found his mother at the end of last episode. Now she finds Kyle banging his head off the bathtub, bloodied from killing mom. This is such a fucked up situation. She wanders between feeling bad for him in a loving way, to wanting to kill him off so as to be done with having brought a monster back to life. It’s an awfully tense place for her to exist emotionally. Doesn’t matter for the time being: Kyle is gone. Who knows where.


Then we’re back with Hank Foxx (Josh Hamilton). Apparently he’s not too concerned with faithfulness to his wife. In a hotel, somewhere on business, he meets with a woman named Kaylee (Alexandra Breckenridge). They have a bit of rough sex. Cheater husband Hank is not who he has seemed to be, and not just in the sense of his infidelity. First, he met Kaylee online, they began a relationship from there. Second, he kills her with a silenced gun in the hotel. What’s his deal?
While her husband cheats, Cordelia is still trying to take care of Queenie. LaLaurie is grateful Queenie saved her and feels indebted, which is interesting – such a stark turn against who she once was, and still is, the fiery evil racist.
But Cordelia has bigger things to worry about than her husband, or having LaLaurie skulking around under her nose. The Council of Witchcraft shows up at their door. Myrtle Snow (Frances Conroy), Cecily Pembroke (Robin Bartlett) and Quentin Fleming (Leslie Jordan) are there for a chat. They want news on Madison, apparently. It’s come to their attention, due to Nan (Jamie Brewer) summoning them, Madison might be dead; Nan “can’t hear her anymore.” Official council inquiry is underway, everyone is questioned. If any witch killed her? “Death by fire,” proclaims Myrtle. Excitingly macabre.
This brings about some history, showing how Fiona emerged as the favourite as successor for Supreme, as well as her rivalry with Myrtle Snow. Nice flashbacks, I dig them. Turns out Myrtle is a pretty great witch herself. We get to see how Spalding ended up a mute, too. It all came about through Myrtle trying to find out what Fiona knew, back in ’71, about what happened to the Supreme. The young Ms. Snow enchanted Spalding’s tongue, so that he couldn’t tell a lie. However, she had no way of determining what was going to happen.
It all comes to light after we find out Spalding’s dedication to Miss Fiona. He cut out his own tongue, all in order to not be able to say ANYTHING; let alone tell a lie.
Even more surprising, we find out Madison had a heart murmur. This eliminates her as a possibility for Supreme: a hallmark of the reigning witch of all witches is impeccable health, in terms of no illnesses from birth (not stuff like Fiona later in life). So that came as a bit of a shocker. Especially for ole Fiona, whose eyes go wide with the revelation coming from Cordelia.
But things have certainly not gotten any better for Madison after death. While Spalding likes to keep tons of dolls around, even dressing as a baby-like, grown doll himself in the creepy upstairs room of his, poor dead Madison has been taken up there with him. Now, she is an eternal Barbie doll for Spalding to pose and play with.


The finale of this episode is even more shocking than ANYTHING ELSE so far. As Cordelia and Fiona, bonding a little closer than ever before it seems, drink at a bar together more of their relationship comes out. Fiona knows Hank is a piece of shit, Cordelia may even know this and just doesn’t want to admit it. They talk more about the next Supreme, only a tiny bit. Cordelia ends up puking in the bathroom. Worse still, an unknown, hooded attacker comes from out one of the stalls and tosses acid right in her face, blinding the eyes and savaging her face. WHO DID IT? WHO IS THE MASKED CULPRIT? MAN? WOMAN? We’ll have to wait and find out.
At the academy, Luke (Alexander Draymon) shows up to repay Nan for the cake. But at the same time, zombies start to come out and shamble towards the house. Delphine opens the door only to find her own dead family, living corpses, right there on the doorstep.
screen-shot-2016-11-19-at-11-12-42-pmAnd cue the end. Great episode! This is a two-parter episode, we’ll see its conclusion next with “Burn, Witch. Burn!” so stay tuned with me for another review.

American Horror Story – Coven, Episode 3: “The Replacements”

FX’s American Horror Story
Season 3, Episode 3: “The Replacements”
Directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
Written by James Wong

* For a review of the previous episode, “Boy Parts” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Fearful Pranks Ensue” – click here
screen-shot-2016-11-19-at-10-36-44-pmThis episode starts with a Fiona (Jessica Lange) who’s getting sicker with each passing day. She subdues all the pain with medication, prescribed and otherwise. Little drop of liquor here and there to take away the edge.
Nice flashback to Fiona’s younger days in 1971 New Orleans, during her time at the academy. Young Fiona (Riley Voelkel) has a conversation with the Supreme during her time, Anna-Lee Leighton (Christine Ebersole). We get more information about what the Supreme is, who she can be – turns out, witches can exemplify many powers at once, but that does not a Supreme make. What it takes is mastering “the Seven Wonders,” supposedly. Furthermore, we get insight into Fiona’s current life. Why she is so afraid of getting sick. It’s not just death: she is being succeeded. The stronger a new witch gets as Supreme, the more strength is zapped out of the current one. So naturally, Fiona is worried about being overtaken. Plus, Spalding (Denis O’Hare) witnesses a young Fiona kill Anna-Lee, so there’s a deep connection between them stemming from those old days. Something we’re without a doubt going to get a deeper explanation for at some point. For now, intrigue. Excellent opening.
screen-shot-2016-11-19-at-10-37-06-pmEven past the credits we’re still following along with Fiona. She is an important character. More than that, she has much to do with the storyline of this season. Ryan Murphy/Brad Falchuk & Co. are going into themes of the old relinquishing power to the young, something always evident in society from one generation to the next. So Fiona is naturally a great example of that: like some of the more ignorant Baby Boomers, for instance, she refuses to go into the long night quietly.
Watching Fiona listen to her doctor about surgery options is almost heartbreaking, except there’s already only three episodes into this season not much sympathy for her character. She seems very cold. We’ll find out more as the episodes wear on.
Then we find our way back to Zoe (Taissa Farmiga) who ends up tracking down the mother of Kyle (Evan Peters), Alicia Spencer (Mare Winningham). She’s pretty broken up about her son dying, though, a call from Zoe was able to save her life; she had her head almost in a noose at the time. Not sure how her character will work into things, but soon enough we’ll find out (I actually know because I’ve watched every season already; just playing the part for now).
Over at the academy, Madison (Emma Roberts), Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe) and Nan (Jamie Brewer) check out a handsome man moving in next door with his mother – Luke Ramsey (Alexander Dreymon) and the uptight, religious Joan Ramsey (Patti LuPone).
Inside it’s another story. LaLaurie (Kathy Bates) is their maid, weeping over Barack Obama on the television, hating having to serve Queenie, a “nigress” her food. Then eventually Fiona shows up to put things into perspective for racist Delphine: she’s now Queenie’s personal servant. Ouch for the old racist bitch.
At the same time, Misty Day (Lily Rabe) lies in bed with Kyle back at her shack. He’s been healing pretty damn well, though, the scars are evident in his skin. Still, the guy looks a lifetime better than he did in the previous episode. He doesn’t have the Frankenstein’s monster look going on anymore, just a bit of a rough exterior. Then there’s the fact he doesn’t speak much, or at all, outside of a little grunting and groaning. Kyle has a ton of rage issues, now a reanimated brain in a totally different body than he once inhabited. Of course he’s going to be slightly messed for a while.


Nan brings a cake over to the Ramsey house, along with Madison who sluts it up once they meet Luke. He seems incredibly impressed with Nan, as well as the cake. Madison, the famous stuck-up bitch, is not impressed with this at all for her part. Then mother Joan shows up, flaunting their religion at the witches. Very fun contrast seeing a bit of witchcraft dropped in contrast with the religious nature of the Ramseys. On their way out, Madison discovers a new power: lighting things on fire. Pyrokinesis. Interesting – does this mean she may start vying for the spot of Supreme? Or just a red herring?
A nice sequence cuts mother-daughter duo of Fiona and Cordelia (Sarah Paulson) back-to-back. Each of them receives bad news from their doctor, each with their respective problems – Fiona basically dying, Cordelia unable to have a child. It’s all sad. Though, I feel worse for Cordelia who only wants a regular life, but has been burdened with the fate of being a witch. It’s certainly not all that they crack it up to be in the brochure.
Reanimated Kyle is dropped back at his mother’s doorstep. But a dreadful look on Kyle’s face speaks wonders, as dear ole mom brings him inside: should Zoe have held onto him, maybe left him with Misty? We’re soon going to discover what it’ll be like for Kyle, and his mom, now that he’s back to… normal.
Distraught over the “long term effects” of Madison’s choice of dress while visiting their home earlier, Joan Ramsey talks with Fiona, who obviously does not care much. This brings the current Supreme together with Madison. Uh oh. I can see where this is headed. Just the look in the eyes, the way Fiona stares at the young and virile witch in front of her, you can tell she is up to no good calling Madison over to sit down and hang with her at the table.
The trouble for Kyle starts at home, not long after his arrival. Mom clearly has no trouble opening the shower curtain on her naked son. Then she climbs into bed with him, commenting on his body. She snuggles up to him, a little too closely, then plants a more than motherly kiss on her son. So that earlier fear we saw in Kyle when she brought him inside, it had a heavy, horrible weight to it. Something Zoe could never have known. But it’s no wonder he didn’t like what his frat brothers were doing at the party; he knows the other side of assault and rape.


Cordelia’s gotten desperate enough in the quest for fertility she finds herself over seeking the help of Marie Laveau (Angela Bassett). There’s a sly conversation between the two. Cordelia wants a fertility spell performed. We get an awesome cut to a wild sequence. It shows us the ritual – including the husband’s “baby gravy,” two ounces to be exact. Plus there’s a ton of dancing people, unbelievably hot peppers, blood, and Bassett giving her all as a shaman-like voodoo conjurer, dancing around a fire, bringing out the spirits. The entire thing is pretty awesome, maybe the best large sequence yet so far in Coven. Because it’s not the typical witches dressed in black stuff. Something more akin to Wes Craven’s The Serpent and the Rainbow than to a traditional witchcraft film. But this is only imagery: Laveau will never perform the spell on a daughter of Fiona Goode, Marie’s “sworn enemy.”
screen-shot-2016-11-19-at-10-40-11-pmElsewhere, Fiona is drawing out the powers of Madison who is oblivious to the older witch’s true intentions. Can we be sure Fiona won’t do the same thing to Madison as she once did, in 1971, to Anna-Lee?
Lots of spooky business at the academy. Queenie eats in the kitchen while LaLaurie cooks. But the old woman sees the Minotaur outside, growling and lurking in the shadows. He’s come back for Delphine, let loose by his eternal master Marie Laveau. Now, he’s laying siege to the house trying to get in, smashing his horns against the door to hopefully bust in. LaLaurie reveals herself to Queenie, her true identity, and tells her how Fiona brought her back; naturally, a strong black woman such as Queenie isn’t too impressed with this immortal racist. And yet still she tries to defend the woman, offering to have a hand at confronting the Minotaur. Outside Queenie tries talking gently to him, and lures him out into Cordelia’s greenhouse building. Instead of calming the Minotaur, she has a violent sexual encounter with him.
At the Spencer house, things with mom and son aren’t exactly right. No surprise after what we’ve seen so far. Mom is sick, she’s not only attracted to him but has a strange love for him, real romance. It’s nasty. She doesn’t expect what’s coming, though. After trying to turn him on – gross – Kyle ends up beating her to death with a trophy off his shelf. Lots of bloody flying, wet, smacking sounds against the meat of her dead body. I can’t say she doesn’t deserve it.


Speaking of unsuspecting, Madison is out on the town with the older version of herself, Miss Fiona. They’re both having a great time. Only not so much for the older of the pair, she sees how men are drawn to Madison, almost like magnets. There’s a great edit where Fiona sees Madison morph into the young Fiona, right before her eyes. Just another great instance where the editing in this series is spot on, something you can easily see throughout any given episode.
The finale was a shock to me when I first watched this one, back as it aired the first time. Now, I still enjoy it. Such a brutal and great scene between two excellent actors, each of their own generation; two strong women. Lange and Roberts compliment one another so well, this whole episode with them together is a treat, but especially at the episode’s close. I won’t spoil it any further, most of you will have probably already seen it, anyways. Just a solid finish for “The Replacements”, a full, grim circle of an episode.


Next episode is titled “Fearful Pranks Ensue“, directed by Michael Uppendahl.

American Horror Story – Hotel, Episode 3: “Mommy”

FX’s American Horror Story
Season 5, Episode 3:
 “Mommy”
Directed by Bradley Buecker
Written by James Wong

* For a review of the previous episode, “Chutes and Ladders” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Devil’s Night” – click here
screen-shot-2016-11-17-at-12-25-28-amBack for another night checking in at the Hotel Cortez.
Tristan Duffy (Finn Wittrock), former badboy model cum vampire, heads back to try and find Mr. James March (Evan Peters). He said he didn’t understand March, but now he does and is a self proclaimed “fan.” Tristan has obviously studied up on ole James, even going so far as to list off his birth date. Though, he chalks it up to Google (“That sounds obscene,” says March).
There’s comedy, dark, here in spades. At the same time most of it is creepy throughout this scene. Loved the Black Closet. Impressively morbid fun.screen-shot-2016-11-17-at-12-25-49-amWill Drake (Cheyenne Jackson) is bringing his high profile Vogue friend Claudia Bankson (Naomi Campbell) around the hotel for a tour. Naturally, they run into Tristan. Is this going to spell trouble for them, made even worse by the fact Tristan is falling into line as being an apprentice to James March? Absolutely, at least for Drake. March proclaims he can’t be allowed to “touch a single room“, so to preserve the legacy Tristan offers to take care of him saying “Dont worry, I got this.” Such a nonchalant attitude towards murder. A dark soul, that one.
Dr. Alex Lowe (Chloë Sevigny) continues to deal with the anti-vaxxer parents. One child has come down with the measles, all due to the pseudoscientific approach to parenting and medicine so many seem to be adopting in the 21st century, more and more. This is, again, a reason why I love American Horror Story in general. Ryan Murphy/Brad Falchuk & Co. always manage to work in present day issues of relevance with each season. It’s part of why I keep coming back, aside from the horror and the psychosexual thriller aspects.
Furthermore concerning Dr. Lowe, she recounts the tragedy of her son, from the way he affected her life coming into it to how devastating it was to see him go out of it. This is an incredible sequence, very intense and dramatic. I love Chloë Sevigny, even if she says some wild shit as a famous personality (I won’t go into that here; she’s said a few dumb things during her time in the spotlight). She is a great actress who is not at all afraid to take risks. Coupled with her, literally in terms of character, is Wes Bentley as Detective John Lowe. He is great, too. Always been a fan of him since American Beauty, and he keeps doing great work in each of these episodes. He and Sevigny have excellent chemistry, working well as a troubled married couple.
Oh, Claudia Bankson. I feel bad for her. She’s obviously a high class type woman. Now here she is staying at the Cortez, a hotel which may as well be a tourist stop on the Dante vacation guide. When she lays down to go to bed, poor Gabriel (Max Greenfield) emerges screaming from the mattress after having been sewn in last episode by Sally (Sarah Paulson). Even worse? He stabs Claudia to death in a mad rage. Wow. I expected her to go, just didn’t see her getting slashed so quickly into the episode. Fair enough, though. A vicious and welcomed surprise.
In another part of the city, Dt. Lowe and his partner Dt. Hahn (Richard T. Jones) investigate more work by the serial killer they’re hunting. Once Lowe arrives back at the Cortez, though, out comes Gabriel painted in blood, panting, falling into the unsuspecting detective’s arms. Another whoa moment and I dig it. Later at the hospital things get crazy – Lowe’s given little morsels of information before Gabriel dies on a gurney suggesting Sally did something to him, as well as the fact there was a murder.


But I’m genuinely worried for Will Drake. The newly vampirised Duffy is lurking around, tempting weak-willed Will with a bit of skin and seduction. Out of nowhere, The Countess (Lady Gaga) emerges to cut off Tristan’s fun.
Another interesting dynamic so far in Season 5 is the one between Hypodermic Sally and Detective John Lowe. There are several things at play in their tenuous relationship at the Cortez. First, we have Lowe as cop versus Sally the criminal. Secondly there’s Lowe as a man who is trying hard to abstain from alcohol, while Sally is – clearly – an relentless junkie. And finally we don’t know how deep Sally’s influence goes, how embedded in the hotel she truly is in terms of what her ultimate power holds.
The other team I’m loving is Iris (Kathy Bates) and Donovan (Matt Bomer), the troubled mother-son relationship. Iris is stuck at the hotel by necessity, not in terms of the supernatural like it seems Sally is trapped. She wants to be close to Donovan. On the other side of things, Donovan himself would rather be far away from her. Within all the supernatural/ghostly this is some of the solid real life drama happening among a cast of pretty kooky (though awesome) characters.

Fine, you make a list of all the ways I failed you. And you know what I say to your list? Shit on it. ‘Cause my list beats yours. Item 1: I gave you life. Item 2: I saved your life.”
I wanted to die!

More good music in this episode with “Rich Kids Blues” from Lykke Li playing over a scene where Donovan feeds on whoever he can along the streets, wandering where he pleases. Except he stumbles across someone he never expected, a woman named Ramona Royale (Angela Bassett) who immediately tasers him before he can do anything with the knife he wields.
Liz Taylor (Denis O’Hare) is always a treat to see. We’re going to find out more about her soon, I guarantee. She serves up some soda pop for Dt. Lowe, whose troubles are beginning to get worse. Meeting with Alex, she brings him divorce papers, which seem a huge surprise to him; he is devastated, actually. This is more of the solid acting from Bentley especially. He does a fantastic job with the emotional aspects of his characters, I’ve found that even in the worst of the films he’s been in over the course of his career; here, with Dt. Lowe, we’re able to see a lot of his range come out because of the insane situation he’s found himself in at the Cortez. Their situation gets murkier with each step throughout “Mommy.”
Alex wanders down one of the hallways to find a bloody Claudia Bankson standing there, mocking. Creepy enough for you? She then sees Holden down another corridor. Just what she needs after all the horrible tension and resentment happening between her and husband John.
screen-shot-2016-11-17-at-12-33-53-amUp in the penthouse, The Countess meets with Drake – “What if I told you Will Drake had to die?” she asks him. Figuratively? Literally? Either way some saucy stuff is happening in a dangerous triangle between Tristan, The Countess and Drake.
Apparently The Countess has moved on, once more. Obviously to Drake now because of his money. It’s amazing how they work Bernie Madoff into the script as the reason The Countess has depleted funds in the old life savings account. Turns out Bernie did her in, similar to Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick and many other less famous victims. So that’s a fun little modern addition. Turns out she’s now planning on marrying Will – which has begun with her trying to switch him from the gay team (seriously?) – before killing him. No wonder she stopped Tristan earlier. She needs that cash before they can feast on his delicious blood.
Possibly the most strange and shocking moment in “Mommy” comes when Sally is readying herself to shoot Iris up with heroin. Apparently Iris has decided there are no reasons left to live. Following the huge altercation earlier with her son, Iris obviously doesn’t see any point in going on (Iris: “I just dont get the joke anymore I am the joke?”). Will Sally help Iris, or is she going to do something terrible with her like she did with Gabriel, and who knows how many countless others before him?
Once the weary Donovan wakes up, he finds Ramona Royale in his face. He’s strapped to a chair by the neck. She is pumping his blood, trying to clean him out for some purpose. Then we have an amazingly executed sequence where Angela Bassett playsa very Pam Grier type character; I could not get enough of this, at all! She’s on a set very similar to something like Coffy and playing a definite homage, at certain points, to Grier. I have no doubt about that.


CAN YOU SAY HOLY FUCK? A lesbian love scene between Bassett and Gaga? I mean, that’s just unreal. But the whole sequence here is what’s worth it – they’re together, as lovers and partners, throughout decades, falling apart eventually because of The Countess’ never ending need for variety. Then it moves into Ramona and her new lover, which becomes something DEVASTATING. I won’t spoil this any further. Totally need to see it yourself.
What I’m very intrigued about now is how the relationship between Donovan and Ramona will work going forward. There’ll definitely be a lot of fun happening from here on in. Even though it seems things end between them here, I can almost certainly say we’ll find them together again soon enough.
The episode’s finish is a real gut punch, as Donovan finally comes to find love for his mother once she has died in Sally’s room. He cuts his wrist and pours blood into her mouth. Now she won’t be able to die, well at least not easily anyways according to the rules set out last episode by The Countess. An interesting last minute development in “Mommy”, which made it more enjoyable than I found most of the episode. A good one, just not as good as either of the first two.
screen-shot-2016-11-17-at-12-36-00-amCan’t wait for the next episode titled “Devil’s Night” directed by the man himself Ryan Murphy. Stay tuned and I’ll be back for another review next week, my fellow horror fans!