This edition looks at stills from American Horror Story v. movies from various genres.
CURTAINS portrays the horrific industry in which actresses must fight against one another to get roles— to the point of bloody murder!
A damning report written by Andri is leaked to the media. Captain Carlsen agrees to work with the police, despite his fears.
Grace recounts more of her relationship with Nancy to Dr. Jordan.
In 1859, Grace Marks receives a visit at the Kingston Penitentiary from Dr. Simon Jordan, a doctor of the mind. He's there to listen.
Scorsese & Lehane together as one? That's how you get a spooky, mind-bending thriller like SHUTTER ISLAND.
FX’s American Horror Story
Season 4, Episode 10: “Orphans”
Directed by Bradley Buecker
Written by James Wong
* For a review of the previous episode, “Tupperware Party Massacre” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Magical Thinking” – click here
With only a few episodes left, the freak show in Jupiter is experiencing all sorts of madness descending upon it, from Elsa Mars (Jessica Lange) and her dangerous ties with Stanley (Denis O’Hare), to Jimmy Darling (Evan Peters) who now finds himself at the mercy of the police; so, so much is happening. And still, there’s more!
This episode commences with the death of Salty (Christopher Neiman). Poor Pepper (Naomi Grossman) is devastated, clinging to his corpse on his beautiful deathbed. Paul (Mat Fraser) and Amazon Eve (Erika Ervin) try to tear her away, though, she misses him obviously. Elsa claims to know the “depth of that girl‘s soul” even if others don’t always. We get a couple very sad moments where Pepper discovers Salty dead during sleep, a stroke they assume. Such a tragic thing, to see two people who loved each other in spite of the world around them, now one of them left alone to remain on earth.
But we get more of Stanley looking for specimens, as he takes the body of Salty, chopping off its head, and sending it over to the Museum of Morbid Curiosities. Where the head is displayed next to Ma Petite, floating in a jar of formaldehyde. More of a sad end in the life of Salty.
Over at the camp, Pepper lays in bed while Desiree Dupree (Angela Bassett) reads her a bedtime story. The part-newly changed Dell (Michael Chiklis) shows up, moved by her reading the book and claiming she’ll be “a great mom someday.” He’s still a bad guy, but to see this shift in him is a bit incredible. For all the terribleness that is Dell, he still cares for Desiree, as well as seems to have started caring for the freaks around him after finally admitting that he, essentially, is just as much a freak. Inside the tent, Pepper cries while Desiree has to leave to prepare for the night’s show.
Elsa and Desiree have a drink together, talking a little about Pepper’s dilemma. Further, they chat about Elsa’s new move off to Hollywood, or at least what Elsa believes is her coming big break. Will Stanley, a.k.a Richard, do anything for her? We’ll see. For now, we get more flashbacks into the life of Elsa Mars and her first days in America playing in a group from Boston. Soon enough, though, Elsa found her niche, proclaiming the circus owners as “morons” and saying they couldn’t “see the future.”
But Elsa could. She understands entertainment, what people want, what they crave, even the darker things. “Most people don‘t see beauty in someone like Pepper. They see shame, they see human garbage,” Elsa tells Desiree. This is where she arrived at an orphanage to find Pepper alone in a corner, playing with blocks by herself. Such a touching scene, highly emotional to see Elsa connecting with Pepper in those first beginnings of their long relationship/casual friendship. She was Elsa’s “first monster,” one who made her feel real and unconditional love for the first time, as well. Moreover, Elsa saw the maternal instincts in Pepper grow, but knew she couldn’t have children.
Then came Ma Petite (Jyoti Amge), who satisfied the curiosity of Elsa, and also helped to quell the maternal longing of Pepper. What a beautiful sequence where we see the origins of these freak show relationships! Such fun to see Ma Petite back, too. Even when she’s traded for 3 cases of delicious Dr. Pepper into Elsa’s arms. But, although Petite became a part of a carnival of so-called freaks, she was let off the leash to which she’d been held by the Indian prince, and so I say: good. One of the most emotionally challenging and intense sequences out of this season, as we get this really romantic and nostalgic sort of thing happening throughout these scenes. Especially after Salty is first introduced to Pepper, and they fall in love at first sight! They have a nice carnival wedding, officiated by Elsa and flowers tossed around by the sweet little Ma Petite. Definitely a favourite overall from Season 4 Freak Show, with an extended sequence stretching out a bit. This gives more depth to the other characters. It also makes Elsa a little more human, regardless of her terrible faults.Still, Desiree suggests maybe Pepper’s sister may take her back in now that she’s older, not eighteen and hard to handle anymore. But, as we know, Pepper later ends up in Briarcliff during Season 2 Asylum. Are we to see that transition in this season, better yet in this episode?
Maggie Esmerelda (Emma Roberts) receives Desiree and Angus T. Jefferson (Malcolm-Jamal Warner) in her tent, looking for a reading of their future. Shyster Maggie shows off her skills, or at least her skills of excellent perception; pretending to look at the crystal ball, only gleaning facts about him from looking at his shoes, his coat, et cetera. She feeds them both a good line of bullshit, as they lap it up eagerly, loving on one another. But then Maggie’s own feelings work into the reading, talking about how their perfect little little will go “all to shit.” Because that’s life. They have no time for her nonsense, even Angus claiming he’s a “God–fearing Christian” who doesn’t believe reading the future is possible. Yeah, like he didn’t love it before that.
Outside, Maggie and Desiree have a confrontation. Then Maggie reveals: she and Stanley are “on the grift,” and they’ve been working together since 1941. A little flashback to Maggie’s days grifting as a young sneak selling papers, supposedly, as a boy. Stanley yanks her out of trouble, then makes her his partner; for a bad price on her part. Maggie is upset, but Desiree knows there’s something nasty afoot on their part, and threatens the younger woman – if she finds out anything happening at the carnival, the freak deaths, has something to do with her and Stanley, there will be hell to pay.
In her tent, Maggie is awaited by Bette and Dot Tattler (Sarah Paulson). They want her to do right by Jimmy. They have money to pay for a lawyer, so he won’t “turn out like Meep,” which finally frightens Maggie into helping. Or at least so it seems.
At Jimmy’s cell, up turns Stanley. He says he’s there to help and knows exactly how Jimmy feels. He reels off a story about losing his mother, being an orphan. Is it more sleek sales pitch, or is it real? I doubt that. Jimmy doesn’t remember killing those women in his drunken rage. Though, he can’t be sure. He had a long blackout. “I didn‘t kill them. Did I?” Jimmy asks Stanley. The latter says he has an attorney for Jimmy, one who wants a retainer. Stanley is greasing his way towards something: what is it? He says he has an idea on how to “raise the funds”, after which we get a flip-screen shot zooming in Jimmy’s hands. NO! Is Stanley going to do what I think he’s out to do? Will he convince Jimmy to cut the hands off? Will Jimmy die? Oh, man. I can’t handle that.
In tent city, Desiree is busy cooking for all her fellow freak family. She and Maggie are still flitting around each other. Maggie wants to help Jimmy and tries to gain Desiree’s trust: “Everyone in this entire camp will be dead soon if you don‘t listen to me,” Maggie tells her.
Mare Winningham returns to the Ryan Murphy-Brad Falchuk universe as Pepper’s sister, Rita Gayheart. She seems a very prim, proper type, an upper class housewife in the 1950s with a nice hairdo, high heeled shoes, and a drink during the afternoon with a little cherry in it. Elsa doesn’t want to leave her there evidently, but seems to believe it’s best for Pepper. Rita, for her part, is not too interested. Especially seeing as how her husband has no idea Pepper exists. “Pepper is a gift,” Elsa says and tries to express how Pepper needs someone now, after suffering “great losses.” More emotions flow again now, as Elsa says a teary goodbye to her friend, her companion Pepper, who also shows that she will miss her. But the trouble has only begun for dear Pepper.
In other news, Maggie brings Desiree to the museum where Stanley unloads all his freak bodies and body parts. Sad to watch Desiree walking around, seeing Ma Petite and Salty in their jars, dead and gone. Right as they’re moving around from one exhibit to another, up shows a new exhibit: lobster hands. Maggie faints, but is this real? ARE THOSE JIMMY’S FUCKING HANDS?
Before figuring it all out, we snap back to Rita who is with a familiar face: Sister Mary Eunice McKee (Lily Rabe). What a treat! I love Rabe, and her presence in the American Horror Story universe is incredible, as always. We’re flashing to 1962, at Briarcliff, where Rita talks about how she finally got pregnant after not thinking she could get pregnant. Unsuspectingly, Rita has a child. Only the baby was slightly deformed, and later little baby Lucas became more of a problem.
Rita claims Pepper was helping out with the infant. Though, we get shots of Pepper trying to do so while Rita lies drunk in bed calling for “another martini.” In Season 2 Asylum, we heard Pepper supposedly murdered the baby, cutting its ears off or something similarly nasty. Here, we see the truth. Rita was a mess, her husband Larry Matthew Glave) was possibly molesting Pepper. The baby was left mostly to Pepper, who is accused by Rita as being a murderer. Yet in reality, Larry and Rita want the baby gone; he leads things, but she certainly doesn’t try to stop him. They concoct a little scheme to have the baby gone, to have Pepper gone, too. Larry asks his wife: “What if I had a way to kill two birds with one stone?” I won’t say any more. But this whole sequence is very morbid, frightening, and entirely too sad. Pepper’s tragic history is a weepy one, no doubt. Which left her rotting in the hell-hole that is Briarcliff Asylum.
At the hospital, the snake pit, Sister Mary Eunice makes Pepper her “special project.” And while sorting magazines there, Pepper sees a Life Magazine from 1958 with Elsa Mars on it, calling her the Queen of Friday night television.
What a beautiful and painful episode, all at once.
Looking forward to reviewing the next one, “Magical Thinking”.
FX’s American Horror Story
Season 2, Episode 12: “Continuum”
Directed by Craig Zisk (Weeds, Nip/Tuck)
Written by Ryan Murphy
* For a review of the previous episode, “Spilt Milk” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Madness Ends” – click here
Starting off back at the Walker house, Kit (Evan Peters) finds himself bloody, axe in hand, being called for by his child. Has he gone and actually murdered someone this time?
Who knows. Was it a dream?
Cut back to Grace (Lizzie Brocheré) stuck at her drawings, trying to recreate the aliens who took them, alongside Alma (Britne Oldford) who seems to be doing all the cooking/et cetera. Kit is obviously involved with protests of some sort, marching, “fighting the good fight.” While it’s not exactly an unhappy home, at all, there’s still an aspect about it that isn’t quite right. Particularly, Alma is worried about Grace’s fixation on the aliens; Kit passes it off, but Alma wants him to spend more time with her, to try and placate those worries of her own. Either way the entire situation is strange, two wives, one husband, two babies.
Then comes an attack on the house. At first, Alma believes it’s the aliens coming back for them. However, it’s only Billy Marshall (Joe Egender) and the rest of the local redneck idiots. Sadly there’s no real big help from police, as they’re more worried about Kit’s apparent polygamy than anything that might happen to him or his family.
I thought there was a great Amityville Horror vibe going at times here in the opening 10 minutes or so, from the beginning sequence with Kit appearing to have killed somebody in the living room by axe, to the quick cuts while Alma and Grace argue together back and forth with shots of Kit chopping wood. There’s definitely a bit of that film’s influence in these moments, I have no doubt.
Must say, I was surprised: Kit tries to do his best after Alma chops Grace to death with the axe. Incredible how the script loops things back around in that sense, playing with our expectations. Great stuff from Murphy and director Craig Zisk.
Back at Briarcliff, Jude (Jessica Lange) plays cards with Pepper (Naomi Grossman) and others at one of the tables. In strolls cock of the walk Monsignor Howard (Joseph Fiennes) to talk with Jude; he’s leaving the asylum for an appointment as Cardinal in New York. What a crock of shit, hey? The typical religious way: failure or outright incompetency, in massive and fatal ways, often means a promotion in the Roman Catholic Church’s hierarchical, bureaucratic farce of an organization.
Though, he wants Jude to be released, she starts to have trouble when a woman looking much like the Angel of Death (Frances Conroy) shows up as a new inmate; Briarcliff is now an overflow facility. This begins to threaten her pending release. Thrown in a cell with this woman, things get tense and Jude starts to slightly unravel once again.
She starts to lose time. Suddenly there are two years or so gone, Howard has been Cardinal for that time. Even poor Pepper is dead. There’s no end to Jude’s madness now, unfortunately. Honestly, this whole bit is slightly muddled and while I like it, the writing is surprisingly sloppy for Murphy, of whom I’m usually a fan in terms of this series. He is a good writer, I just find this section of this episode a bit lazy. Still, I love the tragedy of Jude anyways.
Cue up some Lana Winters, 1969, as her book is on the bestseller list for ten weeks – Maniac; One Woman’s Story of Survival. She proudly gives a reading at a bookstore for a group listening intently to every word, each syllable. Lana laps it up. She also puts things in the book which never happened, even Ms. Winters herself sees Oliver Thredson (Zachary Quinto) chastise her from the crowd, as well as her lover Wendy (Clea Duvall) who she passes off in the book as merely a friend and roommate.
While Lana is clearly an admirable character, she survived so much and fought so viciously well, there’s a dislikable quality to her in these scenes at the bookstore. Worst of all, not everything Lana promised to Kit happened, she didn’t fully take Briarcliff down but merely stained its reputation and turned it into a snake pit.
Things change slightly once Kit reveals to Lana that Jude is still alive within the depths of the horror that is Briarcliff, but Lana is hardened. Ultimately she doesn’t care much about what happens to Jude, Kit, or anyone else, not anymore.
With a great natural edit we switch back to Johnny Morgan (Dylan McDermott) whose quest has led him into a bookstore, searching out a copy of Maniac by his long lost mother Ms. Lana Winters. This scene is extraordinarily creepy. He faces off against an old woman – her mother owned a copy of it – and there’s some real nasty exchange of dialogue, getting creepier by the second. I love how it ended, as Johnny doesn’t even get violent, he lays out what he’s going to do concerning his mother. Then he asks, semi-angrily/politely, for her to hand over the book, which she does quickly, trembling all over. Nice finish.Good episode in some respect, though, again I think part of it was a bit sloppy on the writing. I did love the bit with Johnny Morgan at the end and I loved the whole opening 10-15 minutes, that was real masterful television.
The next episode and finale of Season 2 Asylum, “Madness Ends”, is up next. The episode is directed by series regular Alfonso Gomez-Rejon. Stay tuned and I’ll be finishing up this second season before moving onto the next!
FX’s American Horror Story
Season 2, Episode 11: “Spilt Milk”
Directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
Written by Brad Falchuk
* For a review of the previous episode, “The Name Game” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Continuum” – click here
The beginning of this aptly titled episode, “Spilt Milk”, gives us one of the more disturbing bits this season. Johnny Morgan (Dylan McDermott), a.k.a young Bloody Face, has a prostitute come over to his place and breastfeed him. I mean, did Oliver (Zachary Quinto) pass everything on, or did he pass everything on? God damn. To each their own, but compounded with the fact Johnny likes to murder people, particularly he’s got a problem with women, he’s also got a breast milk fetish, a fixation. All in all, he is one awfully messed up dude.
Great, nasty open to one of the final trio of episodes left in Season 2 Asylum!
Kit Walker (Evan Peters) is continually being manipulated, still, by Dr. Thredson. Kit gets to go see Grace (Lizzie Brocheré) and his newborn baby, Thomas, though it’s not long. Even more than that, poor Pepper (Naomi Grossman) gets to talk but she doesn’t get much else, ushered off at Thredson’s orders for some archaic hydrotherapy, y’know – 1960s style.
So while Kit, Grace and their boy get to have a little time together, a slight few rays of happiness, there is still darkness cast over everything. Most of that is Thredson, trying to grasp onto anything which will allow him more power.
Then there’s the fact Grace was taken away, somehow brought back to life. She saw the “bright lights” we all hear about so often. But these lights were different, they were those creatures, the alien life forms. She came back pregnant with Kit’s child.
There’s an amazingly trippy sequence where Grace floats in this empty darkness, also in a pool of water. It’s creepy and sort of has this wide, isolated feeling, like she was just lost in nowhere. Brief few shots yet highly effective and interesting.
Oh, and Kit proposed pretty suddenly. That happened. Right before Monsignor Howard (Joseph Fiennes) shows up with Sister Colette (Tacey Adams) who intends to take the baby to a home for lost children. Thredson turns up for a little gloating, just to rub it in Kit’s face.
Mother Superior Claudia (Barbara Tarbuck) surprises Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson) with documentation of everything on record that happened to her while at Briarcliff. The faithful nun, listening to what Sister Jude (Jessica Lange) had told her previously, helps Lana to get out of the asylum; into a cab and speeding away.
Love the split-screen sequence here, as Thredson and Kit talk while Lana comes down the stairs on her way to escape with Mother Superior. It’s great how Kit helps Lana, in their silent understanding in passing; the double shot of Lana’s face is perfect. Nothing beats the moment when Thredson sees Lana in the cab, tape of the confessions against the window and middle finger to boot.
This leads directly to a scene between the two, back at Oliver’s place where Lana is waiting, police on the way. Brilliant acting from both Sarah Paulson and Zachary Quinto – tense and nastily fun moments abound.
There’s an amazing cut (which could’ve easily been done naturally with connected sets) taking us through to the present again where Johnny Morgan sucks on the prostitute’s milky breast, coming off with a mouthful. Another cut returns us to Thredson’s living room. Just downright excellent filmmaking on television (can I say that? you know what I fucking mean). This whole section, back and forth from past to present, it really makes the scene between Oliver and Lana become even more weighty, the intensity bearing down on us until – BAM!… I won’t ruin it for you, if you’ve yet to see it.
With Ms. Winters out, Briarcliff gets hammered with vicious criticism in the papers and comes under scrutiny for employing Bloody Face. At the same time, Monsignor Howard is having trouble keeping Jude quiet as she raves at him, stuck there rotting as a patient – better yet, inmate. She is disgusted with his refusal to accept the sin he committed, giving his flesh to the devil in (the now dead) Sister Mary Eunice (Lily Rabe). He can’t take it anymore.
It’s terribly tragic the lengths to which Howard goes to in order to secure his job, his life, his so-called legacy. I’m not going to spoil this either, so later in the episode near the end this will play out: be prepared for sadness.
Best of all, though, in the scuffle at the asylum after Lana breaks her story: Kit is able to leave and go free. Furthermore, he uses the death certificate made out for Grace (by Arden when she’d been presumed dead) to secure her release from Briarcliff; they also manage to get their son back and find a way to be a family.
Back at the old Walker homestead, Kit and Grace bring their boy home to a messy, beat up place from long before when Kit was thrown in the asylum. Regardless, they’re happy to be away from all the madness.
Or are they? Turns out Alma Walker (Britne Oldford) is back. Even better than that: she has a baby.
Speaking of babies, Lana has tracked down a woman willing to help perform an abortion on her, to get rid of the evil spawn inside her. She explains her situation, gets herself prepared for the procedure… but just can’t do it.
“No more death,” Lana says.
Naturally we had to expect this, as Johnny Morgan – Bloody Face II – has already shown up in the present time frame. Though, it is a truly full-blooded horror scene. Great psychological stuff going on, perfect editing with quick and appropriately disorienting cuts.The end of the episode is highly fitting, returning us to Johnny Morgan’s problem with women, his longing for a breast on which to feed, as Lana begrudgingly lets baby Johnny suckle at her own for milk; all the while clenching her fists, hating each moment. So there’s an incredible cyclical movement to this episode, I love it.
The next episode is “Continuum”, the penultimate episode of Season 2 Asylum, and is directed by Craig Zisk (credits include Shameless, Nip/Tuck, NYPD Blue, Weeds, and much more).
Stay tuned for the next one back here at FatherSonHolyGore!
FX’s American Horror Story
Season 2, Episode 9: “The Coat Hanger”
Directed by Jeremy Podeswa (True Detective, The Borgias)
Written by Jennifer Salt
* For a review of the next episode “The Name Game” – click here
* For a review of the previous episode, “Unholy Night” – click here
In current day, we’re treated to the return of Dylan McDermott as Johnny Morgan.
He meets with Dr. Gardner (Brooke Smith) for some therapy. Johnny wants to try to get better, he has “impulses” – scary ones. Though he makes nothing perfectly clear at first, soon it’s obvious he killed animals as a young boy – it made him feel wonderful. Now he doesn’t harm animals; he grew up. But into what has he grown? There’s a very tense air between Johnny and his doctor.
Tense air which turns vicious. I’m LOVING McDermott being back. Especially in juxtaposition with his role in the first season, this is a dark, dark turn on his part. You see, his name isn’t Morgan – it’s Thredson. He is the son of Bloody Face.
Wait, what? The son? But that means….
Damn I am just all over the beginning to “The Coat Hanger.” Plus, you’ve got to imagine, what could that titular coat hanger be alluding to? Starting the episode out with the bombshell concerning Dr. Oliver Thredson (Zachary Quinto) somehow having a son – wait to see where THAT leads – it’s interesting this episode is titled as it is— very suggesting.
Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson) is now with child. The news comes saucily from the devil within Sister Mary Eunice (Lily Rabe). Are we getting how important this episode’s title is with more context?
Oh my, how vicious. Worst of all, it’s clear Satan – via Mary Eunice – is going to let that child make its way into the world. Because why not, may as well have another little antichrist running around, cutting people up, as is evidence by watching the present day opener with little grownup Johnny Morgan/Thredson.
After trying to kill Leigh Emerson (Ian McShane) in the last episode, Sister Jude (Jessica Lange) wakes up in bed with Monsignor Timothy Howard (Joseph Fiennes) hovering above her. He recounts what’s happened – she’s being framed for the killing of Frank McCann (Fredric Lehne), which Sister Mary perpetrated. Furthermore, it’s all being compounded through everything from Mother Superior Claudia (Barbara Tarbuck) recounting Jude’s tale of demonic possession at Briarcliff, to Leigh Emerson’s concocted tale of what happened during the Christmas shindig, and so on.
Poor Jude. This is comeuppance for all the bad things she’s done, but far too much. She deserves a good reprimand for how she handled inmates at Briarcliff, though, Jude does not deserve being imprisoned in that hateful place under the care of Dr. Arden and Sister Mary Eunice. Even Howard has now left Jude behind, Mother Superior too it seems as of now (because of the manipulation by Arden and Mary), so she’s up shit’s creek.
Even worse, Leigh Emerson feigns remorse, wanting to repent and become a good soul in the eyes of God. Yeah, right. Can we believe this at all? Bad things shall happen again soon at the asylum.
Though I’m not religious, I do feel bad for Monsignor Howard. He’s starting to go head to head with Sister Mary Eunice – a.k.a Satan
hisher grand self. There’s nothing at all positive awaiting him at the end of this road. She’s already playing at him, teasing and poking, prodding like he’s a tiny little creature in her wake.
While Sister Jude starts to rot away already, naturally as she is being framed so heavily, Howard brings Leigh in to talk with her. A part of his repentance, I suppose. He offers her forgiveness for what she did to him.
Another flashback to ’63 when Jude doled out some corporal punishment on Emerson, who it seems had some sort of relations with one of the nuns. Then back to present day, as Leigh actually kisses Jude on the forehead. It’s unbelievable the psychological torture she’s now being subject to at the hands of EVERYONE around her. Poor, poor Jude.
Lana found the coat hanger. She went to her room, poised to do a homemade abortion. But nothing more is shown
A little later, she gets to see Kit Walker (Evan Peters). Last episode at the end, she survived her encounter with Thredson and they ended up tying him, hiding him in one of the unused rooms of Briarcliff. Now they need him in order to get Kit free from his crimes.
Lana reveals to him the pregnancy. She also tells him he won’t be a father because now? She’s performing the abortion via coat hanger right there and then. Or is she?
She makes him tell her about his crimes. Bloody Face confesses to his murders, so they can.. bond, or something. Who knows with Oliver, that sad mommy’s boy who never got to be mommy’s boy.
TOO BAD FOR OLIVER – the confession was recorded, Kit hiding out of sight with a recorder, and so sad for him the abortion was performed already! A bloody mess for the son of Bloody Face.
Yet we already know, supposedly, that Johnny Morgan/Thredson – the new Bloody Face of present day – is alive. So, we shall see what happens from now until the end of Season 2.
Kit hides the tape of Thredson’s confession, however, Dr. Arden walks in on him. It doesn’t appear he cares much about the tape, though. They go back to Arden’s office for a “special occasion“, which sees him break out some smokes and fine liquor. Very strange, seeing Dr. Arden/Hans Gruber be friendly.
He tells Kit he’s seen the “little green men“, but of course “they‘re not green, are they Mr. Walker?” Arden says slyly. What Arden believes is that the aliens are experimenting, in eugenics he says (of course he’d say that the fucking Nazi), and that the aliens are in some way protecting Kit; that if he brought Kit to the edge of death, they would come to find and protect him, “their specimen.”
This is a strange and tenuous bond between Arden and Kit. Highly weird and at the same time interesting. I can’t wait for more with them, to see where the alien subplot goes. Some didn’t find this angle of the season interesting, I do because while I’m a sceptic I would LOVE if aliens/things not of this world were actually real. Plus, the Nazi-alien dynamic is something we’ve not got a lot of good instances of in film or television. Ryan Murphy and the writers solve that.
Oh, Leigh Emerson is still trying to be saved by the Lord. He tells Monsignor Howard he wants redemption. In a ceremony with only the two in attendance, the Monsignor offers him a baptism in the name of Christ. Everything goes wonderfully, as Leigh is dunked back into the water, given new life in the arms of the church and God alike.
But, yes, you guessed it – Leigh’s got some better, more nasty ideas. He and the Monsignor have a little wrestle in the water, the latter getting his own dunk now and held under. Leigh obviously doesn’t care, as I thought, about religion. He simply wants to give Howard more of the terror which he is SO GOOD at handing down. The unfortunate man ends up crucified right up on the cross like Jesus, living yet barely hanging on.
When Lana goes down to kill Oliver, seems Dr. Bloody Face has escaped his ties. Turns out the devilish Sister Mary Eunice let him out. WHOA! Satan really plays hardball. No doubt.
Creepiest scene goes to the one between these two, as Mary puts her hand against Lana’s stomach and feels the STILL BEATING HEART of the Bloody Face child beginning to grow inside her. What a brutal shock for Lana and the audience! Doesn’t surprise me the devil can do that, but it’s a rough way for Lana to find out because it must be confusing; she has no idea Satan is creeping around inside the young, delicate nun.
Saddest scene has to be when Sister Jude shows up in the recreation room, as Lana watches her shuffle in. I just feel beyond terribly for Jude, though, she seems to feel awful about what she did to Lana, admitting nothing that was done to her wasn’t something she didn’t do in her time as head of Briarcliff. And while Lana does have her fair share of anger for Jude, they do have a bit of an understanding.
Lots of changing relationships here in this episode, which I find awesome! Switches things up in a fun way, as we can see now Lana and Jude are becoming friendlier with Jude understanding life as a patient/prisoner there at Briarcliff.
Back to Arden and Kit. The doctor plans to essentially kill Kit, then revive him with adrenaline and a sharp punch to the chest, all in order to try and bring the aliens down to save the young man. Each with their own worries and apprehensions, the experiment begins. VERY COOL AND CREPY MOMENTS! Love how the alien scenes are shot, it stays consistent throughout the various directors of Season 2; another reason this is a series that has a great overall layout and vision.
Another thing I don’t mention enough is the camerawork, in the sense of how I love the way American Horror Story has this ominous and unsettling cinematography in tons of scenes using low and high angles. It throws us off, unsettles, as well as forebodes with the skewed framing at both low/high angles and creates this very cool, unique effect other shows do not use. Amazing horror technique, in my opinion.
GRACE IS BACK! Pepper (Naomi Grossman) has also returned, having disappeared awhile back under the radar. Turns out, Grace is also pregnant and Pepper somehow talks perfectly. THE ALIENS – THEY’VE RETURNED!
Wow. This part blew me away, I was never expecting this at all. Can’t wait for more of this next episode.
Another great one, a favourite of mine in this season. Next up is “The Name Game” directed again by Michael Lehmann who last directed “Unholy Night”.
Stay tuned for more madness, aliens, horror, blood, and SAVAGERY!
FX’s American Horror Story
Season 2, Episode 7: “Dark Cousin”
Directed by Michael Rymer (Hannibal, Queen of the Damned)
Written by Tim Minear
* For a review of the next episode, “Unholy Night” – click here
* For a review of the previous episode, “The Origins of Monstrosity” – click here
In the opening to this episode, as Grace Bertrand (Lizzie Brocheré) is seemingly about to die in a bed, two nuns discovering her bleeding everywhere all over herself, we get the WONDERFUL FRANCES CONROY returning to American Horror Story. She is the Angel of Death; that’s right, the Angel of fucking Death. in she swoops to kiss Grace, however, one of the nurses pounds her in the chest to spring her back to life. Sadly, it’s apparent Grace would’ve rather died.
Dr. Arthur Arden (James Cromwell) and his sassy partner Sister Mary Eunice (Lily Rabe) have a little chat. She chastises him for botching the sterilization on Grace. However, he claims not to have performed any such operation. She says “all of her lady parts have been scooped out.”
What’s most wild about this scene is how Arden gets physical with Mary. She warns he’ll die next time, throwing him across the room and into the wall.
An inmate named Miles (Tongayi Chirisa) sits in the bakery listening to the voices in his head spit vitriol through his brain. He’s had enough, as they egg him on. All of a sudden, he asks to try and fix the meat slicer, as it looks to be slicing too thin, he says. The voices scream at him until he lays his wrists down into the slicer’s blade.
The shocker comes when Sister Mary Eunice comes down to see an ancient Aramaic word scrawled across the white tiled wall of the bakery. Mary asks Miles sternly: “Did you summon her?” Hmmm. Would that be Satan ad the Angel of Death having a little interfamilial trouble? Perhaps. We will most definitely see.
Certainly, as Miles gets locked away by the guards and finds himself alone in a tiny cell, the Angel of Death comes to him, offering her kiss: that of Death. Love the BIG WINGS which protrude out of Frances Conroy’s back; the imagery is incredible, as well as the entire costuming she has going on, all of the black, very 1950s-ish.
Plus, fashion aside, there’s an excellent meeting between the cousins: Satan and the Angel of Death. Two amazing actors going back and forth, all sorts of good stuff especially once the real Sister Mary breaks through a moment before SATAN
HIMHERSELF rises up to stuff her back down into the dark recesses of her own soul. Just can’t get enough of this whole bit.Dr. Arden goes to visit Grace, mostly in order to not have to take a fall for her botched hysterectomy. All the while, Kit Walker (Evan Peters) is fighting to try and get his case heard; he’s now told about Grace, that she may not make it through the night with her injuries and infection. A lawyer lays out Kit’s case pretty plainly, not doing much to help other than progressing forward trying to say it’s best to go for an insanity plea, to say he doesn’t know right from wrong. Ironically, Kit jumps up and cracks him over the head, knocking him out behind his desk then runs off.
Disgustingly we’re treated to a scene of Oliver Thredson (Zachary Quinto) thrashing on top of his surrogate mommy, Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson), who fades off and sees the Angel of Death off at the peripherals of her vision. She seeks THE KISS slightly, feeling as if “death might be better” and that she used to be scared of it, but not any longer. Though right on the verge, Lana stops short of the kiss saying “not yet”. This is probably the biggest testament to her power as of yet, over anything else which came before. She willingly heads back into the situation.
Following quickly, Oliver descends upon her very angry. He feels as if the’ve reached an impasse, there’s nowhere to go except MURDER for Lana. But he claims to wish to make it as painless as possible for her; y’know, painless death.
This begins a savage fight for survival. Great fight and chase sequence here, as Lana manages somehow to escape the lair of Dr. Bloody Face. She runs out into the road where a car eventually stops to pick her up. The driver (William Mapother) is immediately quite an edgy man, accusing her of probably doing something to her boyfriend. He’s obviously got his own mommy issues, women issues in general, raging on about his own personal life, his wife cheating on him, et cetera. Then in the back of the car, the Angel of Death appears. Lana watches as the driver blows his own brains out and the car goes smashing down.
What might be one of the most cruel twists so far sees Lana back at Briarcliff, Sister Mary Eunice standing over her, stuck in a head brace and the whole getup. She’s back in a bed, right at home once more within those hideous walls.
Back to Sister Jude (Jessica Lange) who has discovered Sam Goodman (Mark Margolis) bleeding out on the floor with a piece of glass in his neck. Knocks at the door come, she sees blood on the television saying MURDERER with newspaper articles about the girl she killed in a hit and run; are they there, or simply images in her own mind?
She has a major flashback to her old days in 1949, as a singer, a serious alcoholic. Intense, desperate, sad scene for Jude whose further flashes to the night she killed the girl keep coming back, over and over. There’s some excellent little black-and-white bits here that I found incredibly effective. There’s this bit where we get an almost Oliver Stone-like feel to certain shots, of which I’m a big fan.
Now Jude is being framed for the death of Goodman. Sister Mary Eunice finally reveals herself to Jude, who remembers Jed Potter and the exorcism, what happened to the young nun as the presence left that boy. This all puts Jude in a terrible way, an awful state, back on the booze and yet knowing all the TRUTH but feeling powerless to do anything about it.
What does she do? Tries to commit suicide by opening her veins in the bathroom at a diner.
OR NOT. Tricked us. “Nothing but a passing thought,” Jude tells the Angel of Death out in a booth at the diner. Luckily the angel says she doesn’t judge, she merely comes and takes; never judging, only doing the job. Even more of Jude’s character comes out here and it’s so crushing to hear parts of her former life, how bad it was for her, what led her down a path of alcoholism and doubt. Solid scene, though, seeing Jessica Lange and Frances Conroy back together again, quite unlike Season 1 yet still impressive.
Jude goes to see the parents of the girl she killed in the hit and run years ago. It’s quite a tense, almost awkward yet touching scene. Until we figure out there’s been more going on with Jude’s memories.
Apparently little Missy Stone – all grown up now – (Kristin Slaysman) with the blue coat all those years ago, the one she’d run down, is still alive. Part of this makes her thankful, at the same time she still ran the girl down. It still happened, just didn’t kill her. So… relief, but never relieved.
Lana reveals to Sister Mary Eunice that Dr. Thredson is in fact Bloody Face. Of course, this is in no way a good thing. Certainly, Satan already knew that Bloody Face was Oliver.
It’s more terrible when Mary reassures a frantic Lana: “No one knows that you‘re here.” Not exactly what Lana wanted to hear in the sense which Mary tells her; Satan surely wants to keep her closed up and out of sight.
Kit Walker comes into Briarcliff through the tunnels of death, finding Grace to try and escape. As they attempt to break free, Arden’s latest monstrosity shows up and tears apart a nun. In the whole fiasco, Grace takes a bullet in the chest when Frank McCann (Fredrich Lehne) is aiming for Kit. The Angel of Death shows up for her, and finally, as she says: “I‘m free.”
What a whopper of a finale to this episode!
Next is “Unholy Night” – directed by Michael Lehmann (Dexter, Californication, Tyrant). One of my ALL-TIME FAVOURITE American Horror Story episodes.
Stay tuned, friends and horror hounds alike!
FX’s American Horror Story
Season 2, Episode 6: “The Origins of Monstrosity”
Directed by David Semel (Hannibal, The Strain)
Written by Ryan Murphy
* For a review of the next episode, “Dark Cousin” – click here
* For a review of the previous episode “I Am Anne Frank: Part II” – click here
“The Origins of Monstrosity” begins as a voice tells a 9-11 operator there are bodies at Briarcliff to be found. This may be the answer to when we saw a present day Bloody Face attack the young men in Bloody Face masks. I know the voice already, but won’t spoil it. We’ll wait and see together, shall we? Either way, it’s good to know the character of present day Bloody Face – whoever that may be as we’ve recently discovered Dr. Oliver Thredson (Zachary Quinto) is the true original 1960s Bloody Face – will be handled by a fun actor.
Sister Jude Martin (Jessica Lange) meets a a woman named Mrs. Reynolds (Amy Farrington), whose daughter Jenny (Nikki Hahn) is brought in after suspicion she may have terrible, violent issues. Jenny’s mother discovered a lock of hair in daughter’s belongings: it’s the hair of a friend Jenny supposedly saw murdered; the little girl tells of a man who killed her friend, telling her to stand perfectly still or else she would be, too. Yet there’s obviously something sinister about little Jenny Reynolds. Jude tells her, there is no children’s ward at Briarcliff unfortunately.Meanwhile, back at chez Thredson, Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson) wakes up to croque-monsieur frying on the stove. At first it’s nice, until she realizes again where she is; chez Bloody Face. He serves up the sandwich saying it’s the “perfect mommy snack.”
What becomes clear through his discussion is the fact Oliver has mommy issues. Oh yes. He’s got problems with women. He has been searching for a woman, a mother, as the one he had at birth abandoned him to the system where only his “basic needs were met.”
Oliver “Bloody Face” Thredson dubs Lana THE ONE. He recounts his sordid history with the female body, his “breakthrough” as he calls it coming after encountering a luring woman in medical school; except this woman was dead, cold, on a colder metal slab. This is one DISTURBING scene, which I love. It’s straight up Ed Gein, but adapted Ed Gein; if he were a scholar instead of a farmboy with no education. This is Bloody Face, instead of Leatherface – a maniac, yet a calculated, intelligent, damaged maniac.
Also love how we get a dose of Psychology 1000, as Dr. Thredson talks about rhesus monkeys and their attachment to the cloth of a simulated mother monkey, the skin essentially. This relates to his love, his need, for the feel of warm skin on his surrogate mother.
Sam Goodman (Mark Margolis) calls Sister Jude, who tells him not to worry anymore, she was wrong. In direct opposition, Mr. Goodman informs her the fake Anne Frank (Franka Potente) was right: Dr. Arthur Arden (James Cromwell) was in fact, IS in fact, Dr. Hans Gruber, a former Nazi and member of the S.S. In shock, Jude asks what can be done; she must be a fingerprint in order to confirm for sure, then they can move ahead.
This will set off serious repercussions. Eventually.
As Monsignor Timothy Howard (Joseph Fiennes) goes to the hospital in order to see a dying Shelley (Chloë Sevigny), we get an incredible flashback explaining perfectly the wonderful title of this episode, “The Origins of Monstrosity”.
The first meeting between Dr. Arthur Arden and Monsignor Howard, several years prior, occurs as the latter is first moving in to the building. Arden introduces him to his ideas – he claims to be developing some kind of ultimate, super vaccine that would stave off even the most serious, deadly illness and viruses should humans be subject to them. This is a perfectly grim example – his wanting to do human trials – of the Nazi doctors and their insane ideas of eugenics, et cetera. The stuff going on between Howard and Arden, both in present day and the flashback scenes, goes to show how serious of a mess Howard has gotten himself into, allowing Arden to basically have free run of Briarcliff in order to further his “work“, if it can be called that.
Now there’s a real, palpable tension between the doctor and Monsignor Howard. Of course, there’s a terrifying aspect to Arden. Not only is he a tall and imposing figure, he is a sinister man. Furthermore, now we know through other events going on simultaneously HE IS A NAZI! He was in the death camps, just as the fake Anne Frank discovered somehow. This is scary enough. But then he has to go and show Howard more of his other work, the latest being on local tough inmate and pervert Spivey (Mark Consuelos). Savage, just as was done to Shelley. More supposedly in the name of the human race; yeah right, Nazi.
Saucy little scene between the devilish – or straight up Satan – Sister Mary Eunice McKee (Lily Rabe) and the equally devilish little girl Jenny, whose mother left her at Briarcliff and ran.
What we get here, though, is a heartbreaking flashback retro filmed scene as Mary Eunice recounts a story of when a bunch of girls tricked her into going naked under her robe then stripping, jumping into the pool; so sad and it made my heart both break and ACHE for her. At the same time, the devil is inside Mary. Right up in there. She’s both actively bad, as well as bad via extension, playing her influence over the young, impressionable, and pretty much evil little Jenny.
The tension between Monsignor Howard and Dr. Arden – more so Howard’s worry he’ll be caught out helping Arden – has led the Monsignor to removing Sister Jude from her position at Briarcliff. She knows it is Arden whose influence is turning Howard, which we know. But the childish and misguided Howard, worried for his own sake, sends her off anyways. I actually feel bad for Jude, no matter how bad she’s been on her own, because this is all out of her hands. She knows the truth about Arden above all else. Worse, Howard is being manipulated. Even more than that, the devil in Sister Mary Eunice is working full-time.
Kit Walker (Evan Peters) uses his one phone call to ring up Thredson. Naturally, it’s the worst time for Oliver; he’s got Lana downstairs, trying to escape. We can see a bit of the breaks at his seams, the little boy in Oliver escaping from time to time. Kit knows there’s something wrong with it all, he realizes now Dr. Thredson lured him into confessing on tape, falsely, then gave it to the police.
Sadly for Lana, getting all worked up has Oliver feeling crazier once he discovers her sweating, her pulse is rocketing, and she’s been trying to escape. Or as he sees it, trying to abandon him. Oh those MOMMY ISSUES! They’re a real bitch, at times. Pretty damn bad when you’re a psychopathic killer who wears the skin of women for a mask, teeth, hair, the whole she-bang-a-bang.
AMAZING SCENE with Lily Rabe. Sister Mary Eunice sings and dances in a red negligee she stole out of Jude’s dresser along to “You Don’t Own Me” performed by Lesley Gore. The best part, surprisingly, is not seeing the beautiful Rabe, but it’s the fact the devil inside is raging, singing the lyrics right at the cross on the wall.
As Sister Jude gets a useable fingerprint from an unsuspecting Arden, unfortunately Mr. Goodman reached Mary Eunice on the phone – pretending to be Jude.
At Goodman’s hotel later, Jude finds him with his throat cut, blood everywhere, now the jig is up. On the bathroom floor she pulls close to him and he tells her it was one of her nuns. BAM!
Simultaneously, Sister Mary Eunice, or Satan – whatever – brings all the research Goodman had back to Arden. She also kept some stuff for backup, in case Arthur decides to turn around and double cross her. This is the first time we see him BLOW UP, the Nazi Aryan piece of shit in him exploding in front of us as he rants to Mary about the “money grubbing Jews”. I mean, whoa, Arden! I knew you were a Nazi, but that was… direct. At least for his sake he’s got Sister Mary Eunice, whose devilish side loves the doctor and his own evil ways.
Then there’s Jenny, whose latest situation involves another dead girl. Naturally influenced by Sister Mary, as well. What a bad, bad nun she is. I love this little subplot, having a creepy little kid – pays homage greatly to some of the killer kid films from the 1950s-70s era. Lots of disturbing bits of fun in here.
Worse and worse is the situation for Lana. Dr. Bloody Face is crawling on top of her, ready to cut in and have some fun. A flashback reveals when he first saw her as fit to be MOM, back when Kit Walker – supposedly Bloody Face – had been brought into Briarcliff.
But the kicker is when Oliver says “Baby needs colostrum“, which is downright sickening and twisted. Blew me away in a terrifying way. He sucks on Lana’s breast and it trips me out. Yuck.
Very end sees the police in present day show up to Briarcliff, as they find a phone – current day Bloody Face, whomever he may be, tells them he’s up to no good.
In fact, he’s got Teresa Morrison (Jenna Dewan Tatum) captive – Leo’s (Adam Levine) wife from the framing narrative beginning at the season’s start – and who knows where they are, or what exactly he’s doing with her.
Looking forward to reviewing the next episode, “Dark Cousin” directed by Hannibal regular Michael Rymer, an excellent television director as of late. Stay tuned for that one, should be another creepy chapter in the Briarcliff diary!