Ryan Murphy revealed the title of the latest AMERICAN HORROR STORY season with a brief teaser on Instagram.
FX’s American Horror Story
Season 6, Episode 10: “Chapter 10”
Directed by Bradley Buecker
Written by Brad Falchuk & Ryan Murphy
* For a review of Chapter 9, click here.
The cast of My Roanoke Nightmare attend Paleyfest, where Shelby (Lily Rabe) and Matt Miller (André Holland), Audrey (Sarah Paulson), Lee (Adina Porter), Dominic (Cuba Gooding Jr), Monet (Angela Bassett), William Van Henderson (Denis O’Hare), Rory (Evan Peters), Sidney James (Cheyenne Jackson) – they all answer questions for the crowd on a panel. The fans all go wild. One especially for Lee, who she feels has been unfairly judged. Shit. If the girl only knew.
The Lee fanatic posts online about the second series being “crass” instead of doing anything artistic. We also find out Lee’s headed for a murder trial. And the remaining Polk brother Lot intends on murdering her if the courts won’t do the job.
We get television special on Lee and her history. Her family, the addiction, the custody battle, her husband’s murder. Once Return to Roanoke: 3 Days in Hell was filmed, things changed, as we know. The trial went on. The video of her torture by the Polks was used to get her acquitted, playing sympathy to the juror. But the murder of her ex-husband Mason is still on the books. Her own daughter witnessed Lee crack her dad in the head with a rock: “You killed daddy,” she says on the stand. Only problem is that Flora sounds crazy because she saw ghosts in and around the Roanoke House. And so the verdict comes back Not Guilty.
Now we get Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson) back for another season! A survivor in her own right, she is now interviewing Lee Harris after her big murder trial. “Questions remain,” Lana explains. She’s come out of retirement and everything, just for the live TV interview. We get a very familiar looking format, makes the whole bit feel genuine. Lana asks her questions, starting off with soft lobs and working up towards the harder stuff. First, it’s about the custody. Secondly those murders still linger on in public consciousness. Then we get a Bloody Face namedrop, as Lee brings up Lana’s own history with maniacs.
Afterwards comes an intense moment. Lana asks where Flora is, after reports of the girl going missing just before they began their interview. Suddenly outside is the sound of assault weaponry. Lot Polk has arrived. He wants revenge. Lana tries talking him out of it and only gets knocked out with the butt of a gun. Luckily, a cop busts in and blows the guy away. Lee makes away again.
A show called Spirit Chasers takes Ashley Gilbert (Leslie Jordan), star in the original series’ reenactments, out to the Roanoke House in order to try figuring out: is it all real? A steel fence went up around the place trying to keep people out, but the show’s crew heads in on their own. During the Blood Moon. Isn’t that great? They head on in without understanding how real any of the madness there is, and surely something nasty is poised to happen. As night falls the crew go about their usual routine, detecting spirits and hoping to find conclusive evidence. Soon, the spirits start to wake. Doors slam shut. Air rushes through the rooms. Ashley even finds a bonnet laying around: “The Real McCoy,” he says and not a prop.
Craziest of all, Lee shows up from out of the blue. That is fucked up. She wants to find her daughter, and she looks crazy as hell. She warns the crew and Ashley away. The Spirit Chasers want to help her, although she isn’t too keen. On one of the crew’s thermal videos they see one of the Chen family, creeping around the walls. A recording captures the eerie voices of children, Priscilla to be exact. When Piggy Man turns up, game over! Ashley is dispatched first. Then another, as one of the Chens hauls them off. Police show up and by that time even The Butcher is carving people to bits.
It seem as if the whole thing’s turned into Lee in a hostage crisis. We get plenty news coverage on the ordeal, including Lana Winters at home recuperating well. People want all the reality they can get. From reality television series to complete reality. “When we latch onto something it becomes our destiny,” says Lana prophetically.
At the Roanoke House, Lee and Flora are inside just fine. Her mother asks about what she ate in the woods, how she survived. Mostly she tries to explain to Flora how things ever got so bad, what it’s like to be a parent trying to make the best life for her and her family. None of that is any good when the girl clearly saw her own mother murder her father. The hardest part of everything is the fact Flora still has Priscilla kicking around in her head, or y’know, right in front of her.
Then the house begins to burn, out walks Flora safe and sound. Inside, Priscilla helps Lee dies, and the house blows nearly to smithereens, the top exploding with fire. While Flora is taken away from the old house her mother and Priscilla walk into the darkness together, torches light the woods, and the Lost Colony descend with the Blood Moon high in the sky.
I absolutely fucking adored this season! So many interesting things went on and the format really worked out in the end. Very fun to bring Lana Winters back, too. Such great stuff. I’m excited now to see what they’ll do next season. This series, for me, gets better each year. Some don’t agree, but I couldn’t care less. A spectacular bit of television, and this season was beyond expectation.
FOX’s Scream Queens
Season 1, Episode 5: “Pumpkin Patch”
Directed & Written by Brad Falchuk
* For a review of the previous episode, “Haunted House” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Seven Minutes in Hell” – click here
The fifth episode of Scream Queens kicks off with Chanel Oberlin (Emma Roberts) and the Chanels – new addition Hester (Lea Michele), #5 (Abigail Breslin), & #3 (Billie Lourd) – they’re planning a Pumpkin Patch Fundraiser. Both Fergies – the Dutchess and the Black Eyed Peas frontwoman – are coming, little whoops from #3. Seems they’re mostly letting the original Chanel down, yet she’s laying down the law.
The Wives of Fallen Presidents = theme for the Chanels. Hilarious and morbid all at once. Of course, Chanel #1 chooses Jackie Onassis – stylish as she was certainly. More constant bickering between #5 and #1, though, now Hester is puckering up and kissing lots of ass becoming the new go-to-girl for Chanel #1.
Far as I remember, this is the first episode we’re treated to the full-on Scream Queens theme song and an elaborate credits sequence. At first I kinda thought it was a little lame, but it grew on me. More great music comes out in this episode in terms of the overall score throughout various scenes, so I’m loving the electronic stuff from the credits to everything else. Works so well for the show’s aesthetic.
Back to the task at hand – Zayday Williams (Keke Palmer) has been abducted and everyone is gathered at the sorority, or at least everyone of interest and pertinent to anything happening. Chad Radwell (Glen Powell) gives another ridiculously foolish speech, trying to plea for an open campus instead of Dean Munsch (Jamie Lee Curtis) opting to cancel Halloween and shut the place down. A curfew is enforced and the Chanels are pissed, as the Pumpkin Patch Fundraiser will not get to go ahead.
Hester is rounding up Chanel #5, as well as others such as Jennifer (Breezy Eslin), in order to try and oust Chanel #1 from the presidency.
In class, #1 gets bothered by her professor before getting taken out by police to one of their cars. Hilarious sequence, I loved it.
Then a quick shift to Zayday, who finds herself holed up in some basement-like room. Down the halls, we hear Culture Club, Boy George belting it out, as the Red Devil’s workshop is presented to us. He stands up above Zayday, holding a puppy, just like Buffalo Bill in The Silence of the Lambs. Awesomely executed homage, all around in this scene.
Pete (Diego Boneta) and Grace (Skyler Samuels) are worried about Zayday, obviously. But everyone else seems pretty unconcerned. In fact they’re downright horrid and could not care any less. The Chanels are all pretending to eat and way too busy to be bothered with anything else – like a twisted version of the Lost Boys from Hook except they were poor and actually had no food to begin with, unlike these stuck-up sorority ladies.
When Grace goes for help trying to find her father, dear ole dad Wes (Oliver Hudson) is in bed with Gigi Caldwell (Nasim Pedrad). Awkward bedroom interruption scene, as Grace and Pete walk in on the two of them banging. Real good moment, though. A crack up; Pedrad in particular makes me laugh out loud often.
Even better scene is right afterwards when Chanel #1 is talking away, as if to her Chanels, yet it’s in jail. She has a few “besties for life” after having impressed one of them with Chanel-O-Ween presents last year. I mean, if you don’t find this stuff funny, totally fine. But to me, it is hilarious! I’m not even a big horror-comedy fan yet I find myself consistently in laughter while watching Scream Queens.
Denise Hemphill (Niecy Nash) and Dean Munsch are bonding, hilariously. Nash is one of my favourites on this series so far, her character is way too funny. Security guard Denise is stuck on Zayday actually being the killer, though, we clearly know the difference, don’t we?
And while everyone sensible, or half sensible, is trying to find Zayday – in some way – Chanel #1 and #5 are still having at it, back and forth. Ultimately, #1 wants her Pumpkin Patch and she will god damn have it.
Roger (Aaron Rhodes) and Dodger (Austin Rhodes) help #5 light all the Jack-O-Lanterns for the fundraiser. The designer ended up making a life-size replica of The Shining‘s hedge-maze, full of snow, so we get another fun homage in this episode. As the Red Devil chases them all, Roger and Dodger give us lots to laugh at, arguing with #5, making her choose one of them. However, eventually one of the brothers gets disemboweled by the Red Devil, his guts flopped out in his lap. Sick! Awesome scene in the maze, both full of laughter and again harkening back to Kubrick’s creepy (loose)adaptation of Stephen King.
The rest of the crew – Pete, Grace, Wes & Co. – go searching for Zayday, taking along the proper weaponry and defense mechanisms. They find their way to where we saw the Red Devil earlier, in his/her workshop, and even stand atop where Zayday was kept. Is she still there? No, only the red velvety pillows on which she was last seen sitting.
Bit of a Saw homage here, as well! Lots of stuff happening. Denise and Gigi come upon a room much like something out of one of the Saw films. Another quasi-homage back to Silence of the Lambs with the Red Devil using night vision to move around a room. And just when you think the Devil is caught, they’re gone again. Or is it really how it seems? We saw Gigi in the old house where the hag supposedly lived, so can we trust her saying Gigi saying the Red Devil cranked her in the head before taking off? Hmm.
Zayday shows back up at Kappa House triumphant. Just in time for the big vote for presidency of the sorority.
Flashback to the Red Devil wining and dining Zayday back at the workshop, as he hauls her up from the pit where she’d been kept. Managing to stab the Devil’s hand and take off, she was able to get back in one piece.
Of course, no one believes Zayday until Grace runs in confirming the story of the lair, the romantic dining set, et cetera. Still though, the vote is on!
Nice creepy sequence with Gigi walking alone, the Red Devil following behind. FINALLY – they meet! They are officially in cahoots, now we know for sure Gigi has something to do with what’s going on in the overall plot. Unsettling stuff, who knows where this will head now.
Looking forward to the next episode, “Seven Minutes in Hell”, directed by a regular Ryan Murphy brother-in-arms Michael Uppendahl. Stay tuned for the next one, fellow fans! I’m still loving these episodes, one by one they add up to more excitement and more horror and tons of laughs.
FOX’s Scream Queens
Season 1, Episode 4: “Haunted House”
Directed by Bradley Buecker
Written by Brad Falchuk
The opening scene is excruciatingly funny and so acidic in terms of how it takes on popular “bitches” like Chanel #1 (Emma Roberts). Chanel-O-Ween sees her send presents to tons of girls who idolize her, supposedly the “losers” or whatever you want to substitute for a description.
Way too funny. Hard to describe, yet it’s just so good. Solid opener for the episode.
At Kappa House, Dean Cathy Munsch (Jamie Lee Curtis) is being questioned by the police, but not really. She is great friends with the detective questioning her. Not only that, she does make sense – it would be awfully hard for her to get out, dress up as the Red Devil, climb down unnoticed outside, and then attack. Or is it? Wes Gardner (Oliver Hudson) is not convinced, neither is Gigi Caldwell (Nasim Pedrad) particularly. I am, though. Munsch is dirty, just not a killer, I don’t think. Then in bursts guard Denise Hemphill (Niecy Nash) trying to tell everyone Zayday Williams (Keke Palmer) is the real killer.
Mostly this part is an amazing showcase, once more but longer this time, of Niecy Nash kicking out the comedy jams. She is awesome and perfectly fits this character. We always hear how black women are “sassy” or something similar. I think Nash allows herself to be goofy, which is super fun. Not that she’s a weak character, but she doesn’t necessarily have to be strong, she just gets to be silly and it works proper.
In another confrontation between Denise and Zayday, we find out Denise was rejected from Kappa House at the same university she now guards. Great, quick flashback to her being tossed – once again showing off Nash’s hilarity.
Meanwhile, Grace Gardner (Skyler Samuels) and Pete Martinez (Diego Boneta) track down the woman who was once a sorority pledge at Kappa House – Mandy (Jennifer Aspen). She tells them about how her life is “split in two: before that night and after“.
Flashback to 1995 where Dean Munsch talks through the process of covering up the young girl’s death in that bathtub. Then, she makes the girls wear hoods on the ride out to bury the body, so they’ll never know where it is buried. Munsch locks them all down with a highly nasty little plan, all to cover her own ass – though, she claims it’s to protect them, to protect their families. Real chilling scene. More and more, we see how sinister Munsch is, but again: not a killer. I’m sure there’s someone, or a couple someones, out to get Munsch and anyone else linked to Kappa House, or the original women.
SHOCKER? The baby was/is a girl, confirmed by the woman who was there. Hmmm, the plot thickens.
Chanel #1 gets a big smack in the face when Zayday reveals her intentions to run for president of Kappa House. Ms. Oberlin makes a bit of a threat, then takes off somewhere to grieve. The other Chanels find her in the shoe closet, sharpening kitchen knives.
I think Emma Roberts is pretty great, too. Honestly, she pulls off the incredibly awful sorority girl role. Slightly similar to her role in American Horror Story‘s third season, but very different than the one she played in the fourth season. There’s more comedy here obviously and it’s a satirical, even farcical look at the sorority/fraternity mentality which is especially rampant in this day and age in America, particularly. So while some think it’s either over-the-top, or what not, I find it on the nose and Roberts does well with making us truly believe she is a stone cold bitch of a young lady.
A bit of nice horror in this episode. Mandy, in her little trailer out in the dark, out off the grid somewhere, finds herself at the mercy of someone outside causing mischief. She walks around brandishing a baseball bat. Then, in the mirror behind her, the Red Devil appears, knife in hand. As she screams out, the Devil stabs her to death. Nice little clip of Leprechaun plays in the background, cut in briefly; I’m pretty sure it’s one of those films, anyways.
Chad Radwell (Glen Powell) is out in the graveyard about to have a yank over a grave, when Hester Ulrich (Lea Michele) shows up with her new look going on. She proposes they’ll have sex in a “very scary location“, and that maybe he can head in the “back door“. Hilariously twisted scene.
Professor Gardner is showing more horror again in class. This time it’s Children of the Corn. He’s going on about children in horror movies attacking the adults, that we “can’t escape our inner child“. More of the film professor nonsense, or is it? You be the judge. I think it is, if you’re examining a film like this, others maybe not so silly.
Grace shows up then to question her father about her mother, who went to the same school, supposedly pledged Kappa. She point blank asks if her mother died in the bathtub, to which her father replies with surprise. She’s convinced something is going on with him, in some way. I am, too. All the same, the moment between them here feels genuine, like he’s telling the truth: “I saw you come out of your mother”
We’ll see where it all goes.
Grace then heads off to meet Pete at a local haunted house, or so Pete and Denise say – the house on Shady Lane. At times this sequence is spooky, others it’s fucking riotous with Pete and Denise telling the tale simultaneously, or in tandem more so, which comes off like a scary version of Abbott and Costello. They talk about a hag living in the house, shrieking and wailing coming from inside, et cetera, typical legend type stuff. A super creepy room full of weird little dolls is found to boot. Turns out the woman lived in the house around 1995, when the Kappa House tragedy happened, or just after – that’s where the screaming must have come from, I imagine.
There’s a PERFECT scene where the Chanels are about to eat cotton balls, dipping them in sauce, when Hester speaks up and changes Chanel #1’s mind. They decide to go for pizza. Then, the world of the sorority at Kappa changes. Great little feminist bits where Chanel #1 points out the hypocrisy of how men can look versus how women are expected to look. Then, a moment between the girls and a couple fratbro douchebags where they lay it out for the men: don’t whistle at me, don’t ask me to give you a smile, don’t belittle women under the guise of trying to talk to them, and so on. Love, love, loved this bit! Such an excellently written scene.
Right afterwards, Chad is being brought out to the house on Shady Lane, where Hester seems to be letting him “throw her a bone”. Then comes the HORROR – bodies everywhere! First, it’s Ms. Bean and Hester pokes a hole through her leg accidentally, believing it to be a wax replica of some sort. Then there’s Chanel #2, Denise’s partner Shondell, Coney a.k.a Aaron Cohen, and more. Even poor Mandy who was recently dispatched by the Red Devil.
Solid homage to John Carpenter’s Halloween with Ms. Bean’s headstone above the bed where she lays. Love all the homages and references in the episodes so far.
I thought this part was absolutely fitting. Using all the real dead corpses of those killed off previously in the series as supposed props in the haunted house, it’s genius!
Chad: “Don’t go to the haunted house on Shady Lane! There are dead bodies. Like real, live dead bodies.”
Zayday gets nabbed by the Red Devil in a great freeze frame with red filter. The aftermath sees just about every main character at Kappa House, the detective and other officers present to try and suss out what’s been going on around their campus. So much madness and mayhem and murder. Professor Wes wants answers, threatening to go to the media if nothing is done in regards to the safety of the students.
Pete and Grace decide they have to discover who the Hag of Shady Lane was, the woman in that house, that way they may break through to find out more about the murders and the original tragedy.
Perfect closing shot sees Gigi sitting in the Shady Lane house, in a chair with all those dolls, hooded in the Hag cloak, wailing away. Very, very spooky!
Can’t wait for the next episode titled “Pumpkin Patch”. Stay tuned for another review next week! Hope at least some of you are enjoying the show as much as I am. Been having a blast, full of comedy and equal parts horror. Cheers.
FOX’s Scream Queens
Season 1, Episode 3: “Chainsaw”
Directed by Ian Brennan
Written by Ian Brennan (also writer of Cooties)
* For a review of the previous episode, “Hell Week” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Haunted House” – click here
The beginning of this episode sees Grace (Skyler Samuels) and Zayday (Keke Palmer) going to a convenience store, talking about Pete Martinez (Diego Boneta). Zayday in particular says she thinks Pete is a bit strange due to his concern with what’s been happening at Kappa House, but Grace assures her he’s a good guy.
Then they confront the Red Devil himself, standing silently near one of the coolers in the store. He comes at Grace and she uses a taser on him, right in the balls.
Suffice to say, the murders are taking their toll on everyone.
Back at Kappa, Chanel #1 (Emma Roberts) and Chanel #5 (Abigail Breslin) are face to face having issues. #5 has been getting laid recently, or Eiffel Towered as she puts it, so this has helped her popularity-wise. Therefore, #5 says goodbye to the original Chanel in spectacularly bitchy fashion.
But a little later, Chanel #1 concocts a plan in order to help get back in Chad’s favour after he breaks up with her. She decides to fix up the apparent trainwreck Hester Ulrich (Lea Michele), so then there’ll be less “losers” in Kappa; meaning, long story short, Chad will want her back when the place is more popular again.
At the same time there’s Grace and Zayday, who are looking for clues to what has been happening at both the sorority house and then at Chanel #2’s parents’ home, along with trust security guard Denis Hemphill (Niecy Nash). They eventually discover that none other than Chad Radwell (Glen Powell) was engaged in a sexual relationship with Chanel #2. UH OH!
Even better, Chanel #3 (Billie Lourd) tells Sam (Jeanna Han) her father is – wait for it – Charles Manson. Her mother supposedly connected with Manson while in jail and got pregnant. Is it nonsense or what? I’d love to think it’s not because that would be AMAZING, but I don’t know… I guess that would be too far out. Either way, this scene was hilarious. Billie Lourd is a crack up in this show!
I’ve got to say: Niecy Nash is god damn hilarious! The part where she talks about the luminol and horseradish would be good enough on paper, yet Nash takes it right off the page and makes it a riot. Because I honestly wondered – why the hell does she have that? – then Brennan’s writing makes it clearer, on top of that she acts the character hilariously. There are some typical moments you might expect from this character, but I think Nash is funny enough that she’s able to transcend that a little.
Glen Powell plays the character Chad Radwell excellently. The character’s meant to be an idiot, he is the archetypal fratboy douchebag. But you can have those types played badly. Powell is almost near perfect. Because there’s no subtlety about the character and somehow that’s spot on. Every time he’s onscreen I know there’ll be at least one good laugh.
On a comedy note again, Jamie Lee Curtis as Dean Cathy Munsch is both sinister at times and flat out hilarious at others.
Chanel #3: “Are you hitting on me? ‘Cause I heard munching box is what killed Michael Douglas”
Again, the score of this series is incredible. One of the first real awesome bits of music out of “Chainsaw” comes when security guard Denise Hemphill (Niecy Nash) enters the scene. Just a great example of the electro-sound these episodes have going on, amongst other popular songs on the soundtrack and other horror-styled compositions. There’s more of this throughout the episode. For instance, when Chad and the fratbros are talking about the supposed death of Boone (Nick Jonas), there’s a perfect little piece with a minimalistic sound that’s sort of creepy horror-like music and at the same time it has the EDM excitement about it in a subtle way.
Things get awkward for Grace when her father Wes (Oliver Hudson) shows up as her film professor. She storms out, naturally a bit weirded out. Then it gets AMAZING and also hilariously satirical of film professor bullshit, as Professor Gardner shows them his choice for the greatest film ever – Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. He gives a silly little mini lecture about the final frames: “Vietnam, Watergate, the invention of the pill, the White Album…”
Loved this whole scene because it throws a little suspicion out onto Wes himself, as he really enjoys Hooper’s film a bit too much. Not only that, as I already mentioned, this scene takes on the film professors/TAs/even students who try to take certain films and elevate them to high art when really they’re not even intended as such. I’ve been to film school and let me tell you: so many students and professors are this way. Many are not, but too many definitely are snobby, nose-in-the-air types. Though, Wes Gardner comes off a little creepy, a bit dangerous here. Will this lead to anything more? Or simply another red (pardon that pun) herring? Time will tell.
While Gigi Caldwell (Nasim Pedrad) still tries to inch her way into Wes’ arms, Dean Munsch is determined to step in the middle; she’s got a real thing for the new professor. Inviting Gigi to golf, they have a bit of a stand-off over Wes, though it seems the Dean has laid down the law. Regardless, the two of them plan on moving into Kappa House with the sorority for a week to keep an eye on things. Is this for safety, or is Dean Munsch more concerned her part in the tragedy 20 years might eventually come to light?
Once they’re finally rooming together, Munsch puts the screws to Gigi with her white noise machine, her array of dressings at dinner (prompting Gigi to laugh hard when one of the bottles makes a fart sound), all over handsome Professor Wes.
Professor Wes Gardner: “Aren’t we all running from the chainsaws in our past?”
By far my favourite part of this episode is the mascot, Coney, a.k.a Aaron Cohen (David Simpson). There’s a real great montage of scenes happening while WHAM!’s “I’m Your Man” rages in the background, which culminates with the Red Devil infiltrating young Cohen’s room, attacking him with a chainsaw, and naturally, sawing his head off. Coincidence the chainsaw was used after Professor Gardner’s class? Hmm.
There are other things going on in “Chainsaw” aside from the horror and bits of violence thrown in the mix, such as more exposition from Grace and Pete; she thinks Chad may be the killer, or at least is an interesting suspect. Luckily Pete is a sneaky Pete – he’s been doing a bit of digging. He found the name of a girl from Kappa who dropped out, two credits shy of a degree, not too long after the mysterious death at the sorority.
Decent stuff happening. Even poor Zayday is being looked at as suspect with security guard Denise doing footwork on her background; not that she has much to be worried about, as far as I’m concerned. Denise has good intentions, good detective she is not. God damn funny, though.
But what I love is the scene set to “Backstreet’s Back” with the fratbros fighting the Red Devil; only there are TWO Red Devils. They come wielding chainsaws. Just as it looks like Chad Radwell is going to get the saw, one of the bros runs in to save him only to have both his arms lopped off, the effects like the wonderful “Tis but a scratch” scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Just a gnarly awesome sequence all around.
The Red Devil – only one it seems this time – shows up back at Kappa House when Gigi opts to leave her and Dean Munsch’s room to sleep on the couch. Wes gets a chainsaw to the arm trying to defend Gigi (is he the other Red Devil? Key horror trope would be to have him injured, y’know… so it looks more convincing). Even more than that, Wes grabs the chainsaw, after the Red Devil disappears into thin air, and tells Dean Munsch: “You’re the killer”
Overcompensation? I don’t know. I have an itching suspicion Wes is not who he appears. Though, that can be said for a lot of these characters.
Next up is “Haunted House”, directed by Bradley Buecker (American Horror Story). Stay tuned fellow fans, we’ll see more blood and hilariousness together next time!
FX’s American Horror Story
Season 5, Episode 1: “Checking In”
Directed by Ryan Murphy
Written by Brad Falchuk & Ryan Murphy
* For a review of the Season 4 Freak Show finale, “Curtain Call” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Chutes and Ladders” – click here
Opening this new season, there are plenty of interesting things happening over at Falchuk, Murphy & Co.
We fade in on the Hotel Cortez, looming over the street below like an ancient building. A couple blonde foreign tourists, maybe Swedish, enter the doors of the luxurious and massive hotel; one of them even says, “It‘s so quiet. It‘s like a tomb.”
They meet Iris (Kathy Bates) who is taking care of the front desk, checking people in and showing them to their rooms. All the while a slick, laid back piece of music plays underneath the scenes – Iris shows the girls to their room, passing through long, empty halls.
Already from the start we’ve got a ton of creepiness: first one of the maids is trying to steam out a big bloody stain in a sheet down one hallway, then a creepy lone child pointing eerily appears down another. There’s also a dreamy moment where we see a gold, glittery glove with pointy nails reaching out for one of the tourists, as she is back on; we see only the glove, no doubt belonging to Lady Gaga’s character who we’ve yet to meet, and no real noise only unsettling music lowly building, then cut to the tourist turning around, nobody there. Spooky!
I feel really bad for these tourist women. They discover a foul smell in their new room. Eventually tracking it to the bed, they rip off the sheet to discover a large stitching made through its middle. Cutting it open, a good idea or not? Probably… not. A hand bursts from out the mattress and a terrifying man with nasty, yellowed teeth on blackened gums, sores on his body, bursts up screaming.
This part actually reminded me a lot of Se7en. Not positive if Murphy and Falchuk intended this as a sort of sly homage to the scene where Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt find a near dead man strapped to his mattress still alive, even though he looked positively foul. But either way, it was awesomely frightening and definitely takes me back to Fincher’s movie.Iris is quick to put the girls in another room, assuring they’ll not be paying for the previous one. When confronted about having said there were no other rooms available, Iris simply tells the girls “This one we don‘t rent out” and already this season is a creepshow. Presumably the cops are on their way, though, it’s unsure whether these women will survive until then or not.
Of course quickly we find two little children, vampires probably, feeding off one of the tourists, as the other one walks in to witness it all happening.
Detectives John Lowe (Wes Bentley) and Detective Hahn (Richard T. Jones) show up to a crime scene – a man and a woman are posed having intercourse, nailed in place, as well as the man having his tongue and eyeballs torn out. Turns out it was an affair. But as Lowe says: “This isn‘t jealousy. This is something else.” This whole scene is downright brutal, in the right horror sort of way. Poor dude is stuck inside the dead woman; his wails just before we cut to Lowe back at the station are bloodcurdling.
Lowe clearly has a good relationship with his daughter, although the one with his wife seems strained; when his daughter, via FaceTime, asks her mother if she wants to talk to daddy, to which mom responds simply “no“. I like Lowe from the start, not just because I love Wes Bentley, I think it’s a solid character judging from his opening scenes.
Then he receives a call – from the one who nailed those people to the bed, saying he’ll be doing it again. Uh oh.
Introducing, now, for your pleasure – Max Greenfield as Gabriel.
He meets Iris at the front desk looking for a room. She gives him #64; same room where the girls were put. Appears as if Iris is in on whatever is happening around the place. No matter, Gabriel looks to be a strung out, self-centric junkie who cares about nothing other than his fun.
Furthermore, we get to meet Hypodermic Sally (Sarah Paulson) who tells Iris she’s got “dibs on this one.” Then, briefly and without any words, we also get a look at Denis O’Hare’s Liz Taylor; cannot WAIT to see what he’s bringing to the table this season, what an impressive character actor.
When Gabriel makes it back to his room, yes, yes, he shoots up a bit of junk. Then the visions begin – the maid from earlier who’d been steaming out blood, but even worse is an ugly, deformed demon-like creature who comes out of the darkness, bends Gabriel over, and brandishes a STEEL DRILLBIT DILDO! Yowzahs.
Detective Lowe arrives back at the front desk of the Cortez. He wants to have a look in Room 64, where Gabriel is being raped by the hideous creature. Liz Taylor is called out, dressed in fine fashion, to take the detective up to the room.
There is an awfully vicious rape going on with Gabriel and the creature, while Hypo Sally shows up telling him “the more you scream, the more he likes it.” She wants Gabriel to tell her he loves her, that if he does it everything will stop, the pain will go away. There’s something even more disturbing about her part in it all than the actual rape itself, which is horrific – I’m so intrigued already in this first episode by Sally in particular, the creature, that it’s unbelievable.
Great, great and archetypal AHS camerawork happening in “Checking In”. Lots of those odd, high and low angles, big wide views from up above, et cetera. One of my favourites is the low tracking shot behind Liz Taylor and Detective Lowe as they walk the halls to Room 64: elegant, sort of ominous, but also beautiful as O’Hare floats his arms around in the air and his long outfit flows on the gentle breeze. Incredible stuff. Something I always look forward to in each season is seeing how the show adapts to the new locations in terms of the way the AHS aesthetic (both visual and musical) is used. This beginning episode promises both wild and interesting things happening in regards to both plot and style.
Meanwhile, Lowe is seeing one of the creepy children in Room 64. He gives chase out into the halls and it looks like he might be slowly losing his mind. What is Lowe’s story? Perhaps he’s not all I thought he was originally, or maybe the Hotel Cortez is really busting his brain up quick.
We’re finally treated to a good look at Countess Elizabeth (Lady Gaga) and her companion of sorts Donovan (Matt Bomer). The introduction to these characters is magic – “Tear You Apart” by She Wants Revenge plays in the background, as the Countess and Donovan go to an outdoor showing of F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu. There’s lots of the psychosexual mania happening in this sequence with the Countess and Donovan taking a couple from the movie back to the hotel, up to their bloody little love nest.
I won’t spoil EVERYTHING that happens because it’s twisted, sexy, nasty, and brings the savage horror to Season 5 Hotel right from the top. I’ll hope there’s plenty, plenty more of this to come. The aftermath of this scene, as Donovan and the Countess lay on the bed afterwards, it’s chilling and so nastily gorgeous!The two tourists from our opener are now caged into some strange steel traps lit with neon lights. They’re terrified, of course. Iris has a good tray full of a bunch of different meats, oysters, alcohol, et cetera. She’s decided to help flush their systems out, having gone through their luggage and discovering they are fairly drugged up party girls. But this force-feeding by tube is a bit intense, I would say. Iris loves this sort of stuff, obviously.
When Hypo Sally walks in, there seems to be a good deal of tension and annoyance between her and Iris. For whatever reason, Iris blames Sally for “all my suffering” claiming she’s done with all the bullshit.
Then we figure out: they’re being primed for eating, for their blood, so that she can eat them. She? You know it’s the Countess.
One of the tourists is let free by Sally, told to run. Is this just a trap, or is it real? Not that it matters: the Countess appears while Iris is trying to catch her. Elizabeth whips out one of her sharpened nails and slits the young girl’s throat. A nice, nasty bloodletting.
So the reason Dt. Lowe was running after the boy in the Cortez is because his son died at some point; his daughter tells him, while they go out for father-daughter sushi, she “can‘t remember his face anymore.” Or at least that’s what I gather. What I love about this series overall is the exposition doesn’t always come flat out and in your face with one single scene. Better for it, don’t want to give too much up right away.
Lowe gets a text from his wife: an address and the words HELP ME. The detective makes his way to the address, where the police outside watch his daughter Scarlett. Inside, Lowe receives a call from the mysterious voice who phoned earlier, this time telling him: “I told you I‘d do it again.”
When the cop wanders away from Scarlett, she heads inside curiously and winds up finding two disembowelled victims hanging in one of the rooms, guts about to hit the floor.
After this, with a flashback, we watch Lowe and his family – plus his little blonde son Holden – at a carnival back in 2010. Texting on his phone, Lowe turns around while his son rides the carousel. Turning back: the boy is gone. Any parent’s nightmare.
Back in the present day, Lowe’s wife is terrified about the calls he is getting, she wants to move, she wants a gun, anything to feel safe. He is planning to move out in order to not have his family in the line of fire. Emotional scene between Lowe and his wife Alex (Chloë Sevigny); two great actors head to head, lots of good chemistry to come, I feel.
Will Drake (Cheyenne Jackson) comes to the Hotel Cortez. As does Marcy (Christine Estabrook) from Season 1; she even talks about putting her dog down, who came to her through unfortunate circumstances – remember? Either way, it seems as if Drake is there as a potential buyer, or rather he’s pretty much already bought the place. Iris is a bit concerned, as is Liz Taylor, when they hear the news. Is the Countess Elizabeth hiding things from them?
When Marcy takes Drake around, she finds Donovan in the nude, in his suite. He’s pretty pissed off. OH THE JOY – then Bauhaus kicks in with “Bela Lugosi’s Dead”. FUCK YES, RYAN MURPHY! THANK YOU! One of my favourite songs of all time. Even if it’s not the whole song, I love hearing any of it here.
The meeting between Drake and the Countess is amazingly strange, eerie, there’s a spooky quality hovering over everything. A real foreboding sense of haunting. Especially when Drake’s son spends a few minutes with Elizabeth, she brings him to see little Holden – shit! The whole room where she takes him is undeniably unnerving, the kids in the stark white, blonde, their pale faces staring off, it’s all madness. Wonderful madness.
“Messes are always forgiven. The first time.“
So what’s the connection between Iris and Donovan?
Little flashback to 1994. Iris watches Hypo Sally and a much different looking Donovan – sweatier, more strung out – enter the Hotel Cortez where Liz Taylor watches the front desk. Sally takes Donovan upstairs and Iris barges in – she’s looking for her son. Man, I did not expect that! Either way it’s super interesting. Back in ’94, Irish was trying hard to save her son from the dope, and there he is upstairs shooting himself full of the stuff with Sally. Now we’re seeing Iris’ problem with Sally, their sort of feud, and obviously her strong connection to Donovan, as mother and son.
SHOCKER!!! Iris pushes Sally out a window, way up in the Cortez. Incredible shot with Sally flying through the air, down to the pavement, a nice hard crack and splat in the street. Man, oh, man. And when Iris goes back to the room for Donovan, there sits the Countess: “Your boy has a jawline for days.”
The close of the episode shows us bits and pieces of Lowe packing up, getting ready to leave so the killer phoning him hopefully won’t touch them. Is anybody else thinking Lowe’s wife is having an affair and that she may be one of his targets? The killer supposedly makes it clear how the families have no idea about the betrayal, so it feels to me like Mrs. Lowe might come under fire regardless. But who knows, I can’t judge that yet.
As the episode finishes, Dt. Lowe finds himself “Checking In” at the Cortez. What lies in store for him there? Plenty of horror. Not to mention the fact he’s heading to Room 64.
Second episode, directed by Bradley Buecker, is titled “Chutes and Ladders.” This season opener packed a wallop, I’m so excited for the follow up. All sorts of decadence, depravity, blood, horror, and murder to come! Stay tuned, fellow fans. We’ll get spooked together.
FOX’s Scream Queens
Season 1, Episode 2: “Hell Week”
Directed by Brad Falchuk
Written by Ian Brennan/Brad Falchuk/Ryan Murphy
* For a review of the previous episode, “Pilot” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Chainsaw” – click here
The “Pilot” ended with the Red Devil – masked and mysterious – running over deaf, now dead, Taylor Swift – a.k.a Tiffany Something. This was a great close to the first episode, now we’re heading into the nasty aftermath at the Kappa House sorority.
Really great opening in this episode, “Hell Week”, as Dean Cathy Munsch (Jamie Lee Curtis) brings us into the modern world. I think people aren’t giving this show enough credit. Not that it’s reinventing the wheel, so the speak. However, Dean Munsch is a no nonsense type of person. She lays out the silly social media world in which we currently live, hurtling headlong into the 21st century, as well as this new foolish sense of self-entitlement people have nowadays. There’s an incredible skewering of youth culture in the beginning, which I found
Lea Michele is someone I’ve never seen before personally, other than her one-off episode appearance on Sons of Anarchy (the Season 7 episode “Smoke ’em If You Got ’em”). But straight up, she has been slaying me as Hester Ulrich here. Everything from the body language to her weird and matter-of-fact style of delivery has me cracking up almost each time she’s in a scene. Plus, Hester is kinda of creepy.
When Chanel Oberlin (Emma Roberts), the remaining Chanels #3 (Billie Lourd) whose earmuffs and dry tone
Furthermore, Denise Hempville (Niecy Nash) shows up in this episode, hired by clueless national sorority president Gigi Caldwell (Nasim Pedrad; also a crack-up). Denise is not so much sassy, as black women so often end up being described, she’s a straight to the point type. I swear, when she got on about the walkie talkie, all that stuff, it was almost perfect.
Some reviews and opinions I’ve seen online keep saying that the comedy outweighs the horror. Is that a bad thing some times? I don’t think so. Not to say there isn’t any horror, but definitely the comedy is more a focus at certain points than blood, mayhem, murder.
A new, strange relationship brews between Dean Munsch and the father of Grace Gardner (Skyler Samuels). When Wes Gardner (Oliver Hudson) meets with the Dean, she gets a bit frisky. Either way, Wes wants a job on campus so that he can be closer to his daughter, to keep her safe. At the same time Dean Munsch both wants to keep everything covered up as long as possible on her campus, and also wants to find her way into Wes’ pants apparently.
Meanwhile, Grace is snooping around the sorority house. She’s told a mysteriously locked room is only able to be opened by the president, who has the key. Later, Grace finds some of the old relics of the 20-year old death at Kappa House.
SHOCKER! Dean Munsch, and also Ms. Bean (Jan Hoag), helped to cover up the dead girl in the bathtub back then. Honestly, I didn’t actually see that one coming. Mostly I was thinking the Dean was one of those tough yet ultimately helpless authority figures, trying to stave off the media and the coming onslaught of public opinion that might negatively affect her college/its reputation. Turns out, the ole Dean is actually trying to cover up the fact she covered up a young girls’ death, the birth of that baby in the tub. Nice, interesting twist.
People can say what they want, this show constantly makes me laugh.
The scene between Boone (Nick Jonas) and fellow douche extraordinaire Chad (Glen Powell) is unbelievably funny. I’m able to separate my personal feelings about certain types of people and how I can enjoy a character, even if I don’t particularly LIKE who they are. For instance, these guys – Boone and Chad. They’re such outright knobs, yet they’re hilarious. When Boone asks to get in bed with him, then there’s all the wiener talk… I mean, it’s not even immature, it’s a fucking gut buster.
“Why don’t you go in there and ogle his big old broner?”
Grace is getting closer to Pete Martinez (Diego Boneta), self-styled investigative reporter. Poor Pete gets attacked by the Red Devil himself. Waking up, he’s hung in front of the school by his pants with a note saying “MYOB” (mind your own business). Only problem is that back in his dorm room, Grace discovers a Red Devil costume in his closet; he claims it’s for mascot duties during football games. But Grace is tainted – she asks how old he is, discovering him to be on the verge of twenty: “exactly how old the baby would be if it grew up“. She storms off and leaves poor Pete behind – for all his faults, we the audience know Pete is not the Red Devil, as we’ve seen him be attacked by the Red Devil.
Or will this series play with our expectations? Did we really see Pete get knocked out? Or did we see what Pete wanted us to see? We can only wait and find out. Personally, I don’t think it’s him as the scene with him being knocked out would be HIGHLY misleading and manipulative.
Personally, I’m loving the music from Mac Quayle in this series so far. He’s done music programming and composed additional music for films like Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive and Only God Forgives, as well as the Season 4 episode “Monsters Among Us” from American Horror Story, the episode “Crutchfield” from the fantastic series The Knick, Fary Cry 4, and My Life Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn. Not to mention Quayle has composed music for another twelve episodes of AHS and the new breakout television series Mr. Robot. Here, he instills many of the scenes with either a pop-ish twinkle, or in others it becomes this ominous, foreboding, even grating at times, score which takes us into the heart of the horror in these episodes. While things remain light and fluffy in a horror-comedy/parody/satire way, Quayle’s music really adds some extra weight to certain scenes and moments with a neat style that’s all over the place, in a great way.
Worst comes when the Dean sees Wes meet Gigi – they go off for coffee together, as he leaves his daughter and the girls alone (funny how he just drops safety as soon as Gigi hits on him), and as Munsch watches them with an evil eye.
The Red Devil tries to grab Chanel #1, but she manages to wriggle free and get back to her sorority girlfriends. When they all go back upstairs – hilariously without new security guard Denise or her partner Shondell (Deneen Tyler) – they find a threat to Kappa House scrawled in blood red on the wall. I found Denise (Niecy Nash) awesome in these few moments, just absolutely dropping the ball and having a laugh doing it! When she finds Shondell dead in the cop car, having been visited by the Red Devil, it was HILARIOUS. Great scene.
Poor Boone, though. He finds himself confronted with the Red Devil – “What am I supposed to be scared?“. Yes, Nick Jonas – yes, you ought to be scared!!
The other frat bros find Boone, throat cut, laid out perfectly over the dining room table. Very creepy, very cool, and all set to “I Wear My Sunglasses At Night”.
BUT A BIG SHOCK AT THE END OF THE EPISODE!
When the Red Devil goes to the morgue, which I’m assuming that is, where Boone’s body is being kept after death. The Devil opens up the cabinet where he’s being kept: AND BOONE IS ALIVE! Honestly, never expected that. Wow. A great finisher to the episode, as Boone pulls the slit neck makeup off and whips it away. What does this mean? Who is the Red Devil, or better yet: who’s Boone, really? They’re connected and we’ve got to wait another week to find out.
Stay tuned, friends! I’m loving this series already. Let those who don’t enjoy it not enjoy. The rest of us can have a little fun with some twistedness mixed in. See you next week for “Chainsaw”, which is directed by
FOX’s Scream Queens
Season 1, Episode 1: “Pilot”
Directed by Ryan Murphy
Written by Ian Brennan (Cooties)/Brad Falchuk/Ryan Murphy
* For a review of the next episode, “Hell Week” – click here
Just to start, I loved Ian Brennan’s writing and acting in Cooties, as well as the fact I’m a huge fan of the Brad Falchuck-Ryan Murphy FX series American Horror Story (all my reviews so far are here). So I walked in biased, but still, I do think the best parts of these three writers show up in the Pilot episode for the new series Scream Queens.
The opening of the episode is one that sort of hammers you. Not even the immediate blood – which is proved to be something else than you might originally believe it is – but afterwards, once you see the girl in the bathtub, after having given birth in the tub, that’s when things rocked me. I paused and went “Whoa”. In a great, horrific way.
An immediate thing I loved about this Pilot is that the horror is so obviously there, yet it’s a good riot. Some viewers said it tried too hard. I don’t think so, personally. Right from the minute all the people at the party were rocking out to TLC’s “Waterfalls”, I thought to myself: I’m going to love this.
“Who told you you could have a baby here tonight?”
So the setup is, after the shocking death of this young mother in the bathtub, twenty years later the horror TRULY begins!
Straight away, after those two decades have passed, we meet Chanel Oberlin (Emma Roberts) – possibly the most irritating and heinous young woman we’ll ever come across. She’s the sorority queen, the one who tortures young pledges (is that what they’re called? I don’t know; that frat/sorority shit is so dumb – great fodder for comedy-horror). Her character comes across as heavy handed at first, but I think it’s going to serve the story well. We’re already seeing these unlikeable characters, not strange within the horror genre, and no doubt SOME of them – probably not Chanel as Emma Roberts seems to be the star here – will find death at the hands of a masked murderer.
Aside from Chanel, there are her unfortunate numbered others – Chanel #2, #3, and oddly #5 (respectively: Ariana Grande, Billie Lourd, Abigail Breslin); there was a #4, but she got meningitis and obviously couldn’t hack it, right? These Chanels are the ones who take the brunt of Chanel #1’s awfulness. There’s also Ms. Bean a.k.a White Mammie (Jan Hoag) who is there to seemingly please Chanel constantly and do anything she ever wants, no matter if it’s important or nonsense on a whim.
Aside from the “bitches”, there’s the new girl on campus Grace Gardner (Skyler Samuels) and her wonderfully energetic roommate Zayday Williams (Keke Palmer). Grace has a very loving father, Wes (Oliver Hudson) but her mother passed away. So with the sympathetic view of Grace from the beginning, it’s easy to see she’ll likely not die – at least not as early as any of the other mean spirited, awful young college girls.
I also like the other random characters such as Nasim Pedrad’s hilarious Gigi Caldwell, with the strangest fashion sense I’ve ever witnessed; she’s always a treat, whether on Saturday Night Live or elsewhere. Also, I think Lea Michele is flat out HILARIOUS as Hester. From the very first moment we see her character, the way she talks, the freeze frame: fucking funny as hell. She’s awesome.
Furthermore, I thought Diego Boneta as Pete is a good addition. I don’t think I’ve ever personally seen him in anything before, but he’s going to serve well as a decent male character, I think. We’ll see as the time goes on. The stuff with Pete and Grace was good, as well as just the dynamic between Pete and Chanel; the fact Pete is a bit of a reporter works in a fun way with everything else going on at the campus.
There is a pretty good setup of despicable characters mostly, which only extends once we start to meet some of the other students around the campus. Like Chad Radwell (Glen Powell) and his sidekick Boone (Nick Jonas), the DUDEBROS. Oh man. What’s awesome here, though, is the fact Murphy and Co. are setting up all these types to be bait, to be victims; Murphy particularly knows horror, so well, as does Falchuk and I’m starting to believe Brennan does, as well. So we’re getting this cast of killable characters introduced in comedic fashion. Instead of following typical horror formula all the way, as a television series Scream Queens has the ability to flesh out ALL the characters, including some of the more nasty and hateable ones. This is something I particularly find interesting because usually in horrors, especially a lot of 1980s films, these asshole-like characters often get killed off too quickly to ever be anything but annoying. I’m not saying you’ll grow to like these characters, not all of them, however, I do think even the frat douchebags and the sorority assholes will come to be more than simply one-dimensional meat for kill scenes.
Not only do we get Jamie Lee Curtis in this show, as the acidic and sly Dean Cathy Munsch, but we get Curtis doing some excellent work. Granted, it’s only the pilot. Still I see the kernels of an excellently developed character here. Just the way she lays in bed with that young guy, the banter, the joint smoking, plus Curtis looks AMAZING (and I think always has); I think that scene alone is wonderful. But it’s the back and forth between Dean Munsch and Chanel Oberlin (Roberts) which truly got me going. Because it was funny! Not only funny, Curtis plays well off Roberts in terms of their characters – the older woman who has seen it all, knows the tricks, probably pulled a ton of them herself VS. the younger, brattier, more foolishly confident and conniving sorority queen with, sadly, the world in her palm. There’ll be lots of good stuff between these two, you can count on that, and it will only get better as the episodes wear on. At least here’s to hoping.
Let’s talk cinematography and score. I personally LOVED the look and sound of the entire episode! There’s an ominous score at parts in the opening sequence. It’s once the synth, poppy score kicks in during the introduction to Chanel that the music takes hold. I’m a sucker for fun, electronic style music in a score. Works wonders here. Then we get the dark stuff again during moments of horror or tension.
In terms of cinematography, there are moments where I definitely get an American Horror Story vibe. Not frequently, though, honestly. I dig the way this has a similar feel in terms of darkness, but the look has this very neat and tidy thing going on which is different. There’s also this beautiful contrast between that pristine, pretty style and the horror which turns up over and over. It makes the horror – dare I say – much more fun.
Finally, I have to mention the GNARLY kills which I totally dig.
The deep frier death of Ms. Bean (Hoag) was so nasty and incredible. When she pulled her face out, the deep fried bits of her skin were so wild. Not only that, I absolutely cried – I mean tears for real running out of my eyes – when Zayday (Palmer) responds “Yes you do“. Watch it, you’ll know what I mean. Perfect delivery. This also goes to show how Keke Palmer is going to be another excellent part of the cast, in my opinion. Funny lady!
Ariana Grande’s kill scene was absolutely a riot. I thought it made fun of modern day youth culture – smartphones particularly – so well and it had me in stitches.
There’s definitely a Sinister homage with the sequence at the end, with the ride-on lawn mower. One of the first things I thought, as the camera catches the light on front of the mower in that perspective view, is one of the found footage tapes from Sinister; not a rip-off, but a nice homage to a pretty awesome modern horror movie. I also think the earlier scene with the burning skin was a very Cabin Fever-ish homage, but maybe not, though I really suspect it leans in that direction.
This was a fun episode. Not perfect, but definitely sets a wild, funny, and at times horrific tone we’re not always treated to on television. Looking forward to watching and reviewing the follow-up episode, “Hell Week”.
Stay tuned with me! More #ScreamQueens to come.
FX’s American Horror Story
Season 1, Episode 1 – Pilot
Directed by Ryan Murphy (Nip/Tuck, Running With Scissors, The Normal Heart)
Written by Brad Falchuk & Ryan Murphy
* For a review of the next episode, “Home Invasion” – click hereYou’ve got to admire a series that opens things up in the way Ryan Murphy introduces us to his world with this pilot episode. Not only is it creepy, Murphy lays out the familiar pattern we see running through the entire series: flashbacks which speak to the present day events. Plenty of shows and films use flashbacks, but the way American Horror Story overall as a series uses them is such an intriguing technique, which the writers and directors pull of elegantly, as well as quite horrifically. What I love so much about this aspect is the fact that Murphy has only directed 3 episodes of the series – including the first episode of the newest season, Hotel. So, although he is a creator of the show along with Brad Falchuck, it’s still amazing to see how much influence he has had over the entirety of the series. It’s a continual thing we see in each season, how the flashbacks all come to bear on current day events we’re seeing.
With the opening of Murphy’s pilot we get to see a young Adelaide Langdon watching a creepy, and no doubt haunted, house all by herself; we’ll get to know Addie plenty as the season wears on. Up come a couple redheaded little shits, twins, who are mean to Addie and head inside to cause havoc.Immediately, there’s this eerie sense about the house. Of course, once inside the redhead twins find much more than they bargained for upon entering. There’s this absolutely horrific, brief image of a figure in the dark – awful hands and terrible looking teeth, gnarled, vicious coming at them. I thought that was an excellent start to the horror.
Then there’s an amazing tonal shift. We meet up with Vivien Harmon (Connie Britton) who has recently miscarried, as is expected the experience was horrible. After a doctor’s appointment, Vivien heads home to her beautiful home. But in the kitchen she thinks there’s a noise from upstairs. Calling 911 and taking a knife from a block in the kitchen, she heads upstairs only to find her husband Ben (Dylan McDermott) obviously in bed with another woman. Though, we never see her. Outside the room, pleading for forgiveness, Ben gets cut on the arm by the knife Vivien is holding. More words from little Addie echo out of the past, words she’d spoken earlier to the twins: “You’re gonna regret it.”
Love the opening theme; quite creepy. Also, as we go on through these reviews just know I’m all the way caught up – I watch the episodes as they come on, it’s only now I’ve started to review them. So, what I really dig is how Murphy has another opening done for each one to go with the theme of every season. Anthologies, when done effectively, are so much fun in so many ways! American Horror Story is at the top of the anthology heap, as far as I’m concerned.
Lots of fun characters introduced here in the Pilot. Soon, we see the family move into a new home – the creepy house from the episode’s opening scene. Vivien and Ben, along with their daughter Violet (Taissa Farmiga), move on in and then we get to meet more of the cast.
The always amazing Jessica Lange plays Constance Langdon – a Southern belle living in Los Angeles. Not only that, she is the mother of Adelaide (Jamie Brewer), who just so happens to barge on into the kitchen and frighten an unsuspecting Vivian with more prophetic creepiness: “You’re going to die in here.” From these two, expect tons of craziness throughout Season 1.
Evan Peters is Tate, a troubled kid sent by his mother to see the new therapist in the city, Ben Harmon. They talk about death, dreams and visions of death and blood and murder. Sick things Tate has inside him. Meanwhile, Tate sees pictures of himself with blood running down his face – other shots show him walking down the hallway, just as the dream he has described, with a macabrely painted face, skull art, and a black trench coat. Very cool and disturbing stuff already! Tate, from the get-go, was always one of my favourites in Season 1.
I love the imagery right off the bat, all the visions going on every which way. Also, the scene where Ben all of a sudden goes downstairs, lighting the fire, only to have Vivien interrupt him wondering what he’s up to. It’s such a weird, dreamy scene, and even Ben doesn’t realize if he’s awake or dreaming. This begins more weirdness to follow.
Furthermore, there’s the fact Moira O’Hara (Frances Conroy) shows up – she was the maid of the house. It seems she pretty much comes along with the house. But there’s something else about Moira, she’s a shapeshifter.. of sorts. While Vivien Harmon sees an older Frances Conroy, Ben Harmon sees Moira as Alexandra Breckenridge – a young, taut, sexified girl in a French maid’s outfit, legs up to her throat in fishnets. So I love the duality here and the dynamic this introduces into the Harmons’ lives.
It’s as if the house is pushing them all, further and further. With every single turn.
Certainly, the tension between husband-wife duo Vivien and Ben Harmon sets up so much of what we’ll see going on throughout Season 1. What I enjoy about this whole angle is that, similar to a movie like Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, not only is the family inside the house contending with the house’s evil, they’re battling their own demons.
While I love Dylan McDermott, his character Ben is the type you hate to love. He’s obviously flawed, as he cheated on his wife in her weakest moment. Then he tries to blame her saying that it was him in his weakest moment, that “you got a dog” when she ought to have been cuddling up with him at night.
So the intensity of their family situation, the anger Vivien has towards Ben and the perceived hostility he has in his head towards his own wife, it all adds to the already supernatural forces so obviously at work in the house.
The creepiest, of course, is when Vivien has sex with who she believes to be Ben, dressed up in the latex-looking suit they’d found hanging earlier in the attic; a weird S&M, tight black getup. All the while, thought she sees visions of Ben, her husband is downstairs holding his hand over the oven’s burner. Immediately we know that American Horror Story means to get up to some awfully strange, intense business.
As well, we get views of the evil looking person/thing from earlier in the episode’s opening sequence. Tate has Violet bring a girl over – the one who slighted her hardcore during her first day of school – and in the basement he intends to scare her. However, Violent sees it all, too. Something horrible, ugly, fierce. It’s balding, stringy hair, and the teeth in its mouth look yellow, jagged. I LOVE THIS! So terrifying.
Denis O’Hare plays Larry Harvey, a man who has obviously been in a terrible fire – half of his face is burned, better yet it’s melted. He warns Ben about the house, after lurking around, skulking at the edges of Harmon’s peripheral vision. Larry claims he killed his family and burned down the house, all due to the house, the voices of the house inside his head – he said he was like “an obedient child.”
We’ll watch how his character plays further into the plot of Season 1 as it moves along. Nice introduction to this character.
Two fantastic actresses – Jessica Lange and Frances Conroy – have the chance to go head to head. However, it’s brief. Yet within those few moments they share a great scene, as Constance (Lange) tells Moira (Conroy): “Don‘t make me kill you again.” This is another relationship we’ll see more of once the episodes roll on. Intriguing to say the least.
One other thing I love in this first episode is the use of the music from James Wan’s Insidious. A neat little touch. This technique is employed time and time again in Season 1, which I find is a nice nod to the genre fans out there. It says that Murphy not only understands the horror genre, he is also a fan.
Great episode. We’ve seen so much setup in less than an hour, it’s almost overwhelming. But not quite!
Stay tuned for the next episode, “Home Invasion”.