Tagged Briarcliff

American Horror Story – Asylum, Episode 13: “Madness Ends”

FX’s American Horror Story
Season 2, Episode 13:
 “Madness Ends”
Directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon (The Town that Dreaded Sundown)
Written by Tim Minear

* For a review of the previous episode, “Continuum” – click here
screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-3-47-06-pmThe finale is upon us!
“Madness Ends” starts at the top with Johnny Morgan (Dylan McDermott) entering Briarcliff for the first time, the empty building, listening to his mother’s book on audiotape – as Lana (Sarah Paulson) herself narrates – and he walks the lonely, scummy halls, smoking meth in his pipe and taking in the terrifying air of the place. It’s spooky, watching the images of Oliver Thredson (Zachary Quinto) walk by, talking to Johnny while he’s exploring the place where his mother and father first met, where they came together.
Awesome opening, where we’re whisked away to where the season started – Teresa Morrison (Jenna Dewan Tatum) and her husband (Adam Levine) exploring the empty asylum on their honeymoon. We get a little background as to how exactly Leo Morrison lost his arm so quick and efficiently in those first wild moments of Asylum. Excellent writing and not in the sense that it’s innovative, new, it just makes sense. Tim Minear allows us a way to look at where Johnny is headed through where we began the journey ourselves, it all comes full circle; now we’re caught up, so to speak. Onward, into the dark night.screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-3-47-26-pmNow in present day, Lana Winters is being interviewed after a long and storied career. Her partner Marian (Joan Severance) isn’t on-camera with her, but definitely present in Lana’s life. Ms. Winters talks about Briarcliff, the expose she did, though refuses to talk about Bloody Face and give him any further celebrity than he’s already been given.
What I love here is how there are equal parts Titicut FolliesShock Corridor (which has turned up already in this second season), and even most importantly, or at least most obviously, Geraldo Rivera. Rivera did a piece on a Staten Island mental institution and this is directly mirrored in the news-like pieces Lana does inside Briarcliff. In fact, you can see more about that one plus a whole lot more in the documentary Cropsey.
I loved this whole bit because, while it does show Lana trying to be a bit opportunistic she is also clearly concerned with blowing the lid off things and exposing Briarcliff for what it is: a dirty hole in the ground. Though, Sister Jude (Jessica Lange) was not there once Lana made her way inside.
SHOCK – Johnny Morgan turns up as a sort of P.A, handing off sparkling water right to Lana herself, addressing her properly as Ms. Winters.


Turns out Betty Drake – the lady who once was Jude Martin – was living with Kit Walker (Evan Peters). He managed to take her out of Briarcliff, he recognized she was still alive inside and there was still some of Jude, the good portion, left buried within. Back at the house, Jude became a part of the family Walker.
Kit learned how to forgive. He chose to forgive Jude. All in order to help his kids, to show them how to live, to be there for them.
Honestly this whole bit is one of the more emotional angles of this season for me. I really enjoyed Kit, but I think this tops the sentiment. He’s such an amazing character to me. He doesn’t strike me as naive, he seems strong. Over and over again, Kit proves that. Dealing with Jude wasn’t easy at first, though, it eventually got better for them all. He helped Jude come back to herself.
Or was it him? Rather, the children helped Jude. Soon Kit came to discover there was something different about them, something more pure than either him or Jude or anybody else. They take Jude out in the woods and upon return she feels more calm and collected and then things level out.
After awhile, Jude got sick. There’s a great emotionally wrecking scene between her and the two children, which is equal parts powerful acting from Jessica Lange and some wonderful looking shots capturing the beautiful moments. I honestly like how after all the darkness, and even despite her approaching death, there are some nice light bits here. Huge horror hound here, for those who are regular readers you know that, but still I enjoy these scenes because they’re organic, they fit for the person, the character Kit is/has become over the course of this season.
Finally, the Angel of Death (Frances Conroy) in her true form shows up for Jude, who is fully ready for the kiss. Love the music which follows the Angel, little piano piece with some strings in the background, plus the whole aesthetic in those moments is – pardon me for this one – to die for. Great, great bit.
Turns out Kit, after developing pancreatic cancer in his older years, disappeared without anybody knowing how, where he went, how he got there, anything. The children, though, insisted there was “no reason to mourn.” Suspicious? Of course. But we know the truth… is out there… (fucking Mulder I love you)
Back to Lana’s interview, more hard-hitting questions concerning Cardinal Timothy Howard (Joseph Fiennes). After she cornered him and asked questions about Dr. Arthur Arden (James Cromwell), as well as the atrocities which happened while Arden was under his employ, Howard ended up going the way of the Romans – opening his veins in the bathtub.screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-3-50-58-pmLana comes clean about her child being alive, admitting to having not raised him and giving him up. Nice touch! I’d not expected her to actually say this, yet there she goes. While she does talk about the boy, Johnny the P.A is sitting out behind a bit of stained glass, watching, listening; Lana recounts going through a “period of remorse“, visiting at school and trying to protect a little unsuspecting Johnny from being bullied. There’s a true eeriness to everything about this entire sequence, start to finish. Even watching the grown Johnny eat his eclair, or whatever it is, listening, chewing away with a sort of malice on his face, it’s chilling. Love McDermott; hail the Dylan! He is great and I’m so damn happy he came back for the second season, even if the role hasn’t been constant through every single episode it is still one hell of a performance and his significance is huge.

Lies are like scars on your soul. They destroy you.”

What we’ve been waiting for has finally arrived: modern day Bloody Face versus his mother Lana Winters. The seed of Oliver Thredson has come full circle, juts as the plot did and just how the episode did in terms of returning to the beginning of this season. Now, Johnny Morgan has wormed his way into being next to his mother. Finally. He wants to finish his father’s work, he needs to claim her as the final victim; to close off the cycle. We get lots of exposition here in the final 10 minutes – however, I’ve got to say it comes in a way that’s easy to digest. It isn’t outright bam-bam-bam-bam, there’s at least a bit of prose to the dialogue instead of straight up expository rambling.screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-3-51-30-pm Ultimately, it’s the very finish of the episode I dig the most. When all is said and done, the tension between Johnny Morgan and his mother Lana Winters builds to a head and steams hot, bubbling over. The way in which Lana lulls Johnny in close, like a loving mother would, it’s perfect. The first time around I didn’t expect her to do what she did and BOOM there’s a bullet right between Johnny’s eyes. Fascinating in the most macabre way imaginable. Never has done been so sweet!
One last scene takes us back to a meeting between Lana and Jude, they talk of what’s ahead, the harsh road. Lana proclaims how tough she is, but Jude also warns of the Nietzschean principle of staring into the abyss and how the abyss stares back, though not in those same words. These are the final moments we witness inside Briarcliff Asylum.
Amazing season, one of my personal favourites honestly. Though there is room for improvement, I think lots was accomplished throughout Asylum and I can’t wait to start reviewing Coven. Keep checking back and I’ll soon have some of those for you to feast on!

American Horror Story – Asylum, Episode 12: “Continuum”

FX’s American Horror Story
Season 2, Episode 12:
 “Continuum”
Directed by Craig Zisk (WeedsNip/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
screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-3-41-50-pmStarting 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.
screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-3-41-58-pmBack 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.screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-3-46-15-pmGood 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!

American Horror Story – Asylum, Episode 9: “The Coat Hanger”

FX’s American Horror Story
Season 2, Episode
9: “The Coat Hanger”
Directed by Jeremy Podeswa (True DetectiveThe 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
screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-3-25-15-pmIn 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.screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-3-25-58-pm 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 “theyre 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.
screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-3-29-34-pmWhen 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.
screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-3-30-03-pmAnother 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!

American Horror Story – Asylum, Episode 8: “Unholy Night”

FX’s American Horror Story
Season 2, Episode 8
: “Unholy Night”
Directed by Michael Lehmann (TyrantDexterBig LoveThe Larry Sanders Show)
Written by James Wong

* For a review of the next episode “The Coat Hanger” – click here
* For a review of the previous episode, “Dark Cousin” – click here
screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-3-21-18-pmOne of my favourite of ALL-TIME opening scenes on this show comes in “Unholy Night”.
Starting out on a snowy Christmas eve in 1962, a Salvation Army Santa is out front of a store collecting donations, ringing the bell. All of a sudden, Leigh Emerson (Ian McShane) shows up. He shoots Santa.
Cut to Leigh, dressed up in the suit, playing with a train set in a family’s living room. A little girl meets him there, as he plays friendly; though, there’s a tell-tale stain of blood down the front of his white trimmed red coat.
The most terrifying wake up ever? Santa Leigh has the little girl bring him up to mom and dad, greeting them for an early Christmas. Downstairs he ties the mother and father up, taunting them terribly. An awfully terrifying scene as McShane just goes SAVAGE, mostly with his words. All before putting a bullet in the scared and pleading couple.
I love, love, love Ian McShane. He’s great in everything, especially on Deadwood as the surly saloon owner Al Swearengen. Here he plays a downright unsettling, shocking character who’s good for every last second he winds up in the frame.screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-3-21-34-pmSister Mary Eunice (Lily Rabe) changes the rules now that Sister Jude (Jessica Lange) has been dismissed. It seems Christmas is back at Briarcliff. She has all the inmates line-up, improvising ornaments for the tree; quite a macabre yet funny scene.
Dr. Arthur Arden (James Cromwell) is having a bit of a hard time quelling his feelings for the devilish yet oh-so-innocent Sister Mary Eunice; something that’s been apparent from the start. Perhaps it’s because Arden has a fetish, maybe it’s something he’d rather subject the darling nun to because he feels something for her.
At the same time, Frank McCann (Fredric Lehne) is mourning the death of Grace Bertrand (Lizzie Brocheré), one which he caused inadvertently when she jumped in front of a bullet meant for Kit Walker (Evan Peters).
Loving the first big confrontation between Sister Jude and the devil inside Sister Mary Eunice. She sneaks up behind the demon, putting a blade to the young nun’s throat. But before much else happens between them, Arden shows up. They have Jude escorted, however, there’s no doubt each of them have their own ideas about the problem now presenting itself. Arden warns not to underestimate the older Sister Jude.
Now Sister Mary Eunice goes to see Emerson in his cell; he’s now an older, bearded, lost soul in the darkness. At the same time, a flashback comes from 1963 during a Christmas event at Briarcliff. Leigh causes a bit of trouble for Sister Jude. When a photographer comes in to do some pictures, Leigh takes his chance and bites off an orderly’s face; or, parts of it.
In present day, the devil in Sister Mary presents Leigh a Santa costume. She knows all about him – how he’d been jailed for stealing a loaf of bread, there on Christmas five men, the jailers, raped him. This is what precipitated his Santa-centric killings. She wants Leigh to put the costume back on, have a little fun on that special day near the year’s end.
What’s in store is sinister.


A particularly grim scene between Dr. Arden and Sister Mary Eunice, which I can’t get enough of. He gives her a pair of ruby earrings belonging to a “jewess“, as he puts it. She would hide them, swallowing each one every day so they would not be stolen by the Nazis in the camps. Eventually she died, Arden retrieved them. He says that Sister Mary Eunice is worthy of their beauty.
Sweet? Strange? All of it?
Arden was in fact hoping for “a glimmer of that precious girl.” But the devil in Mary has no time for his sweet, saccharine lovey-dovey bullshit. In so many words, she tells the doctor to get moving or get out of the way.
Mother Superior Claudia (Barbara Tarbuck) is a trusted friend of Sister Jude. She’s not sure what to do to help, however, she is always there. Jude seems a little more clear, while certainly a bit revved up and panicked, but we know she has SEEN the devil, she knows where the devil resides. Luckily the passion in Jude convinces Mother Superior to help her.
Then out of nowhere, Arden shows up at the church where Jude is meeting Claudia. What we’re seeing is a plan slipping into action: Arden is convincing Jude to come back and help with Sister Mary Eunice, and while it seems he wishes to make amends, a little anyways, there’s no trusting a former Nazi doctor out of Auschwitz.
Back at Briarcliff, Monsignor Timothy Howard (Joseph Fiennes) praises Mary Eunice for having the innovation to dress the Christmas tree with impromptu decorations. Leigh is dressed up, full Santa, whispering naughty nothings into another inmate’s ear. Even Dr. Arden seems to be having a slightly decent time.
Will it last? And for how long?
screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-3-23-22-pmKit is having dreams of Grace and Alma (Britne Oldford), their faces interchanging between one another in his head. He’s asleep in a bed at the asylum. Next to him – Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson), who finds herself adjusting once more to life back inside the horrid walls of Briarcliff Asylum. She talks to Kit as he sleeps, finally coming to understand his true situation after Dr. Oliver Thredson (Zachary Quinto) revealed himself to be Bloody Face.
I find this part super interesting because there’s a new dynamic between Kit and Lana. She knows for sure what Thredson did and she’s prepared to fight. Luckily for Kit, Lana is a true survivor. However, soon enough she’s got to deal with more than simply being back at Briarcliff.
Oliver shows up again, without the Bloody Face mask. Uh oh!
Disturbing as his character may be, I do think Arden is one of the most interesting to me.
He’s letting Sister Jude in incognito, via the bakery. She tells him to bring Mary to her office and lock the door. Jude believes she and Arden are in cahoots.
Is this really the case? I feel as if not.
Upstairs in the recreation room, Frank McCann places the star atop the Christmas tree, but Leigh tosses him off the ladder attacking him with an ornament. McCann lays into Emerson a little and then goes to haul him off to solitary; clearly the Santa suit was not a good idea. Maybe it wasn’t… for anyone else except Arden and Mary Eunice.
Because while Frank brings the nasty Santa down to a solitary cell, Sister Mary cuts the guard’s throat while Leigh looks on with a laugh and a smile.


It’s all led to here – Jude is put in a room alone with Leigh, Santa suit to boot. He says he’s there to “open his present.” IT WAS ALL A PLOY! As I knew it, Arden merely wanted to show how he was on the devil’s side, for the that sassy demon inside the young nun.
Absolutely creepy, chilling scene between Ian McShane and Jessica Lange. Two world class actors showing off their chops. It’s a disturbing scene, as we’re sort of waiting to see what exactly is going to happen. This made me truly worry for Sister Jude – watching on in horror wondering what Leigh Emerson would do to her.
Paralleled with their confrontation, Oliver tells Lana all about how he scoured his home for any evidence, making sure it was all gone; he ‘killed’ Bloody Face, so to speak. This is another tense, suspenseful moment. There’s these two tough women in peril and I honestly could not tell what would happen next. Great writing and execution to have these scenes playing back to back!
Though I give a good scan of everything happening, I’ll leave these NASTY TASTY LITTLE BITS for you to watch on your own.
Needless to say, though, the last ten minutes of this episode are pretty damn incredible. One truly excellent and bloody moment comes quick during the scene with Lange/McShane; gnarly!
Dr. Arden finds himself in the path of the alien creatures which have visited both Kit and Grace. All of a sudden, as he brings Grace through the tunnels below, they come and take Grace into the thin air, vanishing. This is going to be something to watch closely because I love how they’re including the Nazi doctor in with the alien subplot; anyone who knows anything about Hitler and the Nazis knows they were into some weird stuff, so Arden is bound to be very intrigued, wanting to find out all he can about these creatures. Kit will play more and more into this now, especially seeing as how Grave has disappeared without a trace and the doctor will need someone in order to find out more about them.
screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-3-24-44-pmThe next episode, “The Coat Hanger” directed by Jeremy Podeswa (True Detective Season 2’s “Down Will Come”, The PacificThe Walking DeadThe Borgias), is one of my favourites from this season, as well. Very brutal and macabre and extremely fun in a horror type way!
Stay tuned, horror fiends. Come along for the ride.

American Horror Story – Asylum, Episode 5: “I Am Anne Frank: Part II”

FX’s American Horror Story
Season 2, Episode 5: “I Am Anne Frank: Part II”
Directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon (The Town That Dreaded Sundown)
Written by Brad Falchuk

* For a review of the previous episode, “I Am Anne Frank: Part I” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “The Origins of Monstrosity” – click here
screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-3-01-35-pm
At the top of this episode, Sister Jude (Jessica Lange) meets with a man named Sam Goodman (Mark Margolis) – he is a Nazi hunter, a Jew who was in the camps during the Holocaust of World War II. She’s finally caved and believed what might be the truth: Dr. Arthur Arden (James Cromwell) could possibly have been a Nazi. They talk, and Goodman warns not to do anything to make the man run.
This also brings in the real life fascinatingly disturbing Operation Paperclip – look it up.
screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-3-02-03-pmFurthermore, the supposed Anne Frank (Franka Potente) busts in on Sister Mary Eunice (Lily Rabe) with Arden at gunpoint. Luckily for all, mostly Arden, guard Frank McCann (Fredric Lehne) saves the day. Or does he?
Probably so, once Sister Jude is met at the asylum by Anne’s husband – or that is, Charlotte Brown’s husband. Jim Brown (David Chisum) shows up to tell Jude all about how Charlotte became delusional after reading Anne Frank’s diary while she was pregnant, then went to see a play adaptation and fell into a deep spiral; even going so far as to tattoo a death camp tattoo on her arm.
What I love most about this whole section of the episode is how we get these truly creepy, eerily shot pieces of flashback like they’re being done on an old 1950s/60s era camera – scenes of the Browns at home, documenting Charlotte’s madness and her husband Jim becoming more and more frustrated trying to care for their child with an insane wife at home, raving constantly about the Holocaust and the Jewish peoples experiences during World War II and how they need her, the baby doesn’t need her like they do. It’s amazingly effective, this whole bit. Very cool and so creepy.
Kit Walker (Evan Peters) and Grace Bertrand (Lizzie Brocheré) are awaiting sterilization now at the hands of Briarcliff Asylum and Sister Jude Martin. It’s a sick, true to life reality of many in the system during this era. Sad yet wildly true.
The twist comes as Kit is told, by the now very devilish Sister Mary Eunice, he won’t be sterilised. Good news, right? Not so much for Grace, who is likewise informed by Mary Eunice, but informed instead she’ll still be going ahead for the procedure.
Afterwards, while alone in her cell, Grace appears to see a rattling, shaky light coming in at her through the door. Could it be the aliens are about to visit Grace? Will she have some proof then to help Kit? Or do they… need her, for some reason?


Dr. Oliver Thredson (Zachary Quinto) still has a plan for Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson). He tells her, off to the side, they’re leaving at the end of his day. She’s obviously extremely happy and there’s finally some end to the cruel tunnel through which she has been crawling at Briarcliff, a light approaches.
Thredson is also attempting to help Kit with his troubles. However, suspiciously Thredson has Kit confess to his crimes on tape, in order to hear how it sounds to him – to try and learn something about what he may have done to his wife. While Kit seems to trust him, there’s something not quite right about the doctor’s theories here, his methods. But then again, neither were his intentions with the aversion therapy he conducted on Alana in order to misguidedly cure her lesbianism; oh, the tragic state of “mental health” in the 1960s. Still not even that long ago, scarily enough. I love how this fictional show takes on very real issues such as mental health and those of the LGBTQ community.
Grace has indeed been visited by the aliens Kit saw. She’s taken – somewhere – she is greeted by Alma Walker (Britne Oldford) in a blank, vacant white space where the aliens once took Kit. Who knows what their plans for Grace are now.
She shows up later, bleeding and confused. Kit finds her in the recreation room sitting in a chair, dazed. At the same time, cops show up to arrest Kit for his supposed crimes; coincidence? Hmm. And Grace starts screaming she’s seen everything – the aliens, Alma – they’re all real, she’s alive. An INTENSE moment between these two, especially for Kit himself.
Jude calls off Mr. Goodman after discovering Anne Frank is actually Charlotte Brown.
Best of all now – for Dr. Arden – is that she’s off his case a good bit with all this fracas. Furthermore, he’s got Sister Mary Eunice, possessed and loving it, on his side. She helped dispose of Shelley (Chloë Sevigny), the now mutated beast, which Charlotte had seen in the last episode in Arden’s lab.
CRAZY SCENE as a bunch of school children and their teacher discover the deformed and ragged Shelley, a virtual monster, crawling up a stairwell. Awesome, awesome shocker scene. Loved this quick and nasty moment!
Charlotte gets tossed back into the asylum by her husband, after she tries to smother their baby at home. An amazing sequence is enacted when Jim Brown asks Sister Jude to take Charlotte back, but he wants Dr. Thredson – who was understanding of her beforehand – to treat her.
This is right as Thredson is leaving with Alan in tow. Jude sends Frank off to find the doctor, and there’s this incredibly tense, suspenseful sequence where they sort of barely slip through the fingers of Briarcliff. Really excellent writing, as well as the fact it’s directed expertly.
Instead, Charlotte is trusted to the care of Dr. Arden who plans on giving her a pre-frontal lobotomy. Y’know, to calm her down.


Sister Jude has a disappointed conversation with Frank, retelling a story of when she was a young and took in a baby squirrel, keeping him in a shoe box. She says one day she came home, realising she forgot to feed him, and he was dead. Jude, as a small girl, prayed for hours over the squirrel, but her mother came home and lost her mind, throwing it in the trash.
In the end, the rest of her story stands to show how Jude is disappointed with God. Even as a nun, even as someone who wants SO BAD to be pious and holy and wants to be a good nun, she has those doubts about God.
Frank makes a terribly poignant remark about how she “never really had a chance” because she’s a strong woman and men don’t like that. While you get the sense Frank probably isn’t, for all his faults, one of those men, it’s a big stinger for Jude to hear; even if painfully obvious anyways.
So as Charlotte is being lobotomised, just a little, Jude puts on her bright red lipstick, heads to a bar for a drink and a smoke, then picks up a man.
Back at the home of Oliver Thredson, the doctor brings Lana inside to a comfortable, safe environment for the first time in so very long for her. His house is quite the chic-looking abode, nice modern type furniture and layout.
But as the minutes wear on, Lana realizes something is not right with Oliver. He flicks on a light – you can clearly see the lampshade has nipples. When he offers up some mints, they’re sitting in a skull-shaped bowl; no, damn it if the thing ain’t an ACTUAL SKULL.
What I love about this section is not so much the surprise that Thredson is Bloody Face, it’s the fact Bloody Face takes a good deal of bits and pieces (get it?) from Leatherface, as well as the real life inspiration mostly from serial killer Ed Gein. There’s a ton of macabre stuff to mine out of Gein and I find Ryan Murphy & Co. do an excellent job starting out with doing a few things we’ve not yet seen from the serial killer’s real story.


The end of “I Am Anne Frank: Part II” hits hard like a weight in the guts.
We watch as Charlotte Brown has become the perfect little housewife for Jim. He takes most of her research on World War II, Anne Frank, et cetera, and goes for the trash. While the episode closes out with Leon Bibb, Ronnie Gilbert, and Robert De Cormier singing “It Could Be a Wonderful World”, we also zoom in on a picture of Nazi officers saluting together, and one of them we end on is ABSOLUTELY MOST POSITIVELY DR. ARTHUR FUCKING ARDEN!
Love it. No better way to close off a two-parter episode.
screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-3-08-31-pmCan’t wait to review the next episode, “The Origins of Monstrosity” directed by David Semel (HannibalThe StrainHomeland). Stay tuned, horror hounds!

American Horror Story – Asylum, Episode 4: “I Am Anne Frank: Part I”

FX’s American Horror Story
Season 2, Episode 4: “I Am Anne Frank: Part I”
Directed by Michael Uppendahl (Mad MenShamelessRay Donovan)
Written by Jessica Sharzer

* For a review of the previous episode, “Nor’easter” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “I Am Anne Frank: Part II” – click here
screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-2-55-00-pmThe beginning of this episode begins, appropriately due to the title, as a young woman (Franka Potente) is brought to Briarcliff. Sister Jude (Jessica Lange)
Meanwhile, poor Shelley (Chloe Sevigny) is in the clutches of Dr. Arthur Arden (James Cromwell). She thinks he’s about to kill her – legs already chopped off and what not – but Arden chillingly exclaims that “after this youll probably live forever” before injecting her in the neck with some unknown serum. This is more of the mad doctor showing off his penchant for doing bad things to the patients at the asylum.
screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-2-56-10-pmKit Walker (Evan Peters) is still being smacked around and examined by Arden. After finding the strange bug-like metal implant in Kit’s neck, the Dr. Arden is determined to find out who (or what) is spying on him, or who’s been manipulating the young man.
Kit and Grace Bertrand (Lizzie Brocheré) are getting closer, as she discloses the truth of why she’s at Briarcliff. Apparently, having discovered someone murdering her father she hid away and tried to survive the massacre. Supposedly she’s been framed for it all.
So Pepper (Naomi Grossman), Shelley, and the Mexican (who was actually killed) are assumed to be gone, while it was actually Lana (Sarah Paulson), Grace, and Kit who’d tried to escape. Lucky for them, but not for the others.
Dr. Oliver Thredson (Zachary Quinto) tries his best, all he can do in his power, to help Lana. He knows there’s something more inside of her than simply an asylum patient, an inmate locked away to rot. Thredson says he can get her out if he can show Briarcliff and the bureaucracy that she’s been cured; though, she plainly tells him she’s been “this way” all her life. We’ll see how rough things get for Lana as the episodes go on. I do love how the show tries to examine some of the atrocities the LGBTQ community has faced, particularly in this case at the hands of psychiatric hospitals and religious run mental hospitals such as Briarcliff. Good way to use a horror show, to examine these types of issues and situations.
Thredson also tries his best, again, to do what he can for Kit Walker. Young Kit is still being persecuted for the crimes of Bloody Face, denying it every step of the way. Dr. Thredson thinks he merely disassociated because of what happened, the murder he committed; Kit does not agree, however, he agrees to go along with Thredson’s plans to hopefully escape the death penalty. Thredson attempts to get Kit to face his crimes, but it’s tough going for the young man to even being to believe he killed his own loving wife Alma (Britne Oldford).
It turns out the young woman (Franka Potente) who’d been admitted at the top of the episode claims her name is Anne Frank. She throws a fit in the recreation room when Dr. Arden walks in, claiming that he was in Auschwitz.
She explains about living on the streets of Germany, too sick to tell anyone who she was, and then eventually Anne supposedly met an American soldier from New Jersey. She did not want to ruin the martyrdom of her ‘story’, so remained dead to the world.
Anne then tells Jude about how Dr. Arden is not who he seems – he was in fact an S.S officer at Auschwitz, Dr. Hans Gruber. There are parallels between him and Josef Mengele immediately: the first we see of Gruber/Arden in this new context, he is being very friendly with two twin boys, twins who were not seen again. Furthermore, he began to take women away and brought them back sickly, in poor health, sworn to secrecy. So it’s obvious Arden is a sort of Mengele archetype, doing his sick experiments on the Jews.
And if the story is true, now he’s experimenting in his Nazi ways on Briarcliff inmates. All in the name of science supposedly.
Regardless, now Jude has even more of a reason to be suspicious of Arden. Though, it’s likely Anne is not Anne at all, there is still a palpable feeling to what Jude hears and we can see it has stuck in her craw, that it will not let her rest. Fun to watch where this development may head.


After a wonderful dream sequence where Lana sees herself accepting a journalism award, giving a speech while still traipsing around the asylum, she rushes to Oliver and wants to start her therapy right away. It’s very clear, if wasn’t before, Lana has become fixated on getting out, her determination may be both a good thing, as well as her downfall.
Grace and Kit move closer and closer. She doesn’t care what his crimes were, whether or not he is Bloody Face or if he’s innocent; it’s obvious Grace cares for him, on some level.
They have a brief and heated encounter in the bakery, where Frank McCann (Fredric Lehne) finds them having sex on one of the bread tables. This, naturally, lands them up in the office of Sister Jude. A little corporal punishment is sure to be doled out. The new and sassy Sister Mary Eunice (Lily Rabe) picks out her choice of rods for Jude to use, however, the older nun believes sterilization for the both of them is in order.
But after Grace is taken away, the demonic Mary leaves Grace’s file open on the desk for Kit to read. And this is the first time Kit sees, for real, what exactly happened for Grace to arrive in the asylum.
Once the both of them are back in their cells, Kit confronts Grace and she tells him the truth: it was she who killed her own father. However, Kit comes to accept her as she’d equally accepted him no matter what he’d done. A true bond forms.
Harkening back to “Tricks and Treats“, two detectives show up questioning Arden about his encounter with the prostitute at his house. She reported he roughed her up, as well as the fact there was S&M pornography in his dresser, alongside Nazi memorabilia; this last bit especially peaks Jude’s interest. Though they cannot arrest him, now Jude has more fuel to the fire.
When mentioning her worries about Arden to Monsignor Howard (Joseph Fiennes), Jude reveals to him she believes the new patient to be Anne Frank. Sadly, this makes Howard believe there is a bias she has towards Arden, that there is an obsession Jude has over the man which is slightly unhealthy. Truly all she wants to do is protect a man she cares for, and slightly loves/lusts for, but Howard is linked up slightly with Arden somehow, which taints him. Worst of all, Howard accuses her of drinking again because of the drunkenness she displayed during their screening of The Sign of the Cross, and it’s evident she feels slightly defeated by the Monsignor.
Shockingly, right after Jude leaves Howard calls Arden in his lab, warning “theyre onto you” and advises to clean up anything that may need to be cleaned up – NOW! I’m interested to see how this plays out and exactly what it is binding Howard to Arden in such a devious way.


Back to poor Lana, who is undergoing aversion/conversion therapy – a practice no longer undertaken by anyone serious in the psychological field, I’m sure it’s probably not even legal anymore; at least not in the way Thredson administers it. First, with a strong morphine drip and a bucket in front of her, Lana is exposed to pictures of women, sexy stuff, including her now dead lover (due to Bloody Face), and the morphine prompts her to throw up, hopefully meant to turn her away from the lust she feels towards women by reminding her of that disgust next time the feelings reoccur.
Worst of all, Thredson brings a male patient, Daniel (Casey Wyman) in to help in the conversion aspect of her therapy. She has to masturbate herself while touching his penis, but the sickness of the morphine comes back and ruins everything.
This stuff is SO INTENSE and highly disturbing. Again, though, I’m highly pleased Ryan Murphy and the writers are examining some of the things involved with psychiatry many experienced during the 1950s, even up until the 1980s in some cases. It’s wild that it ever went on, but great a show like this has the balls to confront these issues head-on.
Dr. Thredson comes to Lana and gives her the picture he had of her lover. He promises not to let her rot in Briarcliff. There is hope now at the end of the tunnel, a light shining, and Lana finally has something to care about, she’s not simply fighting to survive but rather there is a kind of redemption coming. At least, we hope so.
Kit Walker is also coming to an end of a tunnel, in a sense. He feels crazy and wants to try and figure out WHATEVER the truth might be in the end. While talking to Jude there’s a great moment when he says that the aliens he supposedly couldn’t have been real, and she gives him this look, signifying Oh yes they could be, as we know that during her drunken state she’d actually seen one of them briefly. So I love how there’s this weird dynamic happening now with Jude and Kit, even while she does still think he’s the killer of women for which the police have been looking.
The end of the episode is HUGE!
Dr. Arden hauls Anne Frank in to his lab, threatening her. But all of a sudden she pulls a gun, one she managed to wrestle off one of the detectives before they left Briarcliff. She shoots Arden in one of his legs. Then, right before the credits run, she opens a door: Shelley is inside, her face is deformed and hideous, bulging out with sores and puss, croaking out “Help me.”
Whoa. What a kicker.
screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-3-00-41-pmCan’t wait to review the next episode, the second half this two-parter “I Am Anne Frank: Part II.” Stay tuned!

American Horror Story – Asylum, Episode 3: “Nor’easter”

FX’s American Horror Story
Season 2, Episode 3: “Nor’easter”
Directed by Michael Uppendahl (Ray DonovanMad MenShameless)
Written by Jennifer Salt

* For a review of the previous episode, “Tricks and Treats” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “I Am Anne Frank: Part I” – click here
screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-2-47-02-pmBack to the framing narrative of Asylum now, as we see Bloody Face once again stab poor Leo Morrison (Adam Levine) to death, then break into the cell where Teresa Morrison (Jenna Dewan Tatum) is trembling in fear. Between the two, as Leo is not completely dead just yet, they manage to knock Bloody Face down and stab HIM to death with a small ice pick (one once used for prefrontal lobotomies).
However, it turns out two more Bloody Face-masked young guys show up and shoot the Morrisons dead. I guess it was another serial killer enthusiast situation. Sort of like Season 1’s “Home Invasion” did it, but slightly different.
Except out of the darkness comes the real Bloody Face – or is it? Now we’re in present day, Bloody Face was killing back in 1964. So what exactly is happening here, anyways? Well, writer Jennifer Salt, as well as creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk, have interestingly eerie subplots we’ll see coming out in this episode. Even further, this will all stretch out over Season 2 and gives us plenty to enjoy.screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-2-47-22-pmBack to 1964, as Sister Jude Martin (Jessica Lange) receives mail Sister Mary Eunice (Lily Rabe) delivers for her. The newspaper on her desk appears to Jude as one from 1949 – harkening back to when she hit a girl with her car, then took off. It’s easy to see Jude is starting to unravel slightly.
While she’s in the kitchen downstairs getting more bread ready to bake, she has flashbacks to the killing of that girl. Her mind is breaking bit by bit. Putting more pressure on her aside from this is Dr. Oliver Thredson (Zachary Quinto). He wants to try and make things more light for the patients; her corporal punishment is frowned upon by scientific men such as himself.
Well, Sister Jude has some plans to help the patients through the big storm planning to blow through. She is getting a projector sent over so that the inmates can watch 1932’s The Sign of the Cross. But all good intentions can’t hold back the floodgates of her own mind, washing away sanity. It seems she’s starting to think like some of her inmates more than a wife of Christ. Paranoia is gradually working its way into Jude’s brain with every episode now that goes by, especially since last episode’s encounter with the demon inside Jed Potter. She even has guard Frank McCann (Fredric Lehne) keep tabs on Thredson in order to determine if he’s “on the up-and-up.”
The new Mary Eunice has arrived. Everything about her has become different, more confident and… devilish, might I say. The way she holds herself talking to the inmates, you can see right from Lily Rabe’s acting that it is Satan himself hiding within her bones. I love Rabe’s performances in American Horror Story, she does such a wonderful job in the horrific universe of the series.
Moreover, Mary Eunice – as the devil – begins to wreak havoc amongst the halls of Briarcliff. First, she seems to blow on The Mexican (Gloria Laino) who appears to see beyond the Sister’s surface; she prays and prays as Eunice walks over to her and casually blows air at her. Then, she temps the alcoholic Sister Jude with communion wine, as well as wearing some bright red lipstick she claims came from Dr. Arthur Arden (James Cromwell).
At the same time, Arden is still examining Kit Walker (Evan Peters). Last episode, he found a tiny piece of something inside Kit’s neck, embedded below the skin. He deemed it too hard to be a tumour, now in this episode he finds it’s a strange bit of technology; the pieces he dug out of Walker come together by themselves, almost magnetized. Arden does not yet know it is from the extraterrestrials. He thinks it is some form of government looking for him, trying to “infiltrate my labs.” We’ll see this develop more now, as Arden comes to figure out the truth behind what has actually happened to Kit.


Sister Mary Eunice goes to The Mexican’s room. It’s clear the woman is afraid of Eunice, and rightfully so: the possessed nun brutally murders her, stabbing her in the throat with a massive pair of scissors, then stabbing her more all over the torso. Luckily, Sister Mary has a good place for disposal. Out in the forest, where Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson) caught her feeding something at the end of the first episode, Mary dumps the body for some weird creature hissing out in the bushes.
What I love about the devil is that he’s non-partisan. Inside Mary Eunice, the evil Satan goes after anyone and everyone in its path. Not just Sister Jude. Mary goes to see the doctor and she taunts Arden with sex, seducing him saying “Im all juicy.” But the doctor wants none of it; at least he pretends not to, anyways. We know he has a thing for nuns, after his date with the young prostitute went awry. He only denies what he wants most likely because of fear it will out him in some way. Regardless, I just love how Sister Mary Eunice has been taken over by the devil, and even the other evil entities in Briarcliff aren’t safe from the devil; he will use and abuse everyone.
Almost even better, the devil pits Dr. Arden versus Sister Jude even more than they’d been butting heads before now. This also helps to setup an event later on in the season, which is MASSIVE! I won’t say anything about that at this point, but just remember: this tension between Jude and Arden becomes larger than simply a few arguments in the basement like in “Nor’easter.” Even Arden sees that Jude is “coming apart at the seams.” Perfect foreshadowing scene here that comes to bear later on down the road.
We also see the first meeting between Lana Winters and Dr. Oliver Thredson, most likely her only hope in escaping the horrors of the asylum. Neither of them realize Bloody Face has already killed Lana’s lesbian partner, but she tells Thredson to get a message to her in hopes of eventually getting her out. This is the start of an excellent relationship throughout Season 2. There is such a wealth of plot and character between Thredson and Lana that if they hadn’t had two wonderful actors like Paulson and Quinto, this would’ve been a drab storyline; with two great talents, it works incredibly well, time and time again until the end of the season. Great stuff in its beginning here!
Thredson later goes to see Wendy, but discovers there are similarities between her disappearing and some of the Bloody Face victims. A devastating blow for Lana, in several ways.
Already, only three episodes in, Jude is having great troubles. She receives a call from beyond in her office – the girl she struck and ran down 15 years ago calls her on the phone, even her broken glasses turn up in front of Jude on the desk. So, sadly, Sister Jude falls down through the tight neck of a bottle again. She picks up the booze and starts drinking. This doesn’t help when The Sign of the Cross is put on for the inmates; she stumbles and mumbles her way around, introducing film night for everyone, and it’s clear to all she has had more than a drink or two. I feel bad for Jude, but again like Ben Harmon in Season 1 she is the type who is hard to like. At the same time, it isn’t hard to pity Jude even if she has committed horrible acts of violence, and essentially murder. However, this too will flesh out more once the season pushes on further and you might be surprised where the story of Jude Martin leads by the final handful of episodes.


The end of “Nor’easter” is most compelling.
Prisoners try to escape – Kit, Grace (Lizzie Brocheré), and Shelley (Chloë Sevigny) – while the storm rages. Sadly this doesn’t turn out very well for anyone, least of all Shelley who finally ends up in the hands of someone she does NOT want to be with at all. The others end up out in the storm and they come across what lay in the woods, the things Sister Mary Eunice was feeding for Arden – and it is HORRID.
Best of all is Jude – she wanders around trying to find The Mexican with the guards, but cannot find her. What Jude does come across, though, is a drunken glimpse of a horrific and ugly extraterrestrial creature. Amazing moment where a nun comes in contact with such a strange being!
All the while, Arden is raging against both Sister Jude and Mary Eunice, marking up a statue of who I can only assume to be the Virgin Mary with lipstick, shouting WHORE. He then comes across Shelley, and yes – into his hands she falls. This is terrible for her, as Arden is not just a misogynist, he is a depraved sadist.
screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-2-54-06-pm
This episode’s finale sees things end on a savage note, so we can expect the next one titled “I Am Anne Frank: Part I” will go further down the dark and seedy rabbit hole; it is directed by Michael Uppendahl once more, which is excellent for continuity amongst the season. Stay tuned for more depravity and blood and murder!

American Horror Story – Asylum, Episode 2: “Tricks and Treats”

FX’s American Horror Story
Season 2, Episode 2: “Tricks and Treats”
Directed by Bradley Buecker (GleeThe New Normal)
Written by James Wong

* For a review of the previous episode, “Welcome to Briarcliff” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Nor’easter” – click here
screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-2-37-22-pmWe begin “Tricks and Treats” directly after the end of the previous episode, as Teresa Morrison (Jenna Dewan Tatum) crosses – apparently – Bloody Face in the tunnels below the asylum. Her husband Leo (Adam Levine), meanwhile, is bleeding out from a torn off arm. This part is savage, as Bloody Face stabs Leo to death in front of Teresa, who is hiding inside one of the cells.
screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-2-38-26-pmThe editing and sound design here is perfect! Bloody Face’s banging on the cell door goes from present day back to 1964, as a knock on the door from trick or treaters comes outside Wendy Peyser’s (Clea DuVall) house. Perfect little moment. Wendy has signed Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson) into Briarcliff and now feels terribly about it.
Sadly for Wendy, though, another figurative knock on the door comes later. She lights up a joint, plays a record, but once she’s out and drying off there’s someone else inside with her: Bloody Face. In a tragic scene, she pleads with him because the kids she teaches “wont understand.” Bloody Face cares not about the plight of women, nor schoolteachers, and he hacks at her before the opening credits roll. I thought this sequence was so well-written, designed, and executed! Just one of the many instances where all the aspects of filming – the shots, the sound, the acting, the dialogue – come together to make a perfect set of scenes. Watching this over now for what might be the 3rd or 4th time around since Asylum first aired, I’m noticing so many of the little things which passed me by the first time around.
Poor Lana Winters is slowly becoming acclimated to her surroundings at Briarcliff.
We’re meeting more of everyone now from Pepper (Naomi Grossman) to Shelley the resident nymphomaniac (Chloë Sevigny). Everyone gets a little bit of time here and there.
Sister Jude (Jessica Lange) has problems with Lana; the feisty reporter has been keeping notes on the ill treatment at Briarcliff. Ms. Winters even threatens Jude by saying she doesn’t need the notes because she has a great memory. Jude plans to have Dr. Arden (James Cromwell) use the 1960s version of electroshock therapy – barbaric compared to anything used today – in order to scorch the memories out of her brain cells. The worst part is that Jude also has prejudice against Lana because of her homosexuality, so it’s disturbing enough to see her have Lana shocked as it is, but coupled with her not wanting any information to escape the walls of Briarcliff the fact she does not like lesbians/gays makes it all a bit more unsettling. This is further how Ryan Murphy and the writers of American Horror Story begin to explore issues during the 1960s surrounding homosexuality and the social stigma which then went along with it.

 


Dr. Oliver Thredson (Zachary Quinto) shows up in “Tricks and Treats”. There’s a ton of great stuff involving Thredson. First, there’s the immediate situation between Thredson and his new patient Kit Walker (Evan Peters), accused of the Bloody Face killings. Secondly, Thredson gives us a window further into the psychological practices of doctors in the 1960s; some of what they did under the guise of helping patients was downright primitive, uncivilized pseudoscience masquerading as scientific truth. What’s even more interesting is the fact that Quinto himself is a gay man, so I think it’s interesting what he’s able to explore through the character of Thredson, who deals significantly with Lana Winters further into the season in regards to her homosexuality. I won’t go too much into this now. I’ve seen these seasons, over and over, so I’ll wait until my review to flesh it all out.
At the same time Thredson represents a bit of misguided psychology, he also represents a more loud voice of reason than any of the clergy employed at Briarcliff. It’s still funny, though, as he rages at Sister Jude for allowing electroshock therapy to be used as treatment for homosexuality; in the same breath he points out that behaviour modification is “the current standard” versus her “barbaric” ways. Always love how period piece shows now in hindsight can dissect so many of the issues, as well as hypocrisies, surrounding the social and cultural climate of those times in which they’re set.
Another thing I love in “Tricks and Treats” is the inclusion of a patient whose parents believe something has “taken over” his body. This is a case of exorcism, which serves more than just the purpose of a brief subplot; you’ll come to see how later in this episode. When a young man named Jed Potter (Devon Graye) is brought in by his parents (Andrew Rothenberg & the fabulous Robin Weigert of Deadwood fame), Sister Jude reluctantly agrees to let Dr. Thredson sit in on a meeting. After they first meet Jed, though, Jude advises Thredson it is not medication the boy needs, but something else entirely.
Found that The Exorcism of Emily Rose and the true story behind it was absolutely an influence on the flashback to when Jed’s father found him in the barn, ripping open an animal. Not huge on that film, but I do enjoy tales of supposedly true exorcisms; I’m a sceptic, however, I do find the prospect of such things being true real exciting and dark and weird. The quick flash we see of the barn is creepy and subtle.
Lots of other stuff going on, as well.
Shelley tries to seduce Dr. Arden for privileges; I love the character Shelley because she represents another horribly misguided idea from the 1960s, which still resonates today, about the ideas men have concerning how women ought to act sexually compared to how they’re allowed to act in the eyes of society. I feel downright terrible for Shelley, and Chloë Sevigny plays her incredibly! In real life, Sevigny is a bit of a trainwreck I find, some of her interviews are madness; that doesn’t change the fact she is a terrific actor in every project I’ve seen her do.
At the same time, Grace (Lizzie Brocheré) is starting to help Lana Winters in an attempt to hopefully escape. Though, Lana does not want Kit to come, which is a stipulation imposed on her by Grace. Kit involves himself all the same; we pretty much know he’s innocent, not for sure but we think, yet Lana believes him to be Bloody Face. She doesn’t trust him, yet he tries to help her by grabbing a note she’d written in order to save her from the guards. We’ll see where that goes by episode end.
screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-2-40-11-pm
The exorcism section of “Tricks and Treats” is damn eerie, all the way home. I like the little introduction to Father Malachi (John Aylward), as he gives a classic line (seen above). Even better is the exorcism scene itself because the demon inside young Jed Potter says some WILD stuff! It’s entertaining, intense, and all at once quite disturbing.
Jed, or the demon inside, begins spewing secrets about the inner lives of the clergy present, as well as Dr. Oliver Thredson – an interesting comment about him being given up obviously foreshadows backstory elements for his character. But the best is when Sister Jude Martin steps into the room with Jed, after Monsignor Timothy Howard (Joseph Fiennes) urges her to help.
The demon knows all about Jude, about her past life before becoming a nun and a wife of Christ. It’s revealing and also sad, because we can see how clearly Jude tries to run from her past. Still, it always keeps on catching up with her. Love the red dress she wears in the flashback to her life before the convent and Briarcliff; parallels her red lingerie under the habit so well, shows how she still hangs on. Even further, the demon talks about a night when Jude hit a young girl with her car – drunk off her ass. Jude never got out, only went on over the road. It’s a wild scene that speaks volumes.
Dr. Arthur Arden (James Cromwell) has a nice dinner planned at home. Not only for himself, but a guest arrives: a young prostitute (Jenny Wade). It’s a chilly scene, as Arthur almost looms over and around her. He’s given her a fake name; she calls him Stan over and over. He clearly has ideas about what a woman ought to be. When the prostitute talks about a “big cock,” he looks utterly repulsed. He starts talking about how unsafe it must be for women on the streets such as herself with Bloody Face about. Though cheekily he says now the culprit is locked up and the girl is safe once more – all the while, he carves up some rare, bloody pot roast with a long, gleaming sharp knife. Ominous the way he handles the knife throughout the scene, especially at this point. Even the poor prostitute reads between the lines; you can just about her the GULP in her throat.
“Tricks and Treats” is one of my favourite episodes because it contains SO MUCH information and plot movement, as well as character development. Above all, I think my absolute favourite scene is when Jed Potter finally succumbs to the demon/sickness inside him and goes into cardiac arrest. Then the essence of evil inhabiting him releases – Jed eyes Sister Mary Eunice (Lily Rabe) standing in the back of the room while Dr. Thredson and Monsignor Howard try to help the boy – and she falls backwards to the floor, fainting.
The demon may have found itself a new vessel.
Creepily, Dr. Arden has his prostitute guest dress up in a nun’s habit. I mean, is it hard to tell he has a thing for Sister Mary Eunice? Earlier he fed the nun a caramel apple, he’s always around her, getting her help feeding the things in the forest.
The prostitute dressed like a nun in his room goes a little too far by picking through Arden’s things. She finds some strange pictures and a small fetish magazine. Unsettling things, of a violent nature. This sets up a moment where we’re sure Arden is going to dispatch the young lady. Luckily for her, she bites her way out and gives the naughty doctor a knee in his groin, escaping alive. Unfortunately for Dr. Arden, this might come to pose a few problems down the line somewhere.

 


When Sister Mary Eunice comes to, she is slightly different than before. Still the same sweet lady in a sense, but behind those eyes lies newly discovered knowledge; a deep, dark well full of it.
Love how she covers up for Dr. Arden, playing the fool, and then when he leaves she flicks the blankets off her body in an almost disgusted gesture. At the same time, the crucifix on the wall shakes. Dig that moment so hard!
Grace tries to help Kit escape with her and Lana, but the reporter pulls the plug: still believing Kit to be Bloody Face, she won’t allow him to make it out and terrorize any other women. After they’re caught, Sister Jude gives Lana a reward – of not being punished and having to watch the punishment (bare assed caning) of Kit and Grace. A twisted view into the corporal punishment ideals of Sister Jude Martin. Plus, it amps up the tension in the relationships between all these characters – Sister Jude & Alana, Kit & Sister Jude, Kit & Grace, Grace & Alana. Should be great to see all these dynamics further expand throughout the season.
screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-2-45-04-pmAwesome episode. One of my favourites of Season 2, as well as overall in the entire series of American Horror Story. Then again, while some aren’t huge on this season, I think this is one of my top 3 overall so far.
Stay tuned for more horrific and wild episodes. Next one is titled “Nor’easter”, directed by series regular Michael Uppendahl whose other work includes Mad MenShamelessRay Donovan, and much more.

American Horror Story – Asylum, Episode 1: “Welcome to Briarcliff”

FX’s American Horror Story
Season 2, Episode 1: “Welcome to Briarcliff”
Directed by Bradley Buecker (The New NormalGlee)
Written by Tim Minear

* For a review of the next episode, “Tricks and Treats” – click here
screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-2-22-30-pmThe beginning of Season 2 is a lot of fun because, as opposed to Season 1 where we’d get decades old flashbacks from 1968, 1922, and so on, the main action of Asylum is taking place in 1964. However, we get to jump forward, as well as back a bit, and the framing narrative of the season itself takes place in current day. This seems a bit confusing what I’ve said, but as the episodes wear on you’ll really get a feel of what’s happening. In fact, the present day framing device isn’t exactly very clear until a few episodes in. But once it starts to become clear, the wide and reaching sprawl of Season 2 becomes apparent and it makes the episodes all the better for it.
Beginning in present day, we see Leo and Teresa Morrison (Adam Levine/Jenna Dewan Tatum) on their horror honeymoon – they plan on visiting the twelve most haunted places in America, plus they want to have sex in all the buildings because y’know, they’re wild. Only when they arrive at the infamous Briarcliff Asylum there is more inside the walls than they’d bargained for, and certainly there is nothing sexy about the madness, the pain, the mayhem and murder that is trapped inside that building.
Things really kick off when Leo sticks his hand into one of the cells with his cellphone, trying to get a night vision look at anything terrifying inside. Then, something comes at him and tears his arm off. Blood everywhere. INCREDIBLE! Turns out Bloody Face may actually be real, not just an old, outdated tale of murder from the haunted houses of America.
This moment kicks off Asylum incredibly well. It offers up enough of that psychosexual horror mashup we’re used to from the series, and so it’s already clear this season should follow suit with all the dark terrors of the first; maybe even more.screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-2-24-36-pmWhat I really enjoy about the opener to Season 2 is how the entire aesthetic of the first season holds over. It’s more evident than even most regular tv series’ are with their style. As an anthology, there’s always a risk each season might either fall short or overshadow its predecessor. While certain seasons of American Horror Story are most certainly better than others, I think what helps them all glue together and what allows each of them to still be excellent, regardless of the others before or after, is the fact the cinematography, the editing, the score, it all compounds into a beautifully evident overall style.
So then we switch back to our main narrative of 1964.
First, we meet Kit Walker (Evan Peters). He’s a young, handsome man just getting by in the mid ’60s, working at a gas station and garage somewhere out in the boonies. At home, his wonderful wife Alma (Britne Oldford) waits for her husband. Unfortunately, in that time the Walkers had to remain underground with their relationship because interracial relationships were still frowned upon. We already get a threatening atmosphere from Kit’s friend Billy (Joe Egender) and a group of guys who show up at the station, giving Kit a very unwelcome feeling concerning his wife at home; a reference to chocolate becomes not so much racist as it feels scary.
But it’s not Billy and the boys Kit needs to worry about protecting himself, and his wife Alma, from ultimately. Lights flicker and the power goes off, on, the bedroom radio is on the fritz; things are not right. Then Kit seems to experience some kind of contact with… something. He thinks it’s Billy with some others, but it is far worse.
I thought this scene was awesome. So often the alien abduction angle is attempted in film and television, yet it’s not often things are treated correctly. Kit experiences something Other-ly. We only see it briefly, in a few flashes; sound design and visuals weave together creating an excellent moment. We know it’s aliens, but at the same time there’s none shown onscreen. Perfect.
Next we follow journalist Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson) into Briarcliff, as she heads to meet Sister Jude Martin (Jessica Lange) concerning the bakery at the asylum. Along the way we’re introduced to an interesting new character out of Season 2, Pepper (Naomi Grossman) – the nun, Sister Mary Eunice (Lily Rabe), who accompanies Lana through her visit says that Pepper drowned her sister’s baby and sliced its ears off. Chilling, because Pepper seems so innocent; strange looking yet truly child-like and innocent looking.


Lana meets with Jude for a brief time, however, up shows the apparent newly caught Bloody Face – he is being admitted to the asylum until the lawmakers decide if he is fit to stand trial. This is the whole reason Lana Winters showed up in the beginning, under false pretences about the asylum’s bakery.
What’s most surprising is when we’re introduced to who the alleged Bloody Face killer is: Kit Walker. He’s lead in, chained from head to toe, then treated to the 1960s psychiatric hospital admittance – delousing powder, a shower by way of fire hose, then a good dose of intravenous drugs via syringe. Plus, after a bad meeting with Sister Jude, he’s even given a bit of capital punishment in the form of Jude’s favourite method – caning across the bar ass.
Already now with Kit especially, we’re treated to a look at how Briarcliff operates, and the sort of cruelty all around we’re bound to experience as Asylum wears on.
There are a ton of characters again this season. Probably even more than the first. What I like is that there are plenty characters, but the most important ones are singled out for us and we’re given a big view of them here in “Welcome to Briarcliff”. Of course, more come into play later. This is just a wonderful introduction to so many of the characters, as well as the sort of thematic elements we’re going to see come up over and over.
Kit briefly meets a woman named Grace Bertrand (Lizzie Brocheré), also an inmate at the asylum, who takes a liking to him. She helps him a little, from exposing him to the way the hospital works, to giving him a cigarette while he’s wrongly thrown into solitary confinement. This is one relationship, while brief here in the opening episode, that will expand in later episodes and eventually become a big part of the latter half of Season 2.
The character whom I find most interesting in Asylum is the ominous Dr. Arthur Arden (fantastically played by James Cromwell). First off, there’s a palpable tension between Arden and Sister Jude. I love how this second season has brought together Jessica Lange and James Crowmwell. Not enough older actors are given such incredible material as American Horror Story to explore through character; here, we get two downright iconic actors, in my opinion, chewing on luscious scenery and intense character scene after scene.
Immediately in this episode, Arden and Jude are set as complete opposites. There’s something sinister about Arden off the bat, as his scene with Jude is intercut with creepy shots of a bowl of meat being gnawed on and thrown empty into the corner of a room. It’s dark stuff and I think lets us in on his evil backstory right away without hesitation. Also, while we come to discover Jude is a little less than holy herself in more ways than one, Arden comes off quickly to us as being a foreboding presence; not only physically, as Cromwell himself is massive, but in the whole way he acts, speaks, sounds.
Now we’re already seeing how unholy Sister Jude is underneath that black habit. Preparing for her dinner with the younger Monsignor Timothy Howard (Joseph Fiennes), we can see Jude put on a blood red sex of lingerie, rubbing oil on her skin before getting dressed. She cooks dinner for the Monsignor, and even as they talk you can tell Sister Jude feels something – more – for the man. This little insight into Jude automatically makes her a conflicted character, as much as anyone else in Asylum. At first, Monsignor Howard seems on the up and up himself; we’ll see how true that holds as we move on through the season.
screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-2-31-38-pmGreat dreamy sequence here. Sister Jude imagines herself unbuttoning the habit, revealing her lingerie and sitting in the Monsignor’s lap, embracing him. Then she snaps back to their dinner and all is normal. Once more, like Season 1, that psychosexual feeling worms its way through the characters, the dialogue, the scenes.
Furthermore, Dr. Arden has his hooks in poor, fragile little Sister Mary Eunice. The bad doctor has her bringing buckets out into the woods, obviously to feed something; we don’t know what as of yet, though.
In the forest, Sister Mary is confronted by Lana Winters who is looking for a way inside the asylum. She wants an inside scoop. Scared and worried Jude may find out she was out there, Sister Mary brings Lana inside. This sets into motion something unstoppable and terrifying.
At the same time, Dr. Arden comes for Kit in his cell, injecting him in the neck with something and proclaiming: “You dont belong in here.” If I were Kit, I’d be awful worried. There’s nothing good about the feeling Arden produces as soon as he’s onscreen.
Kit’s story of “little green men“, as Jude calls it, comes back into play. Arden doesn’t know it right away, but he’s becoming drawn into a web of extraterrestrial technology. He believes it’s government work at first. Slowly it all will be revealed.
Worst of all, though, is the situation of Lana Winters. She’s found a way into the asylum, but in a time long before any professionalism found its way into the psychiatric world – especially the ones run by the Roman Catholic Church – she also finds herself in a terrible place once getting knocked out, poking about one of the cells. When she wakes up, Sister Jude has Lana strapped into a hospital bed, ready for treatment. Using Lana’s relationship with Wendy Peyser (Clea DuVall) – a lesbian relationship far ahead of the social times unfortunately – Sister Jude is able to have Ms. Winters officially committed, blackmailing Wendy into signing documents or else her homosexuality be revealed to the school where she teaches.
I love how American Horror Story is able to take on LGBTQ issues through a horror landscape. Something I’m a big fan of. It isn’t preachy in any way, it’s a very intriguing view and perspective into the gay issues facing us even today. But especially, with the 1964 main storyline, the whole aspect of having Lana and Wendy as a lesbian couple really goes head-on at how society treated homosexuality even just 50 years ago. Lots more where that came from! It gets better in further episodes, especially once Dr. Oliver Thredson (Zachary Quinto) is introduced to help the patients.


Some awesome little references to other films I want to discuss briefly:
A Clockwork Orange – Kit hooked up to the eye-opening equipment of Dr. Arden with blue & red bulbs attached to a strap across his forehead. Very cool homage to Stanley Kubrick’s horrifying classic.
The Silence of the Lambs – Spivey throws semen in the face of Sister Mary Eunice just as Multiple Miggs did to Clarice Starling in the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane.
Awesome ending to this episode, as we see Teresa (Dewan Tatum) in present day trying to escape Briarcliff and get her husband Leo (Levine) some help. She runs down through the tunnels below, where Dr. Arden spends quite a bit of time this season, and then before the episode cuts she runs into – Bloody Face? It appears so, even decades after his reign of terror.
But we’ll learn much more about that later.
screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-2-35-28-pmNext episode is titled “Tricks and Treats”, directed by Bradley Buecker again. I like that, helps keep the initial two episodes in a cohesive unit and sort of moulds everything together off the chopping block.
Stay tuned for more horror, sex, and all around savagery!!