As a moderate fan of the first, THE CONJURING 2 - though based on a debunked story - is utterly haunting, holding a high level of tension almost throughout the entire runtime. Be prepared.
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
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.
Furthermore, 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.
Can’t wait to review the next episode, “The Origins of Monstrosity” directed by David Semel (Hannibal, The Strain, Homeland). Stay tuned, horror hounds!
FX’s American Horror Story
Season 2, Episode 4: “I Am Anne Frank: Part I”
Directed by Michael Uppendahl (Mad Men, Shameless, Ray 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
The 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 you‘ll 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.
Kit 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 “they‘re 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.
Can’t wait to review the next episode, the second half this two-parter “I Am Anne Frank: Part II.” Stay tuned!